The British owner of a property in Sitges pays extortion money to get squatters out, showing how effective the squatter extortion model is in Spain.
Last week I reported the case of a gang of squatters in Sitges holding the property of a British owner to ransom. Since then the owner has yielded to the extortion and paid the ransom money to get the squatters out. They left the property in good shape, but took many of the owners personal possessions with them.
Once it became clear the authorities would not help, the owner hired one of the anti-okupa companies that specialises in getting squatters out for a fee, using methods that squatter activists and supporters say are illegal.
The anti-okupa company handled the negotiations with the squatters, who in this case were a gang from Morocco. Anti-okupa companies are staffed with muscle-bound heavies and lawyers.
The squatters started off asking for 5,000€, and tried to make it clear they would not be intimidated into leaving with payment. Heated discussions were had, and the squatters even called the police to help them on one occasion. In the end they settled for 2,000€, and left the flat in good condition, though they stole all the owners designer clothes and other possessions.
The anti-okupa company were paid 3,500€ for their service, which involved advising the owner to pay the ransom, and negotiating with the squatters.
Straight after the okupas left, the owner installed an alarm system from the biggest security company in Spain. It cost 600€ to instal and 44€/month for the service to run. This was not a good deal for the owner, but alarm companies know they can charge more at times like this.
All in the squatters cost the owner 5,500€ to evict, not to mention all the cost in time, emotions, energy, and personal possession.
Going down the legal route could have cost much more than that, depending upon how much damage the okupas were prepared to do. At least the owner now has control of the property.
Criminal gangs can extort money out of owners in Spain because paying the ransom is usually much cheaper than legal eviction, which could take years, and cost tens of thousands of euro.
The squatter extortion business model will work until the government changes the law in Spain. There is no chance of that happening anytime soon, because the government in Madrid relies on hard-left parties who support squatters, not owners. Hard-left groups are involved in squatting themselves, so there will be no change until the hard left are far from power, which could take years, if it ever happens.
This case shows that the squatter extortion racket in Spain is very effective. For criminal squatter gangs it’s an excellent business. It pays well, the risks are low, you get a nice place to live for free, and you can steal any possessions you like. I expect this extortion racket to grow.
It also shows that the squatter business model is lucrative for everyone but owners. The squatters do well, the anti-okupa companies do well, lawyers do well, locksmiths do well, alarm companies do well, and the police don’t have to get involved, which no doubt they are happy about.
The big losers are owners of property, and public goods like trust in the system. Spain as a whole is also a big loser, but it’s difficult to quantify the loss.
And most importantly, it shows that prevention is cheaper than the cure. Any decent alarm system would have helped the owner avoid this extortion, and save a lot of money. Good door, window, and building security would also have helped, and cost less.
I’m working on a guide to dealing with squatters in Spain, in which I’ll look at prevention, and how to deal with squatters if they get in. Sign up for my news bulletin if you want to be kept informed of everything to do with the squatter threat in Spain.