Squatters in Spain: The good, the bad, and the ugly

squatters called okupas in Spain

When you buy or own a property in Spain, you take on a bigger risk of squatters than in most other countries, so it helps to know who you have to protect your property from.

Squatters in Spain can be lumped into three main groups, the good, the bad, and the ugly, though in reality the picture is a bit more nuanced than that.

Squatting is an attack on private property rights, and a country that indulges squatters, like Spain does, ultimately self-harms. But down on the ground, not all the groups present an equal threat to second-home owners, and some deserve more sympathy than others.

Each group has its own distinctive sets of motivations, threat levels, and modus operandi, which I’ll go into in more detail in the anti-squatter guide I’m working on.

GOOD SQUATTERS: The desperate

Good squatters are basically desperate people with nowhere to live who are provided with social housing in other countries but not Spain, where the government talks about the ‘right to dignified housing’ but never pays for it.

These squatters typically squat in poor urban areas where second-homes don’t exist. They are not much threat to second-home owners, especially out of town. It’s hard not to feel some sympathy for them.

The picture I get from talking to people involved in dealing with okupas, as squatters are known in Spain, is that economic migrants are an increasing share of this group, and the group is swelling as more economic migrants come to Spain. Some unhealthy and unsustainable incentives are at work here.

Economic migrants often come from desperately poor countries where life is extremely tough. When they get to Spain, they get healthcare, benefits, and FREE accommodation if they can get installed as squatters, with the owner paying all the utility costs under pain of criminal prosecution for not doing so. It’s an invitation to the third world to come and live as squatters. There’s no shortage of people who will take up the offer. You can see how this problem might grow until it explodes one way or another.

BAD SQUATTERS: The criminal 

squatters in Spain
Squatters changing the lock after breaking in and holding a property to ransom

Bad squatters are criminal rackets using squatters to extort money out of owners. They are well organised gangs like mafias who use Spain’s squatter friendly system to hold properties to ransom. It’s an extremely lucrative and low-risk business for them, and the more expensive the property, the better. This group are a big threat to second-home owners in all areas, and they know what they are doing. 

UGLY SQUATTERS: The political

eviction of spanish squatters
Property occupied by political squatters in Spain. Wikimedia commons

Ugly squatters typically come from comfortable, middle class backgrounds and choose to squat for political reasons. They share left-wing, anti-capitalist views, and don’t believe in private property. They are typically a scruffy bunch, and make life hell for the neighbours. They are more interested in larger properties in urban areas where they can live like a comune and enjoy a city life, and so not much of a threat to second-home owners. They enjoy high-level political support in Spain. 

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