Catalonia illustrates what happens when local authorities take a relaxed attitude towards squatters.
The latest figures from the State Secretariat for Security, part of the Spanish Home Office, reveal that the number of cases of squatting reported to the police in 2020 rose a fraction to 14,890, almost half of them (6,647) in Catalonia, followed by Andalusia (2,373), and Madrid (1,316). Cases fell by 1% in Catalonia last year, by 6.5% in Andalusia, and by 9% in Madrid.
Cases of squatting in other regions of interest to foreign buyers were as follows in 2020 (annualised change in brackets):
- Balearics 324 (+14%)
- Canaries 623 (+16%)
- Valencian Community 1,297 (+19%)
- Galicia 168 (+30%)
- Murcia 385 (+12%)
The following chart from the Spanish daily ABC illustrates how bad the problem is in Catalonia compared to other Spanish regions.
Whilst cases of squatting have exploded in Catalonia since 2015, and risen somewhat in Andalusia and the Valencian Region, they have declined in Madrid, suggesting that the way different regions deal with the problem of squatting has a significant impact on outcomes.
Experts say that local political attitudes towards squatting in Spain have a big influence on the growth or decline of the problem, especially at a municipal level. In municipalities like Barcelona, where the local authority is seen to be squatter-friendly, or at least tolerant towards squatters, the problem is growing, and declining in Madrid, where the opposite is true.
Many cases of squatting are not reported to the police because owners prefer to use extra-judicial means such as extortion payments and private companies to get squatters out, so it is fair to assume that the problem is bigger than the official figures suggest.
That said, even in Catalonia the probability of your home being taken over by squatters is low, but the cost of sorting out the problem if it happens to you can be very high. So it is a low-probability, high-cost risk that all owners of property in Spain should take reasonable steps to protect themselves against. At the very least you need a system in place to keep an eye on your property so you know what is going on in your property. You cannot respond to a threat if you don’t know about it.
I’m working on a guide to the steps you can take to protect your property against squatters in Spain. I’ll look at the pros and cons / costs and benefits of each step. Join my news bulletin to be kept informed.