New report shines light on Spain’s squatter problem

Squat and resist

A new report published by the ‘Acción Liberal Think Tank for Freedom’ looks at the blight of squatting in Spain, and recommends measure to reduce the problem.

“Squatting homes is immoral, illegal, and generates serious harms at both a personal and national level,” writes Daniel Rodríguez Asensio, President of the ‘Acción Liberal Think Tank for Freedom‘ in the introduction of new study, published by his organisation, that looks the problem of squatting in Spain.

The report called ‘Let’s eradicate squatting in Spain’ (‘Erradiquemos la okupación en España’) is a collaborative affair produced by four authors including some well-known names in the Spanish property business. The subtitle of the report is ‘Liberal measures to put an end to this social blight.”

“At Acción Liberal we think that putting an end to this blight should be a matter of state, as it affects many aspects of public life,” argues Rodríguez Asensio. “Neither indifference nor tolerance should be options. Against squatting  we have to act decisively to eradicate it and, with that, guarantee fundamental rights and principles of the liberal order so basic as the right to private property, respect for the law, and the separation of powers.”

The report reviews the data on Spain’s squatter problem. There are an estimated 100,000 properties currently occupied by squatters, according to one private property rights group (Plataforma de Afectados por la Ocupación), whilst figures from the Interior Ministry reveal there were 14,792 reports of squatters in 2020, 40% more than in 2017, of which 6,647 (45%) were in Catalonia, 2,381 in Andalusia, and 1,300 each in the Valencian region and Madrid. That means an average of more than 40 cases of squatting reported each day in 2020, not including the many cases not reported to the police because owners are often worse off if they do so.

“Allow squatting is just one more step towards a communist and authoritarian regime in which the will and rights of individuals are subjugated to the random wishes of the government of the day,” warns Rodríguez Asensio.

The report looks at the nature, impact and implications of squatting from the point of view of politics, public policy, law, business, finance and the economy. As the report points out, Spain pays a high price for its squatter-friendly state. “This means that Spain is a less attractive country for foreign investment in the sector, and also means prices must be higher to cover that risk,” explains the report.

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

The report recommends the following measures to reduce the problem of squatting in Spain:

  • Special courts for dealing with squatters
  • Clarify the law when it comes to squatting in people’s homes, and treat it more like robbery
  • Create a municipal register of properties that have been squatted
  • Empower town councils to evict squatters within 48 hours
  • Create secondary offences for people who help or support squatters, including locksmiths
  • Make illegal connections to the electricity a crime
  • Create legal mechanisms to allow utility companies to cut off squats in the municipal register
  • Free owners from fiscal obligations of properties that have been squatted
  • Make the cost of repairs after squatters fully tax deductible
  • Empower Communities of Owners to take action against squatters, and cut them off from utilities
  • Create tougher laws against tenant-squatters who stop paying the rent
  • Only accept rental contracts as evidence if they are in the municipal register with the deposit paid

I’ve always thought an effective anti-squatter measure would be to enforce rapid eviction if requested by any owner who can prove title, but with serious punishment for the owner if it turns out the eviction was illegal because, for example, the occupiers had a valid rental contract. You need to make it fast and cheap to evict squatters, but not to evict tenants who are up to date on rental payments or other people who have a legal right to be in the property.

Whatever the merits of the proposed measures above, there is little chance of any measures that protect owners from squatters seeing the light of day under the current left-wing government. That said, the right-wing PP party had years in government to sort out the legal mess that now helps fuel Spain’s squatter epidemic, but did nothing. It seems that Spain is always doomed to pay the high price of a squatter-friendly political and legal establishment.

You can read the full report in Spanish here, and follow Acción Liberal in Spanish on Twitter and Facebook.

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