Listening to adverts on the radio you would think that private homeowners are at constant risk of having their homes taken over by squatters, but a new study from Valencia City Hall claims that just 1% of squatter invasions affect homeowners.
According to a study by the Right to Housing Office set up by Valencia City Hall to advise the community on housing issues, 86% of squatter invasions take place in properties owned by banks, companies, and investment funds, whilst just 1% affect private homeowners.
This study will help to refute the ‘fake news’ about the squatter problem, claims the Valencia City councillor for housing Isabel Lozano.
The report “takes down all the media manipulation according to which squatters are ruining people who offer a small flat for rent,” says Lozano, quoted in the Spanish press.
The report also states that 20% of cases of ‘irregular occupiers’ often assumed to be squatters are not all cases of adverse possession as many of them are people living in a house they are disputing in an inheritance claim, or families awaiting eviction after falling into arrears.
The authorities, especially leftwing-run authorities sympathetic to squatters like Valencia City Hall, have an interest in downplaying the problem because they get the blame for it, whilst alarm companies have an interest in playing it up because the public anxiety helps them make sales.
Many owners whose properties are taken over by squatters never report it to the authorities, and turn to extrajudicial outfits to get the squatters out because the legal route can be so long and costly. As a result, data on the squatter problem in Spain is patchy. However, even the official figures suggest the problem is bigger than in other Western countries, as does the volume of squatter alarm advertising on radio and TV, and the large number of extra-judicial squatter eviction outfits.
In the absence of reliable data, the impression I get from following the topic closely in the press, and talking to specialist lawyers and second-home owners who have been extorted by squatter mafias, is that the problem is far worse than the authorities admit, but not as bad the alarm advertisers make out.