Governing party now favours rapid eviction of squatters, but there’s a catch

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

The Spanish Socialist party seems to have come around to the idea of fast-tracking the eviction of squatters, but their proposal leaves a loophole that savvy squatters will know how to exploit.

Earlier this year the opposition PP party on the right proposed legislation to fast-track the eviction of squatters that got no support from the governing Socialist party, who run the Spanish government in coalition with the hard-left Podemos party. 

Indeed, the Spanish press reports that previous efforts by the PP to propose legislation to fast-track the eviction of squatters was scoffed at by the then Socialist spokesman Antonio Magdalena as intended to “generate fake social alarm” and damage the image of Spain.

But this week, with a General Election looming next year, the Socialist parliamentary group in the Spanish Congress has tabled an amendment to a draft bill (on the organisation of the justice system) intended to give magistrates the power to evict squatters in Spain “within a maximum of 48 hours,” and that also envisages changes to the criminal prosecution system to facilitate the prosecution of some types of squatting.

The proposal would allow magistrates to order the eviction of squatters within 48 hours “without the need to present guarantees, if the occupiers of the property cannot produce in that time frame the legal title that legitimises their presence in the property.”


But there’s a snag. Magistrates would have to inform the public prosecutor and social services if the squatters include anyone at risk of ‘social exclusion’ or ‘vulnerable minors’, which could hold up evictions for months if not years. Most squatters, in particular squatter mafia gangs who extort money from owners by holding their home to ransom, would know how to exploit this loophole to full advantage.

This initiative sets the Socialists at odds with their coalition partners from the hard-left Podemos party who are against any measure that makes it easy to evict anyone, whatever the circumstances. “They shouldn’t assume the agenda of the Right, because if they do, the Right wins,” says Podemos law-maker Rafa Mayoral, criticising the Socialists in comments to the press.

This comes at a delicate time for the governing leftist coalition as they try to agree a new housing-law that Podemos wants to use to introduce rent controls all over Spain, make evictions almost impossible, and turn all the properties of the Sareb ‘bad bank’ into social housing. The law is supposed to be passed before the end of the year but the Socialists and Podemos can’t seem to agree on a draft to put before parliament.

Socialist support for the idea of fast-tracking squatter evictions is good news as it signals that a political majority are now in favour of the idea in principle. However, in practice, nothing is going to change for the foreseeable future. Extorting homeowners by holding properties to ransom will continue to be a profitable criminal enterprise with little risk of punishment in Spain, especially in squatter-friendly Catalonia, where close to half of all squatting takes place.

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