- Spain The legal system has a loophole that makes it very difficult to evict illegal occupants.
- Now gangs break into holiday homes and bring in unwanted guests.
- Have you been affected by Spanish squatters? Email firstname.lastname@example.org
Criminal gangs are invading the second homes of British people in Spain and taking advantage of lax housing regulations that prevent squatters from being evicted to sell their possessions for a ransom.
A squatter movement, known as Los Okupas, has long advocated for those struggling to find and afford suitable housing to move into vacant properties on a semi-permanent basis.
But opportunistic gangs have created a business model whereby they enter unoccupied vacation homes, change the locks and effectively “sell” the property to squatters.
Because new squatters can stay there for months or years at a time, gangs collect money from squatters while selling off the real owner’s possessions.
A Crown Prosecution Service solicitor, who recently traveled to Ibiza with his wife and two young children to find squatters living in their holiday home, described the problem as a “loophole” that sees homeowners almost powerless to regain access to their properties.
Article 47 of the Spanish Constitution establishes that ‘all Spaniards have the right to enjoy decent and adequate housing’ – a sentiment that has caused a legal loophole, making it extremely difficult for property owners to remove squatters who have entered their properties.
Under Spanish law, squatters who have occupied a home for more than 48 hours and are deemed to have no other suitable home to live in cannot be evicted without a court order.
This process takes an average of 18 months and can be particularly costly as claimants have to fork out for legal representation and bailiffs.
Meanwhile, the only way to remove squatters is to pay squatter removal companies, many of which charge thousands of pounds to forcibly evict them.
A recent investigation of iNews discovered that the gangs operating the scam have produced a 102-page manual, described as an “anarchist manifesto”, offering Squatters advice on how to successfully invade someone’s home and legal advice on how to extend their stay as long as possible .
British lawyer and head of the CPS extradition unit, Marc Robinson, is one of several Britons embroiled in legal battles over squatters.
The Robinsons flew to the Spanish island with their daughters on April 4 and found the lights were on and someone was on their property in San Antonio Township.
The couple called police, who spoke to a man inside who allegedly admitted he was there with his wife and two children because he “didn’t have anywhere else to live.”
Mr Robinson’s wife Sophie told The Objective: “It seems they have been selling our belongings.” We are sure that an expensive bicycle we had at home is no longer there.
“When we finally get access we will have to see if we end up charging them with theft or criminal damage.”
A month after her disturbing discovery, Mrs Robinson said her legal application to evict the squatters had not even been accepted.
“The police report has not yet reached the court and the preliminary proceedings to evict them from our house have not yet been opened,” he added.
“The Civil Guard told us that they couldn’t do anything because when they arrived there was only a man, a woman and two children who they couldn’t evict without a court order because they say they are a family and don’t have anywhere else to live.
“But we know there are more people in the house and it should be easy for the police to prove it.”
“We do not understand how it is possible that there is a legal vacuum regarding squatters in Spain.”
Keith Harvey, former owner of a property near La Zenia on the Costa Blanca, told MailOnline: ‘We had four houses permanently occupied by squatters. It was a nightmare for the 100 residents and many sold their properties, including myself, to get away from the hostile environment.
‘Local lawyers are very expensive and taking the case to court takes two years. Even with an eviction order, there is no guarantee that the squatters will leave.’
Meanwhile, Londoner Michael Reagan told The Daily Express that he found his home in Barcelona invaded by squatters in 2021.
He hired a removal agency to evict them and was forced to shell out £1,750.
“You’re caught between a rock and a hard place,” Mr. Reagan said. “The law is very ineffective.”
Others have taken matters into their own hands and resorted to violence.
Last summer, a group of men were Caught on video breaking into his home in the Spanish region of Murciathreatening to beat the squatters with iron bars if they did not leave.