Criminal gangs invade the second homes of Britons in Spain, taking advantage of lax Spanish housing rules that prevent squatters from being evicted to sell their belongings and demand ransom.
A movement of squatters known as Los Okupas has long advocated that those struggling to find and afford good housing move semi-permanently into vacant properties.
But opportunistic gangs have devised a business model whereby they break into vacant holiday homes, change the locks and effectively ‘sell’ the property to squatters.
Now that the new residents can stay for months or years at a time, the gangs collect money from the squatters while selling the real owner’s belongings.
A lawyer from the Public Prosecution Service, who recently traveled to Ibiza with his wife and two young children to find squatters in their holiday home, described the matter as a “legal vacuum” leaving homeowners almost powerless to regain access to their properties.
People hold a banner reading ‘no to squatters’ as they demonstrate this month against squatters who live in the Bonanova district of Barcelona
Squatters celebrate from a barricaded building in Barcelona
Opportunistic gangs are taking advantage of Spain’s lax housing laws by entering vacant holiday homes, changing the locks and effectively selling the property to squatters
Article 47 of the Spanish Constitution states that ‘all Spaniards have the right to decent and adequate housing’ – a sentiment that has created a legal loophole that makes it extremely difficult for homeowners to remove squatters who have encroached on their properties.
Under Spanish law, squatters who have lived in a house for more than 48 hours and who are deemed to have no other suitable place to live in cannot be evicted without a court order.
This process takes an average of 18 months to complete and can prove particularly costly when plaintiffs must pay for legal representation and bailiffs.
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In the meantime, the only way to remove squatters is to pay removal companies, many of whom charge thousands of pounds to evict them forcibly.
A recent study by iNews found that the gangs operating the scam have produced a 102-page manual, described as an “anarchist manifesto,” that gives Okupas advice on how to successfully break into someone’s home and legal tips on how to extend their stay as long as possible.
British lawyer and head of the CPS extradition unit Marc Robinson is one of many Britons embroiled in legal battles over squatters.
He’s trying to get the family’s holiday home back after flying to Ibiza over the Easter holidays only to find the locks had been changed, Spanish outlet The target revealed.
The Robinsons flew their daughters to the Spanish island on April 4 and found the lights were on and someone was home on their property in the community of San Antonio.
The couple called police who spoke inside with a man who allegedly admitted to squatting there with his wife and two children because he had “nowhere else to live.”
British lawyer and head of the CPS extradition unit Marc Robinson is just one of many Britons embroiled in legal battles over squatters
Mr Robinson’s property in Ibiza was taken over by squatters and he is now starting a legal battle to remove them
Mr Robinson’s wife, Sohie, told The Objective: ‘It appears they have sold our assets. We are sure that an expensive bicycle that we had at home is no longer there.
“When we finally get access, we’ll have to see if we end up accusing them of theft or criminal damage.”
A month after their disturbing discovery, Ms. Robinson’s said their legal application to evict the squatters had not even been allowed for processing.
“The police report has not yet reached the court and preliminary proceedings to evict them from our house are still not open,” said Ms Robinson.
“The Guardia Civil told us they couldn’t do anything because when they arrived there was only a man, a woman and two children that they couldn’t evict without a court order because they say they are a family and have no family. live somewhere else.
“But we know there are more people in the house and it should be easy for the police to prove it.
“We don’t understand how it is possible that there is a legal vacuum when it comes to squatters in Spain.”
Meanwhile, Londoner Michael Reagan told The Daily Express that he felt his home in Barcelona had been raided by squatters in 2021.
He hired a moving company to move them out and was charged £1,750.
“You’re stuck 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 there was a group of men caught on video storming their home in the Spanish region of Murciathey threatened to beat the squatters with iron bars if they did not leave.