Erardo Ferrer, of Lanzarote Abogados, talks about a ruling that can protect many home owners from the threat of squatters.
According to Article 202.1 of Spain’s Penal Code: ‘‘the individual who, without inhabiting it, enters another’s dwelling or remains in it against the will of its inhabitant, will be punished with a prison sentence of six months to two years”.
The protection of people’s habitual residence is perfectly guaranteed by the courts and the police, who are able to expel illegal occupants in a matter of hours or days.
The key words here are “habitual residence”, meaning the primary property in which people and families live. However, squatting can be a very serious problem for owners of second homes, who may spend long periods outside of Spain.
However, something has changed recently in Spain regarding the second residences used by people as their vacation home. A new doctrine established by the Supreme Court in a November 2020 ruling now recognizes the second residence as a residence, for legal purposes.
To do this, a series of habitability conditions must be met, without the need for it to actually be a habitual residence. According to the ruling, they will be considered dwellings “even if such dwellings are not the habitual residence of the victim, provided that they are furnished, contain personal belongings (clothes, photos, etc…), electricity and water are connected and the owner has essential services that prove that it is not unoccupied.”
This implies that these second homes, as long as they contain personal belongings of the owners, can now be recovered in a matter of days or weeks. This development vastly improves the property rights of residents and non-residents owners.
Nevertheless, properties that are neither a habitual residence nor a second residence – for example, those that the owner rents to third parties, whether on vacation or permanently – remain unprotected in the short term against illegal occupation. In these cases, the process to remove the occupants is much longer, between 8 months and approximately two years, depending on the astuteness and expertise of the lawyer.
We are one of the first law firms in Lanzarote that have applied the new doctrine of the Supreme Court and we have recovered several homes for our clients in very acceptable periods.
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