Spain speeds up penalties to end the problem with squatters

6 October 2020 - Marta Arroyo Vázquez

The General State Public Prosecutor’s Office has dictated a directive for its prosecutors allowing the owners of illicitly occupied dwellings to recover said dwellings more swiftly. Until now, the most rapid way was through civil proceedings; with this new directive, however, it is hoped that the procedure for evicting illicit occupants will be much faster by way of criminal proceedings.

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This directive only affects the offence of forced entry (allanamiento), that is, when the occupied dwellings are primary and secondary residences. The directive indicates the requirements to present a police report for forced entry. It establishes that when the owner of the dwelling presents the corresponding police report at the police station for illegitimate occupation of the dwelling without his/her consent, he/she must prove ownership of the dwelling. The directive establishes that for this purpose, presentation of registry certification electronically signed by the registrar may be presented (which can be obtained by Internet within seven hours). The filer of the police report must also present all the evidence in his/her possession regarding the space-time circumstances in which the unconsented occupation took place and expressly request that the cautionary measure of eviction be adopted. Once the police report is presented with these requirements, the police will immediately pass this information on to the Public Prosecutor’s Office which, at that time, must immediately request from a judge that the cautionary measure of eviction be adopted.

This measure implies important progress because the prosecutors will know of the illegitimate occupation from the beginning and be obliged to request eviction as a cautionary measure from the start of the proceedings and immediately, provided that, of course, it is considered appropriate. This cautionary measure, in contrast with what used to occur during the criminal proceedings for forced entry, does not require the identification of the illicit occupants or that the latter be present at the hearing for the cautionary measure, given that said measure may be adopted without their presence.

This directive is intended to render the criminal proceedings more effective to satisfy the requests of owners who saw that the criminal proceedings to evict illicit occupants could be prolonged and last for years. With this reform, criminal proceedings seem a true alternative and even quicker than that of civil proceedings which require the identification of the occupants.