This post will be about one more strange and illogical Spanish law in the real estate field. I believe that in the beginning, it was for the sake of good. But as it always happens, bad people take advantage of it, and it becomes messy.
Have you heard about the word “ocupas” or “okupas”? This word means people who occupy premises and flats which have been confiscated from owners by a bank because owners could not keep paying the mortgage. It had started in 2007-2008 when the economic crisis began. Before Spanish people were living in the credit heaven and were taking everything out a loan. Young people were preferring to get a job and make money instead of getting a profession at Universities. But when the crisis hit the country, people started to lose their jobs. Since they lost the possibility of paying the mortgage, the banks literally drove out into the street all those debtors. The youth went to live with their parents again, but young families with babies were in a complicated situation since their apartments were the only place to live. They say, over 250.000 were left without a roof over their heads. 250.000 people are like a population of a French city, Bordeaux, or twice and a half of a Spanish town, Girona. That is crazy. People were sleeping in the streets and were begging for money. We can imagine it was a tough time for the country.
And soon, those people began to organize strikes against evictions. It helped at some point since authorities allowed to stay for those who are with families and don’t have any other places to live. But many people just gave up and went to their villages and left those properties for the banks. As you know, there are always people who know how to take advantage of the situ. There it has started. Some people began to occupy confiscated apartments, not their own apartments, and decided to live there and not to pay lease, bills, etc. They call them “ocupas” from a verb “ocupar” in Spanish, which means “occupy” but in colloquial language, it will be “okupas” since many Spaniards write it like that, because of lack of knowledge of grammar. I head it from a Spaniard friend, I didn’t invent it 🙂
The police in Spain can’t just enter properties and ask for any proof if the tenants live there legally. They have to wait until the tenants go outside. Even the owner can’t just enter there without any judge’s permission. And for it, they have to wait until 2 years since to give the permission police have to identify the tenants. But the tenants, of course, will avoid any contact with the police. Ocupas very often change locks, so the owner can’t enter there when they are outside. And if the flat has been occupied with people for more than 48 hours, it will not be considered as an illegal entry in a property. I couldn’t find any law or rule regarding 48 hours, but it is true. So, last 5 years the situation became awful for the owners of properties who don’t live in Spain the whole time. Occupants are everywhere. Many immigrants live like that. And for authorities is even more difficult because if there are families with a pregnant woman and pets live in an empty apartment, the law will be on their side. And the court will pass a mitigating sentence, maybe it gives them some time within occupants will need to leave the property. But between the court and the penalty can pass years and years since it is difficult to catch the ocupas. As a result, there are many empty flats that have been occupied by drug addicts, prostitutes, and gypsy families. But there are ordinary people as well, who have been forced by life to live like ocupas.
I know one man, very well educated, who lives in a fabulous house on the coast in Calella. This man is a talented painter but with a lack of luck and perseverance maybe. I don’t put any judgment here. He came to Spain from the non-European country and had had good times when he was working as a portrait painter in Rambla street in Barcelona. He told me that the whole street is divided by painters and every one has its own territory on which others can’t claim.
So, regarding the house. It was an abandoned house as he figured out after observing it for some time, and before occupying it, he went to each house in the neighborhood to get to know his future neighbors. He asked if they wouldn’t mind if he will occupy that house and will become their neighbor, explaining the situation. Just like that, after getting permission, he spent in the house 72 hours with his friend. Because he was afraid to do it alone. “Can you imagine staying in an abandoned house of 3 floors alone for three days? It is a little creepy”, he said. He found a friend who wanted to do it with them. During this time, I was thinking, “What the hell I am doing here? Why I do that? Why I just can’t go back to my country and live there?”. Well, because in his country an average salary is €100 and it will go to pay the bills. And with his profession, he won’t be able to find a decent job. So, he thought, why he should leave this country if he can live here with no job and not paying for a lease. “This is not my fault if the authorities didn’t think well laws,” he claimed. But he didn’t kill anyone and didn’t do anything wrong to people. So far he has been living there for 2 years and a half, and he connected the lights and water, repaired one floor and got furniture. In the living room overlooking the sea, hang his paintings and paintings by other artists. Within those years, the owner didn’t appear, only once he got an envelope in his mailbox with the name of a bank on it, but he didn’t open it. He is still afraid of the fact that there will be the court, and he will need to leave this place; there is still fear, of course. But he is thinking of meeting a woman who will agree to live with him there and create a family. Oh, and they will need a pet, of course.