During the confinement due to the Covid-19 pandemic, cases of illegal occupations in homes owned by individuals and companies have increased significantly.
The squatters, in many cases, are mafias that extort money from the owners, who pay high sums to vacate the houses using the collapsed judicial system, that can take months and even years to solve these matters.
On the 15th September 2020, the State Attorney General’s Office issued an instruction, in which it indicates to the prosecutors how to act quickly to stop the occupations.
This instruction analyses the crimes of trespassing (articles 202 and following of the Criminal Code which apply to both main residency and second home, for example in the case of a property used for weekends or holidays) and usurpation of property (when it is neither a first nor a second residence) and marks the guidelines that the prosecutor must follow when the owner or a third party complaints. (for example, neighbourhood communities).
With this procedure, it is intended that the prosecution can reinforce the rights of the victims, making use of legal tools that restore the legitimate right of the owner, to avoid the situation where the squatters benefit from the slow legal process.
It is essential, that in the complaint the owners or injured parties include documents such as the property deed, which proves who the owner is, and also other facts such as the statements of witnesses and/or injured parties testify how and when the occupation took place. For example, if it has been seen, how they have forced entry, or there is evidence of damage to the locks, windows…as well as the possible data that we can obtain from those who have been the perpetrator of the occupation, their ID number or any other relevant data.
It is important that the wish of the owner or injured party is reflected so that an order to evict the occupants of the property is executed. The Police will have to send to the prosecutor, a copy of the reports/complaints in accordance with arts. 284.1 and 295.1 of the criminal procedure laws, as soon as possible The Prosecutors will request that the judge agrees to the eviction as a precautionary measure and to return the home to its owner after suffering the crimes of trespassing and usurpation.
In the crime of trespassing, the precautionary measure will be requested whenever there is sufficient evidence (with the exception of those cases in which it is found, that the illegal possession of the property has been carried with the acceptance of the owner.)
In the minor crime of “peaceful usurpation” of property (art. 245.2 Criminal Code)., prosecutors will request the aforementioned precautionary measure, when the owner is a private person, a public nature legal entity, or a non-profit association of public utility, once verified that the specific usurpation, apart from damaging the right to possess the property, could produce a serious decrease in the value or security of the assets.
In all the cases above, at the time of evaluating the request for the precautionary measure, full consideration will be given to the victims and to the neighbours to whom the crime may directly cause damage to their full rights.
If there is a situation of special vulnerability of the occupiers (minors, people with disabilities…), at the prosecutors’ request of the eviction, they will simultaneously make sure, that these facts are made known to the Social Services, in order to adopt measures for their protection and if need it the appropriate residential solutions.
If you are a victim of squatting. act swiftly and seek immediate legal advice. However, even if you are not the owner but a neighbour, or as a community of owners it is possible a part from the report to the police you can exercise the action of cessation and expulsion of the squatters for unhealthy, harmful or dangerous activities prohibited by the community of owners statutes, as set out in Article 7.2 of the Law on Horizontal Property (LPH). This action is exercised through a civil action by the community of owners represented by the president in case the squatters are carrying out such activities.