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Illegal occupation: a brake on the real estate sector

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The recent approval in Congress of the amendment of Law 1/2000 on Civil Procedure to speed up proceedings against the illegal occupation of housing has been welcomed by civil society with jubilation, as it will improve eviction procedures, guaranteeing private property against intrusion.

A situation that both individuals and companies in the real estate sector have to deal with on an almost daily basis. However, with the reformulation of this new text, this is going to change… although not for everyone, as it will only cover individuals, non-profit entities and public bodies that own property. The objective is to encircle the mafias of the illegal real estate occupation, which not only profit from other people’s properties but also hinder the processes of sale and purchase.

The fact that capitals such as Madrid and Barcelona are currently the areas with the greatest demand, partly due to the growing interest of foreign tourists who are looking for the most central areas to stay, has caused prices to rise sharply from month to month, even reaching pre-crisis levels. To this must be added the lack of stock to satisfy the growing demand.

Usurpation of empty houses

In part, this latent need could be met if many empty flats, most of them still in the hands of banks, are in limbo. This has been reported by criminal organizations that, with total impunity, track down these unused homes, and even change their locks, to take over this property. And, far from residing in it, they negotiate and rent the housing to third parties, many of them unaware that they are going to occupy it illegally.

These groups have managed to weave a very well organized network and, above all, they locate properties in central areas, where, coincidentally, there is more demand. Furthermore, they are aware that they can act for a prudential period until the justice system takes action. But there are also those who decide to live in the hope of asking their owner for a ransom for abandoning the house or, simply, as happens with many properties in Ciutat Vella in Barcelona, for example, they are used, as it has been popularly known, as ‘narcopisos’ for the sale and distribution of drugs, causing a high degree of insecurity among the neighbors.

The squatters know that they can reside for two years, as it is the approximate time until the judge pronounces sentence. With the reformulation of this law, landlords will be able to require tenants to justify their situation in the dwelling. Otherwise, or if no answer is given within five days, the immediate delivery of possession of the dwelling will be required, which can be made within a period of no more than two months.

An old claim that finally sees the light but investment funds and family wealth companies are exempt from this new resolution. So companies in the real estate sector must continue to work, to prevent illegal usurpation during the process between acquiring a property and acting to give it a new outlet in the market.

How to act?

The companies in the sector have no choice but to continue with their ‘modus operandi’ to prevent the entry of people outside the home. Many of these companies work, after the acquisition of the property, to improve its state of conservation. To do this, the house must remain closed for a period of time, until all the formalities are completed, before the start of work on the farm. However, this moment can be used by these groups to gain access to housing.

For this reason, many companies decide to invest in security systems. The most common is the installation of anti-kickup doors, but in the market there are other complementary systems such as the placement of surveillance cameras or motion sensors, to know in real time if someone has entered the house and be able to give notice to the police forces to intervene immediately.

Another of the practices is the hiring of private security personnel 24 hours a day, to make sure that the property is kept safe from any usurpation. A situation that forces both individuals and companies to invest a significant economic expenditure to fight against these groups and prevent them from occupying the house easily. A scourge that tarnishes the real estate market and deprives it of giving an answer to the little existing real estate stock in cities with a greater demand for housing.

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