Last month, the Parliament of Catalonia passed a new law against occupation in Catalonia, which allows municipalities to take action against illegal housing occupations by large property owners that cause problems with coexistence in the community. The law amends the 2007 housing law and the fifth book of the Catalan Civil Code to allow the administration to act before the courts in case the affected property owner does not do so.
However, the approved version is a watered-down version compared to the original proposal, which also allowed property communities to initiate these types of procedures. During the legislative process, the original proposal was modified and now only municipal authorities can take action. The original proposal sought to amend the Catalan Civil Code so that property communities could appeal to the courts if a large property owner did nothing to end an illegal and problematic occupation.
In this article we will answer the following:
In the current version, property communities can file their complaint with the City Council, and a large property owner is defined as a natural person who owns more than 15 properties or a legal entity that owns more than ten.
In other words, the fact that property communities had the ability to act against the illegal occupation of housing left a lot of room for discretion in decision-making. The original text sought to provide neighbors with a tool to combat situations that endangered coexistence, public order, or the security and integrity of the property, such as electricity theft.
When can action be taken against illegal occupation?
The law establishes that measures can be taken when the social function of housing is not being fulfilled. This will occur if owners, especially large property owners, do not take action to evict the property as required by competent authorities, and the property is occupied without proper permission, causing disruptions to coexistence, public order or endangering the safety and integrity of the building.
The new law includes an additional situation in which the use of housing is considered anomalous, and that is when the person occupying it does not have a legal contract that allows them to do so, such as a rental contract. This situation will be considered anomalous if it causes problems with coexistence, disruptions to public order or endangers the safety or integrity of the building.
If the property is occupied without a rental contract or other authorizing document, and if the occupant is causing problems such as disturbances in coexistence or public order, or endangering the safety of the building, the law establishes that the owner, especially if they are a large landlord such as an investment fund, must take measures to evict the occupant. This is to prevent the owner from washing their hands of the situation and allowing the problem to continue. This provision also seeks to address the difficulty that municipalities faced in locating the owners of large holdings and addressing the problem of illegal occupation.
If the property does not take action to evict an occupant without an authorizing document and with anomalous use of the dwelling that causes conflict, the municipality can intervene and demand that the property demonstrate documentarily the existence of a valid occupancy title within five business days. In addition, the property must demonstrate that it has fulfilled its obligation to proceed with the eviction within a maximum period of one month.
If the property does not submit documents demonstrating that the occupant has legal permission to live in the property, and does not show evidence that it has initiated legal action to evict the occupant within one month of receiving a request from the municipality, then the municipality has the right to initiate an eviction process and recover the property. The law also establishes that the municipality can take this measure without affecting the competence of other public entities, such as the Generalitat de Catalunya.
The law establishes that if the municipality has to act instead of the owner to carry out the eviction, it will be reimbursed for all costs incurred in the process. In addition, the norm establishes that the mayor will be responsible for carrying out the eviction on behalf of the municipality. To do this, a file will be compiled with police evidence that demonstrates the conflictive occupation and will be used to lead the eviction process.
According to the law, municipalities have the option to temporarily use a property for a maximum period of seven years. During this time, the property will be used for social rental programs promoted by the government.
The law has some limitations that can result in discretion. On the one hand, although it does not allow neighbors to go directly to the courts to request the eviction of an occupied property, it does allow them to address the municipality to act. The way in which municipalities handle these requests may depend on their political inclination.
In addition, the definition of what is considered a conflicting occupation or one that puts the safety of the property at risk may be ambiguous, although the law is based on previous jurisprudence to delimit it. Supporters of the norm recognize that it is not possible to cover all situations, so there are cases where a situation that other neighbors would tolerate may be considered conflicting. For example, some may see it as problematic for an illegal occupant to have hooked up electricity, while others may not.
The new law has some deficiencies that can generate problems. Firstly, although it allows neighbors to request the intervention of the municipality to evict an illegally occupied property, this will depend on the political will of the municipality in question. In addition, the definition of what is considered a conflicting occupation is vague and can be interpreted differently according to jurisprudence. There are also doubts about the ability of the courts to comply with the deadlines established by the law and the possible violation of the rights of vulnerable families. The law could also face problems of competencies between the Generalitat and the State. Although some groups, such as real estate agents, have applauded the measure, others, such as the Platform of Mortgage Victims, are concerned about a possible “electoralist” use of the mechanism and will oppose any eviction they consider unjust.
As you can see, anti-squatting laws are still very new. The government is taking small and fearful steps. It’s best to have everything under control beforehand.
A good real estate agency can be very helpful.
They will give you all the advice you need to keep in mind. They will provide support in your decisions. We will advise you on everything you need. We know things that you are completely unaware of.
Contact us and you will see how well it goes for you.
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