Illegal occupants - how to protect a property against the okupas?


Quarantine in Spain was very restrictive. For almost 3 months it was impossible to move between the cities. Some people who had second homes in other regions could not travel to them. It was the same for people from abroad who invested in property in Spain. After the restrictions were lifted, some owners whose properties were located in dangerous locations or lacked protection were exposed to the actions of okupas. Learn about the history of this phenomenon and how to effectively protect your property.


Keys to the house
"Okupas" comes from the verb "ocupar" and means to capture, seize. It is also the name given to illegal occupants who occupy other people's mansions and vacant properties.

History of ‘’the okupas’’

The first information about the occupation of other people's properties dates back to the 17th century. The lands lying fallow were occupied by farmers. It peaked in the 1960s-70s, when the anarchist movement in Britain was flourishing.


During the financial crisis in 2008, Spain adopted provisions to protect the rights of tenants in economic difficulty. Eviction of such a tenant was only possible by court order, which entailed considerable time costs. At some point, people who were not entitled to this right - marginalised groups and migrants - started to profit from it. Many of them did not have Spanish nationality. Hence, the Spanish word ‘’okupas’’ (coming from the verb ocupar and means to capture, seize) has become synonymous with these phenomena.


Legal grounds

Until the new Penal Code was enacted in 1996, there was no legal regulation to prosecute people illegally staying in abandoned buildings. During this period, the owner had to fight the illegal occupants to leave his premises: usually through legal proceedings, where the defenders used all possible legal loopholes to defend the new occupants of the building.


In June 2018, a law on forced eviction was enacted. According to it, the property owner has the right to an expedited hearing of cases of illegal occupation in civil court. When the legal owner of the property applies to the court, the judge must issue a ruling and the occupier is given 5 days to provide documents that prove the legality of his stay in the occupied flat. If this is not done, eviction takes place immediately.


How can you protect yourself from the okupas?

  • Ask your estate agent or a trusted friend about the neighbourhood - ask if the area is safe and if the okupas have been there in the past,
  • You can look for a flat in gated estates with 24-hour security. The okupas most often show up in agricultural areas or in large cities.
  • Another solution to the problem is to install an alarm, a video surveillance and replace basic doors with burglar-proof ones,
  • It's a good idea to establish a friendly relationship with your neighbours, who will inform you as soon as the occupants arrive - a quick response to uninvited visitors is vital,
  • Concierge services - while you're away, specialists can look after your property and resolve any issues related to it - from cleaning the pool water to interacting with institutions. 




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