New law to deal with squatters comes into force today

A new law against squatting comes into force today. The legislation, Ley 5/2018, modifies and updates the previous legislation of 2000, and will make it much easier for owners to recover their own properties after they are occupied unlawfully. In particular, owners will be able regain access to their properties immediately either for themselves or any legal tenants they might have had who were displaced by the squatters; the law does not distinguish between private homes and properties owned for rental purposes, the only relevant criterion is that the property is considered to be a domestic home for its owner or a legal tenant, and not a business premises.

To take legal action against squatters the law will simply require either proof of ownership or of a right to possess if not the owner (eg a valid rental contract). Action can be taken against persons known or unknown, so the identity of the squatters is not a legal prerequisite for Court proceedings to be initiated or for an eviction notice to be served. The Court will then issue an instant demand to the occupants to justify their presence. If they cannot provide proof within five days that they have a right to be in the property, the Court will order the immediate return of the property to the owner or tenant: the squatters will have a right of appeal but they will need to show the Court that they can demonstrate a right to occupy (or an owner/tenant’s lack of such right) before an appeal will be allowed.

Once eviction is ordered, and assuming no appeal is lodged by the squatters, action will be taken within one week to evict any illegal occupants who remain in the property and return it to owner or legal tenant.


  1. I have squatters in my apt in Puerto Del Carmen Lanzarote. What is the position if I arrange for the water and electricity to he switched off? I am currently paying by direct debit as I am based in the UK.

    1. Author

      I do not think you can disconnect utilities, particularly if there children in there. You need professional legal advice, so speak to a lawyer in Lanzarote urgently who can initiate the correct legal proceedings.

  2. Hi Janet,
    Squatting is a problem made worse by the Spanish legal system. In Scotland for example the law is different in that squatting is illegal. You don’t need a court order etc to evict squatters.

    1. Author

      It’s illegal here too. That’s not the difference. The difference is legal systems – we have civic law, you have common law.

  3. Hello, please I want to know,if there is any law in Spain that gives illegal occupants of an apartment for 3years right for the ownership of the house if the legal owner did not show up.

    1. Author

      No. At least not under ordinary circumstances. Someone could argue that they had a right to the property under prior agreements, and then the Courts would have to determine the outcome, but there’s no law that says a tenant simply gets the property if the owner disappears.

  4. Hi Janet,
    I own property in Lucena del Puerto Huelva. Squatters (Romanian)have broken into and are living in my house.I found your website informative. Can you tell me which documents I need to get from the Spanish court.
    I’ll health prevents me from getting to Spain however I do have a local contact who has been to my property and reports back to me.
    Thank you for any help you can give me.
    Peter Hayes

    1. Author

      Peter, the best thing, in fact the essential thing, to do is to speak to a qualified lawyer in your area. It is pointless me trying to advise from the Canaries when you’re actually in a completely different autonomous region of Spain where there might be idiosyncracies of which I’m unaware. In any case, once it comes to dealing with the Courts and legal documentation for proceedings you really do need to speak to a qualified lawyer in any case.

  5. Hi Janet thank you for your reply and prompt, I still find it hard to understand as I have explained to my lawyer and feel no one is grasping how it can be that people can steal your home and be protected !!!!! I am treated like a criminal for wanting to enter my home !!!! How can I be protected from threats – they have stolen my home, there is no logic in this and if they had stolen say a Car, Shop lifted then they could be arrested makes no sense to me, its my home and how would a lawyer/judge deal with it if it was their home that was stolen!!!!! Can I also claim any criminal damage from the Courts as I doubt these people will have treated my home with respect and I would like them prosecuted for any damage done/caused when they should not be there in the first place. This has broken me and affected me in a way and sadly no one has even considered this. Thank you Eunice Normansell

    1. Author

      The law protects them from threats and abuse. The fact that they are squatting does not mean they can be victimised themselves, and although you might not consider doing it, some owners might (however understandably). It is important to note that you are not being treated as a criminal for “wanting to enter” but you would be if you “did enter”. That is because the law protects all sides until the case is heard and judged. Yes, you can claim criminal damage but you would have to do so through private legal action and any compensation would be almost certainly be limited by the squatters’ ability to pay – I would have thought a better bet would be your insurance company.

      I very much doubt anyone is dismissing the terrible effect of all this on you but there is a legal system in place and procedures have to be followed: it is not just here that owners in your position feel they are not getting the treatment they should – most people in your situation would no doubt feel that the treatment they deserve is for a police unit to be dispatched to frogmarch the squatters out immediately, but that cannot happen because the Courts have to hear all the evidence to reach a fair and just verdict. This is not just a Spanish thing: you say that “it is a disgrace of the Spanish so-called legal system” but in fact it would be the same in any western European liberal democracies, indeed it might take longer!

      The problem with your car analogy is that your house has not been “stolen” in the sense that someone has taken it somewhere and you don’t know where it is: they are occupying your property and will be evicted in due course, assuming you can show the Courts that they have no right to be there (or that they can’t show the Courts that they do). I repeat, again, that it is your lawyer you need to deal with to get answers to your questions and to press your own points.

  6. Hi Janet I have got illegal occupants in my apartment and from April 2018 when I saw my lawyer in Adeje I felt this would have all been resolved now, I am the owner and now in August I feel I am not getting any further, why does it take so long when I have produced my legal documents/proof as the owner. These people are still there and how can it be that they can steal my home and not get arrested – yet if I enter my home at present I could be arrrested ???? Its a disgrace of the spanish so-called legal system that decent people are treated like this. When will this nightmare come to an end.

    1. Author

      Do bear in mind that the new legislation only came into force last month, and the civic Courts like much else close in August. You can be arrested if you enter your home because it has occupants who are protected by law – as are you – from threats or violence: this is not remotely to suggest you would be guilty of such behaviour but many others might be. The law must take its course but clearly it is your lawyer who will have to answer this because no-one else will have the information to give you an informed answer on your specific case.

  7. Does this apply to bank reposessions that they were selling/ going to rent to a family prior to squatters moving in.

    1. Author

      That is something a lawyer would need to answer. My feeling is that it doesn’t, because the law is intended to assist private owners not businesses. It specifically excudes business premises so my instinct is that it would exclude business “owners”. But as I say, you would need confirmation from a qualified professional.

  8. Nothing but good news

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