Holiday Home Squatters
How to minimise the risk of squatters entering your holiday home
Whether you have a holiday home for personal use or are renting out your holiday home to generate a source of revenue, there will always be a risk that you could end up with unwelcome guests. Holiday homes squatters can be a problem, especially if your property is thousands of miles away overseas. Buildings left vacant for prolonged periods do run the potential risk of ending up being occupied by squatters.
In Spain, they’re known as ‘Okupas’, and these can be a problem for property owners, as it can be extremely challenging to have them evicted once they’ve moved in. Okupas have more rights than squatters in the UK, especially in the Catalonia region where they enjoy a certain level of political support.
That doesn’t help property owners who suddenly find they have tenants who don’t want to pay the rent, and don’t want to move on, either. Situations like this are known as ‘adverse possessions’, and while the vast majority of holiday home owners will never encounter Okupas, it is worth knowing about them, what the challenges are, and how Intasure is helping clients to recover financially if they do have a problem with holiday home squatters.
A civil matter
The problem of holiday home squatters is worse in some parts of Spain because of a variety of cultural issues, such as the lack of social housing, a counter-culture that sees squatting as a romantic, anti-establishment action, a slow and a slow and inefficient legal system, and political support for squatters in some quarters.
Spanish holiday homes squatters – organised and with plenty of rights
Okupas move quickly, so the trick is to make it as difficult as possible for them to occupy your holiday home in the first place. The rule in Spain is that if squatters break into your holiday home and stay for 48 hours undisturbed then they automatically have squatter’s rights. The police will not intervene, and the only way to have the squatters removed is to apply for a judicial order. Don’t think that cutting the water and electricity supply off will help remove them either, because if you do that you could end up being charged with intimidation.
Once you do get rid of your Okupas, you may find that there’s a bit of a mess to clear up. Fortunately, if you’ve got the extensive holiday home insurance in place with Intasure, that financial burden is lightened and it should be relatively quick and easy to get back to normal.
How to stop the Okupas
Top of the list has to be adequate security. Making it difficult for Okupas to move in to start with will give you greater reassurance and protection from opportunist squatters. Make sure you have strong deadlocks on doors, lockable shutters for windows and balcony doors, and gates that are lockable and have strong, unbreakable hinges. While padlocks and chains are always good, bear in mind that it’s pretty easy to angle-grind a standard chain, so choose coated chains that tend to ‘gum up’ cutters and make it difficult for squatters to break in.
An alarm system (one that actually works and isn’t just there for show) is also a great way to stop break-ins. Installing an alarm system not only brings down your insurance premiums, but is one of the most effective ways to deter Okupas from moving in. Make sure it’s a modern system that cannot be disconnected easily (so make sure the cable to the alarm isn’t on the outside of the building where it can be easily cut!), and if possible, choose one that automatically contacts the nearest police station if it senses a break-in.
But the best way to stop holiday homes squatters from moving in is to have ‘eyes on the ground’. Get to know your neighbours and ask them to keep an eye on your property when you’re not there. They may also be able to take advantage of that very small window of opportunity to call the police during, or immediately after the actual break-in itself. Alternatively, employ a local agent to maintain the property during your absence. Not only can they stop Okupas from taking up residence, but they can also stay on top of other issues, such as plumbing and electrical problems, pool cleaning and general maintenance while you’re not there.
How Intasure can help
If the worst does happen, Intasure is here to help. As long as there is clear evidence that they have broken into the property and haven’t been let in, Intasure can provide you with insurance that will cover damage to your holiday home. If you’re worried about the possibility of unwelcome guests moving into your holiday home in Spain, contact us using our online form, get a quote using our no-obligation ‘Request a Call-back’ service, or call us direct on 0345 111 0680 today.
*These are brief product descriptions only. Please refer to the policy documentation paying particular attention to the terms and conditions, exclusions, warranties, subjectivities, excesses and any endorsements. – The opinions and views expressed in the above articles are those of the author only and are for guidance purposes only. The authors disclaim any liability for reliance upon those opinions and would encourage readers to rely upon more than one source before making a decision based on the information.