The term squatter is used for a person who unlawfully occupies a property you own

The General Courts have in June 2018 approved and amended article 250. 4.º of Law 1/2000, due to the growing demand for fast and effective responses, without having to resort to criminal proceedings when trying to evict squatters from your property.

What is a squatter? The term squatter is used for a person who unlawfully occupies the property you own and has no title, right or lease. When your tenant remains on your property without paying rent, that person is a “holdover tenant,” which is also known as “tenancy at sufferance.” You can consider that tenant a squatter, but technically, squatters never had permission to live there in the first place.

Sometimes squatters will act like they have rights to your property, depending on the circumstances and local laws. If a squatter has been allowed to occupy a property for some time, they might have the same landlord-tenant rights as holdover tenants. Depending on the country, some jurisdictions are friendlier to squatters than others.

This new ruling aims to solve the problem of people illegally occupying empty properties. Previously, the sentence made it too easy for illegal occupancy to happen, as it would not only take months to evict squatters, but it would also be costly, having to take them to Court.

With the changes to the Law 1/2000 in force, if you have someone living in your property with no legally binding contract in place, you can sue the persons without having their personal details, and request for immediate eviction. In addition to the claim, you will be asked to provide evidence that you are the rightful owner, such as the title deeds.

Once the claim has been accepted, the squatters will be served an eviction notice, giving them 5 days to present proof that they are the owner or tenant, and have the lawful right to stay in the property. Should they fail to present an official document proving this, the court will order immediate eviction, with no chance of appeals.

This reform will affect properties whose owners are “private individuals, non-profits and public agencies that own social housing.” Leaving out real estate held by banks and investment funds.

A good lawyer advises you to protect yourself from squatters before they move in. If you own a property that is vacant, try to check on it regularly, and should you not live in the area, ask a friend to check on it for you, or hire a management company to do the job. If you take every precaution and still end up with a squatter, stay calm, call the police, and immediately file an eviction notice.

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