PROPERTY owners across Spain are advised to beware of a new scam which sees squatters sneak into empty homes and simply stay there until they are either evicted – a lengthy process under Spanish law – or pay a ransom to the organised gangs masterminding the scheme.
The phenomenon is on the rise across the country, particularly in Catalonia, and takes advantage of strict laws on evictions which see homeowners bear the burden of proof, rather than the invaders.
Unless the police actually catch the squatters breaking into the property there is very little they can do, while the gangs operate in the knowledge that it is usually far cheaper to simply pay the ransom rather than fork out for legal fees.
Intimidation from the gangs means that many homeowners are afraid to take retributive measures such as turning off the water or electricity supply and they are loathe to risk the squatters simply destroying their homes from within. Now private security groups are springing up with pledges to keep a watchful eye over properties when the owners go away for lengthy periods, although the legality of some of the tactics they use has been questioned.