The legal options open to landlords in Spain who need to evict squatters or tenants for non-payment of the rent have traditionally been complex, expensive and, as a result frustrating.
Indeed, eviction proceedings are probably even more difficult today as a result of the new laws introduced in 2023 by the current socialist government in Spain, under pressure from its even more left-wing government partners. This may be an important consideration for those investing in Spanish property.
So, if you find yourself in a situation where you need to remove a person from your property in Spain, what are your legal rights and, perhaps more importantly, what are the practical steps you need to take?
1. Legal Background to Evictions in Spain
Traditionally, the Spanish legal system has given more weight to the need to tenants rights to a home than the property rights of the landlord. This stance has derived from the Spanish Constitution, in particle Articles 18.1 (inviolability of a person's home and protection against intrusion save judicial order) and Article 33.1 (the right to private property). More complete information is available on
As a result , in 2013, new laws relating to eviction proceedings were enacted by the central government in an effort to expedite proceedings and support landlords who find themselves needing to evict persons from their property.
While there have been historically a number of different causes for the right to eviction to arise, here we focus on the express eviction process as this is the one typically used by landlords who need to remove a non-paying tenant or squatter.
2. When does the right to eviction arise?
The first important point to note is the difference between home invasion and squatting in Spain.
The former pertains to entering a furnished and habitable dwelling with the intention of infringing upon an individual's privacy and the sanctity of their home. This situation can be resolved immediately by contacting the Spanish Police to have the offenders removed from your home.
Squatting, on the other hand, involves unlawfully occupying a property that is not currently used as a residence, lacks furnishings, and is disconnected from utilities. How does this difference impact on the rights of the homeowner in Spain to recover access to their property?
3. Squatters Rights in Spain
The severity of legal action can differ based on whether the occupied property is a primary residence or a second home, contingent on the offender's intent. Occupying a primary residence often results in a more robust and swifter legal response compared to a second home, with the decision dependent on the evidence assessed by the judge.
Good relations with neighbours who are permanently resident, or indeed modern cameras or security alarms to alert you to any intrusion on your property are good investments if you have a holiday home in Spain. in order to act swiftly.
4. How long must a landlord wait to evict a tenant?
As regards tenants, the right to evict arises on any breach of a rental contract which may include such tenant's actions as non-payment of rent, damage to the property, inappropriate use of the property including illegal activity, causing noise or other nuisance to neighbours or any activity not permitted in the rental agreement, and which is not unreasonable.
5. What Options does the Landlord have?
In the first place, it should be highlighted that what a landlord should NOT do is to cut off the utility supplies, change the locks or sell the property without informing the tenant.
Such actions by a landlord are expressly prohibited under Spanish law and will give give the tenant a legal right - independent of any eviction proceedings - to sue the landlord. Such actions could create bigger costs and even potentially criminal liability for coercion.
It is much more advisable to try to negotiate an out of court agreement with the defaulting tenant/squatter, though if such efforts are not successful, without doubt the most effective remaining option is to initiate eviction proceedings.
Even if there are several months unpaid rent/bills, it may be quicker, more convenient and ultimately less costly for the landlord to get immediate vacant possession than to to proceed with court action in an effort to request financial compensation from a tenant who is penniless.
6. Sending a Formal Notice to the Tenant
Once the rent has fallen due and is unpaid or the contract period under the lease contract has expired, while technically the right to evict arises immediately, it is good practice to make sure the tenant is formally notified that all the rent and bills outstanding be paid (usually by burofax available in the post office which is proof that it was sent on a particular date).
In regards to the format of this formal notice, the Supreme Court handed down it’s interpretation of Article 22.4 of the LEC (Ley Enjuiciamiento Civil) regarding the requirements when notifying a tenant of a demand for unpaid rent and utility bills in May 2014, as follows:
- The notification must contain a demand for immediate payment of the rent or other amounts due under the terms of the lease e.g. IBI, community payments, electricity, water etc). This prevents the possibility of the tenant preventing the eviction by making a late payment of the rent due at this time.
- The notification must be irrefutable, that is to say that the communication must have been sent in such a manner that it’s arrival to the tenant can be accredited (for example by certified post)
- The communication must refer to unpaid rent or other payments due under the lease that are unpaid.
The formal notification is a good idea also because, as stated, the landlord should seek to regain possession without the need to pay court costs nor the costs of legal representation.
Where the landlord notifies the tenant of the demand for payment, but the latter does not receive the notification, the landlord may have the demand added to the Official Court Notice such that the tenant is deemed to have received notice without any further action by the landlord.
7. The Express Eviction Legal Process
The ‘Express’ Eviction proceedings are used primarily to remove tenants who fail to pay rent that is due (from 2015) and squatters (from 2018).
All eviction procedures can be processed via juicio verbal which is a faster process and is akin to a small claims court in the UK. The fact that the proceedings take place in this way permits a sentence to be delivered, in theory, within five days. Of course, the problem is getting the matter before the court, which typically takes several months.
When making the application to the Court for eviction it is possible for the landlord to either request eviction only i.e. demand solely the return of vacant possession of the property or to claim, in addition, those amounts outstanding in terms of rent and other bills.
In the statement of claim submitted to Court, the allegation is made that the tenant has not complied with their obligation to pay the due rent and on this basis a request is being made to return possession to the owner/landlord, with an optional demand for any unpaid rent/bills that are due.
Once the request for eviction has been filed with the Court, the Court will set a date for the hearing and an eviction date - at this point the tenant has a period of ten days from the petition by the landlord, to pay the debt, and thereby cancel the eviction (see enervation below) or to formally object to the proceedings.
If the tenant formally objects to the proceedings then the court proceeding goes ahead and the matter is heard by a judge.
If the tenant does nothing, then the eviction can proceed without the need for formal court proceeding and the tenant will be ordered to pay all outstanding monies.
We would recommend, in those cases where the option exists to pursue the matter via the criminal or the civil proceedings route, that landlords should opt for civil proceedings, which are usually faster and less expensive.
If the tenant does not formally object, yet fails to leave the property, the Court will set an eviction date at which time the eviction will take place - unless of course the tenant meanwhile pays all outstanding rent, which would stop the eviction process. The tenant is give a period of ten days to pay the rent or the eviction will take place.
An affirmative sentence of the court shall be sufficient without more to carry out the order in the date and time decided by the court.
Upon obtaining a court order for eviction of a non-paying tenant and payment of the outstanding sums, the landlord may also seek the court costs incurred and any sums owed under contractual terms that provide for extra payments if the rent is delayed.
8. Option to Withdraw the proceedings
Within the application for eviction, it is necessary to indicate in the statement of claim whether withdrawal of the action may be appropriate. For example, the landlord may also offer the tenant the possibility of a cancellation of any outstanding rent as long as the tenant leaves the property within a certain period of time (which may not be less than 15 days).
9. Annulation of the Eviction and Lease Automatically Extended
'Enervation’ of the proceedings occurs when, upon receiving notification of the landlord’s intentions to seek eviction, the tenant makes full payment of any outstanding monies due when required to do so by the judge.
In that case the tenant may continue with possession of the property under the terms of the contractual lease. It should be pointed out that ‘enervation’ of the proceedings may take place only once.
10. New Restrictions on Evictions in Spain
The current socialist government in Spain, under pressure from its left-wing government partners have enacted new laws this year.
The new Spanish housing law - Law 12/2023 has, according to its promoters in the Spanish parliament the intention of giving effect to the right to adequate housing, contained in the Spanish Constitution.
While many of the regulations contained in this new Spanish property law attempt to impact the Spanish property market in an effort to make renting property in Spain more affordable, especially in the larger cities, an important element introduces new restrictions on landlords' ability to carry out evictions.
The new new housing law aims to provide greater protection against eviction for those groups of tenants in a situation of social or economic vulnerability.
Groups representing property owners affected by squatters have remonstrated strongly against the new rules which they see as strongly favouring squatters as opposed to the legitimate owners of the properties.
Effectively anyone with a child or elderly relative in their charge or who earns less than €1800 per month can claim to be vulnerable and so delay the eviction process. Indeed this definition has been extended to anyone who claims to have been subject to domestic abuse (with no requirement to show that legal proceedings are taking place).
If the squatter is successful in claiming social or economic vulnerability, the eviction will be suspended until the Administration finds a housing alternative in the form of a home.
This is meant to be for a period of two months if the property owner is an individual, or four months if it is a legal entity, however groups representing property owners claim that the authorities are often unable to find suitable housing and accordingly it is the property owner that must pay the price.