Judge Diego Alvarez de Juanhead of the Court of Instruction 3 of Reus (Tarragona), has become overnight a beacon in the midst of the opaque world of fake news. The hoax about the phenomenon of home occupation in Spain should have been dissipated after his recent interventions in television programs Public mirror Y four a day, in which he dismantled one by one the (presumably interested) falsehoods about the occupation to the obvious annoyance of the pundits determined to perpetuate a unjustified social alarm for a problem that, as the judge makes clear, does not exist.
In this interview with PublicJudge Álvarez de Juan analyzes the controversy that arose after his time on television and gives the keys to the reality of the occupation in Spain.
Social networks have been divided between those who applaud him for dismantling the hoax about the occupations and those who do not believe him despite the fact that he has spent more than a decade as an investigating judge watching these cases.
I have been surprised by people’s opposition to believing me on television. We are children of the times in which we live. There is a very big problem of misinformation and lack of pedagogy to the point that there are people who think that what a judge says is worthless. It is also logical that people are convinced that there is social alarm with the occupations because they are continually bombing on television with this issue.
And ads from alarm companies also contribute…
Yeah, but I don’t think they’re in cahoots with the media. Entrepreneurs see a niche market and it is legitimate.
Is it a hoax with political overtones?
The legislation has not changed in the last 15 years, it is the same law with a PP government as with that of the PSOE. There has been no legislative change that favors home invasion. There is no change in the Penal Code that facilitates the commission of this crime. That is false, a big hoax.
What is the reality of the phenomenon of occupation in Spain?
The reality is that there are no reasons for social alarm. It is a residual issue in the courts. In ten years I have only had one case of a person who, upon returning to her house, found it occupied. It is a crime, that of breaking and entering, which is doomed to failure for the criminal. Why is he going to get into a flat that is the home of the legitimate owners? Normally he will do it to steal, but to stay and live and use the swimming pool of the urbanization, it does not make sense because he will not be able to, we will catch him.
“The legislation has not changed in the last 15 years, it is the same law with a PP government as with that of the PSOE”
Are second homes also considered dwellings or domiciles when denouncing an occupation?
That’s how it is. In other words, they enjoy the same level of protection for these purposes. If a person verifies that their apartment on the beach has been occupied, they will not have any problem in having the Justice protect them: the eviction is immediate. What is protected is the use of the home. The more involvement a person has with the property, the electricity and water have been registered, go with a certain frequency, the greater the degree of protection; Criminal Law protects you more.
What differences are there between the crime of trespassing and the minor crime of usurpation or occupation?
It is very important to understand this difference because many things get mixed up under the umbrella of occupation. They are two different things. It’s one thing when squatters get into abandoned or half-built flats that don’t have electricity or water, they normally belong to banks. This is a minor crime of usurpation, that property does not constitute the home of anyone. And this type of occupation is predominant. Banks do not usually protect these properties and many times the occupation is not reported.
We have already seen that breaking and entering is a criminal offense that also reaches second homes. In my court in the last two years I have been able to see three or four cases of this type and in total in this judicial district there have been a dozen cases in the last two years, which have been easily resolved.
How is the response of Justice in these cases?
Normally they don’t even make it to court because the squatters realize that those houses aren’t from banks, that they aren’t abandoned. And when the Police summons them to court the next day, they choose to leave voluntarily. This is normal. The squatters know the legislation.
And what about tenants who stop paying rent?
This is a third scenario, but it is something quite different. I put myself in the place of the owners, of course, but the tenant is not a criminal, he is a person who has breached a contract and this constitutes a different procedure.
An association assures that it is preparing a collective lawsuit against the State for paralyzing the evictions of squatters. Is it true that the law protects the criminal?
Of course not. It is absolutely false. There is no rule that says that crime is paralyzed because there is a situation of vulnerability in criminals. Evictions in a situation of vulnerability, in the civil sphere, for people who cannot afford their debts due to vulnerable situations, are paralyzed, but not for squatters. Having children does not prevent eviction. The precautionary measure of eviction is issued in the same way.
To make things clear: Is it true that after 48 hours of an occupation the owner loses his rights?
Fake. Another hoax. What a person whose usual residence or second residence has to do is call the Police as soon as they have news. The agents will appear and, given the opposing accounts of the owner and the accused, they can perfectly enter the home, since they are facing a flagrant crime, without having a court order. The complainant has to give sufficient guarantee that he is the owner of the property, but it is not necessary that we carry the deeds in the bag; We always carry a receipt on our mobile and our neighbors know us, too.
The eviction is immediate or at most, in the case of second homes or when the property cannot be sufficiently accredited, the squatter is summoned the next day in court and usually leaves earlier of his own free will upon realizing that he has everything lost because the floor is not from banks or investment funds, as I thought. In any case, the eviction is decreed immediately.
What is the profile of the squat?
Usually the misery. In many cases they end up buying the keys offered by other squatters who had previously occupied the property. They are people who seek life. This is where we have to focus: on municipal social services. That is where you have to provide a network of social services to provide assistance to these people.
What is the most complicated aspect of the occupation?
Well, when flats are occupied in inhabited urbanisations, due to the inconvenience they cause to the rest of the neighbours. They get hooked on electricity and water in the community, causing problems. Nobody likes to live next to squatters. They are usually bank flats as well, which are not protected.