Quite apart from rodents, bugs or burglars, there is another category of unwanted guest that homeowners have occasionally had to deal with. The squatter, or Okupa, as they are known in Spain, is someone who breaks into a property and doesn’t so much as steal anything but moves into the house for an undefined period of time. In truth, squatters can range from hooligans who seriously damage property to desperate families that have become destitute and were kicked out of their own homes.
The circumstances surrounding squatters therefore vary greatly from understandable desperation to wanton disregard for private property, but either way most property owners will not be happy with the situation. Ironically enough, you will have more luck getting rid of the less benevolent kind of trespasser than the more sympathetic one, especially since people (and judges) are loathe to put such people out on the street – especially when children are involved.
An important factor is whether or not the property is your main resident. If people break and move in while you’re on an extended trip or leave, then the authorities will be quicker to ensure the ‘guests’ are gone as quickly as possible, especially if you have no alternative home yourself. If, however, it is a holiday home and your main residence is elsewhere, you’re on less solid ground and getting rid of squatters could take considerably longer.
Effective measures to take
You can turn to neighbours and friends to keep an eye out for you and occasionally pop into your home and check it. Modern technology also makes it possible to install special systems that will turn lights on and off according to a realistic routine to make it look like the house is lived in even when it’s not. Quite apart from this, it’s a good idea to have a solid security door, double glazing and metal grills that act as further protection against break-ins.
Video surveillance systems, movement sensors that activate strong outside lights and contracting a security company with a response team are also highly effective measures that will keep squatters away, and you should in any case avoid For Sale or For Rent signs as these are a clear indication that your home is empty. The same is true of not advertising long trips too much on social media platforms, as besides your friends it could attract the wrong kind of attention.
A concierge or property management company will also be an excellent way of keeping okupas away, and besides keeping an eye on the house, visiting it regularly, ensuring everything is in good condition and overseeing any work that needs doing, a property management firm will also be able to take care of short-term holiday lets and long-term rentals – both excellent ways of keeping your second home occupied and generating income.
If this is not part of the plan for your Costa del Sol property, then at least ensure you don’t border it up with permanently closed shutters while you’re not there in person. Quite apart from squatters it also keeps a home fresh and welcoming when you do return for your holiday stay. Also bear in mind that many security systems and CCTV camera systems can operate independent of the electricity grid and have live feeds that can be seen from your digital device no matter where in the world you are.
The quicker you spot and react to an intrusion, the greater the chance that the ‘invaders’ can be evicted before they get too comfy.