THE scourge of squatters across the country will now face a new hurdle as a fresh Dutch initiative arrives in Spain for the first time.
The possible solution comes on the form of a company called Ideal Guardian, a business that puts property owners with temporary residents to mind their house while they are unoccupied.
Born in the Netherlands in 1993, Ideal Guardian invites people to register to their site who own properties that sit empty for long periods of time.
They then match make them with prospective long-term ‘house-sitters’ who are also introduced to the site’s database.
The company’s business model aims to solve two social dilemmas in one, provide less empty accommodation across the country to give squatters less opportunities to take over, and give temporary housing to people seeking a place to stay.
“Our services provide clients with the peace of mind that their property is safe, that it is in good hands and that their vacant spaces will not be the focus of vandalism or squatting,” reads the Ideal Guardian website.
The company is what is known as a ‘vacant space management service’ in its native Holland, as is normally the first point of call if a client knows that their property is going to remain unoccupied for a long period of time.
“Everybody wins: the neighborhood, the proprietor and the ‘guardians’,” explains Spanish Director John van Haaren.
According to figures from the National Institute of Statistics (INE), there are a total of 3.5 million empty homes in Spain, with 15% in a poor state.
This leaves up to 3 million in good condition that have the possibility to be occupied by squatters, and precisely the demographic that Ideal Guardian focuses on.
The issue of squatting in Spain has been a hotly contested one for many years, with squatters often given absurdly lenient rights compared to the owners of the property.
In Spain, police often resort of judicial measures to evict illegal occupants rather than having the power to forcibly evict on site.
This leaves home owners at the mercy of a convoluted and expensive legal system that the occupiers know how to exploit.
Squatting has also become an organised sub-culture in cities like Madrid and Barcelona, with anti-establishment kids using the scene to avoid becoming part of the housing system, and in some areas, criminal organisations are also cashing in on the epidemic.
The issue has also reached expat areas on the Costas.
Last month, the Olive Press reported on the plight of British couple on the Costa del Sol that saw their beloved property burnt to the ground by squatters, with no assistance from the legal system.
Teams of vigilantes are now taking it upon them selves to evict illegal occupants, a potentially dangerous solution and one that political parties are now trying to combat with new, stricter draft laws to give police more rights of immediate evictions.
Van Haaren has seen the country’s struggle from afar and has seen an increased number of enquiries from Dutch nationals with properties in Spain.
“We came to Spain precisely because some of our clients from other countries made us see that they missed our services here. We studied the market and the situation and realized that it is a country with great potential for our services.”