Business over Tapas
A digest of this week’s Spanish financial, political and social news aimed primarily at Foreign Property Owners:
Prepared by Lenox Napier. Consultant: José Antonio Sierra
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September 8 2022 Nº 461
Okupas (squatters), says the journalist Pepo Jimenez Moltó in a short video, are those who occupy empty houses without any services connected. These dwellings will usually (if not always) belong to the bank or to a vulture fund. Otherwise, that’s called illegal entry (allanamiento de morada) and the police will remove them at once. Even if it’s your second, third or fourth home. Spain is one of the safest countries in Europe – yet it is Nº 4 in the worldwide ranking for the number of alarms installed. Don’t be taken in, says the video, by panic, or by politicians, or (above all) by alarm salesmen.
Indeed, a judge from Tarragona is on record as saying that in ten years, he has only had one case of someone returning home to find it occupied. He had appeared on a TV chat show called Espejo Público (a program which likes to create worry and indignation among its viewers) and – to the surprise and mortification of the producers – explained that most of the okupa story is a myth. Yes, of course the police can remove them.
We often see the police doing precisely that, removing people (following a judge’s order) who have not paid their mortgage in what is known as un desahucio. This is the bank acting to evict the tenant (who loses his money paid so far) in order to resell to another. Conversely, empty unfinished bank-owned apartments, with squatters, are left in peace – unless the bank needs the property for some reason. Otherwise, it sits quietly on its books with an apparent accruable value.
In an apartment block, the comunidad de propietarios may be frustrated to find that some of the unsold apartments have been taken over by squatters – who will not be paying their dues and thus the shared services will be either abandoned or unfairly financed. They may have installed illegal connection to the electric or the water. One may find in such a block an empty swimming pool and trashed gardens. That’ll be the squatters.
Squatters themselves will usually take an easy answer – an apartment that simply doesn’t have an irate owner waiting behind the door with some tough hombres. They squat because they can’t afford to rent. They’re poor and unemployed. Perhaps they take drugs.
Yes, there are mafias. There is opportunity, and there are those who will take advantage. These include those who seek to find empty homes and (presumably) sell the information to potential illegal tenants.
And there are almost three and a half million empty dwellings in Spain, built by investment funds, banks and – occasionally – by a speculator hoping to turn a profit. Maybe he should rent it out… or lower his asking price.
So, why the fuss? The first reason is to be sure to keep one’s possessions safe, and who better to help than a sturdy front door and a good alarm company? Indeed, normally about now with an article like this, there’d be a brief commercial interruption to sell you one.
The fact is, the baddies are more likely to break in, wallop the TV and any jewels lying on the bed-side table, and be out again in under three minutes.
They won’t be staying.
Spanish Property Insight here: ‘Squatters in Spain are a serious threat to property owners in a country where the authorities appear more on the side of squatters than of owners, especially in areas where squatters enjoy high-level political support, like Catalonia’.
Right Casa here: ‘Squatters are a huge problem in Spain, and a blight to legitimate Spanish property owners’.
The BBC here: ‘Squatting has a long history in Spain, often fuelled by high rates of homelessness. But there is now a darker phenomenon too – squatters who demand a “ransom” before they will leave a property’.
Maldita here: ‘Does a law exist giving one the right to eject squatters within 48 hours of their moving in without a judge’s order?’ The answer from the police appears to be that, while there’s no “48 hour law” as such, there is jurisprudential practice’.
The Olive Press here: ‘Contrary to popular belief there are no laws in Spain that grant squatters the right to illegally occupy a house’.
Wiki here: ‘Squatting in Spain’.
From a thread on Facebook: ‘Squatters don’t choose only empty properties or bank owned ones. They’re really taking advantage of the legal loopholes creates on purpose from this communist government to generate chaos and misery. The truth there is no way of preventing squatters from your property because the law only protects the squatter. It’s any property in danger even luxury ones. I’m located in Marbella and people are always worried if their property may be the next one’.
‘Onwards towards the sun that warms the most and costs the less: The Europeans are moving to Spain’ says El Independiente here. The piece begins: ‘Our European neighbours have more and more reasons to come and live in Spain. To the sun, the weather and the beaches are added the issues of the Covid and the increasing costs in energy. Spain being a cheaper place to live can make their lives a whole lot easier thanks to their higher salaries. To the Germans, Swedes, French and Norwegians… the arguments are stacked in their favour. The most significant thing is that they need no longer wait for retirement; they are younger and come with their families, many to set up their businesses and, often to telework under the sun in a country that is hotter and cheaper…’. The journalist interviews some Costa Blanca realtors. With video.
What are the consequences if you stop paying your rent? Housfy explains here.
‘Sale of homes in the Balearics bucks the national trend. Only the Canaries had a higher percentage rise’ says The Majorca Daily Bulletin here.
‘For signs that the travel industry is finally emerging from the slump caused by the coronavirus pandemic, look no further than the latest data released by Irish budget airline Ryanair. According to Eddie Wilson, the CEO of Ryanair DAC, the carrier is expected to exceed its pre-Covid passenger record in Spain for this financial year with an increase of four million passengers on Spanish routes over the 2018-9 season’. The Olive Press has the story here.
As we suffer further reductions in the number of banks, banking hours and staff, elDiario.es looks at the number of staff per branch across the EU, listed here. Germany has three times as many staffers on average as Spain in their banks (only Bulgaria has less bank-staffers than Spain)… Luxembourg, at 144 persons per office (!) leads the pack. The article also has a graphic to show how many branches in each EU country closed in 2020. Spain is ahead with 2,958 closed (we see their ‘for sale or rent’ signs behind the toughened glass).
From El País here: ‘Unemployment rises with the end of the summer: 189,963 jobs are destroyed and unemployment rose by 40,428 in August’. In other gloom, we hear from Zamora News that 52% of Spaniards now have trouble making it to month’s end (that’s to say – the next pay-day).
It’s now ten years since the creation of the Sareb, the ‘bad bank’. El Salto Diario looks at how things turned out here.
The IVA on gas will be reduced from October from 21% to 5% says Europa Press here. Spanish News Today says that the measure is aimed ‘at reducing the amount ordinary people will have to pay on their heating bills this coming winter’.
New rules and protection for domestic staff have been published, giving the house-maid/cleaner some employment rights says Diario de Sevilla here.
Attention turned this week to a Tuesday debate in the Senado, starring the President of Spain and the Leader of the Opposition (who can’t debate in the Cortes because he is not a diputado). Alberto Núñez Feijóo offered an alternative to Sánchez: remove those deputies from Podemos and the nationalists, and we will take their place, allowing you an unfettered final year of government. Your hand is extended across the aisles, said Sánchez, but it’s to try and push us off the precipice. So, not much progress there…
La Vanguardia here (paywall removed) offers different views on the fiery debate in the Senate from several of its editors. El Mundo loyally says that most people found Feijóo the better speaker, including a quarter of all PSOE supporters (or here).
An opinion piece from the director of elDiario.es considers that the strategy of the PP is to try and make Sánchez appear to be a radical while they themselves are the very breath of moderation.
The Minister of Labour Yolanda Díaz has mooted an idea to control the prices of basic food-stuff in the shops, saying that they did it in France. Perhaps so, but the idea has met with the opposition from practically everyone from the merchants to the rest of the Cortes: PSOE and PP alike. The story is at 20Minutos here. Some of the large increases in prices between the farm and the supermarket are listed here.
Ceuta and Melilla:
Ceuta and Melilla are two small outposts of Spain, of Europe; dash it, of civilisation (!) on the North African coast. OK, we exaggerate. Or do we? The ex-Spanish housing minister Maria Antonia Trujillo (2004 – 2007) from the Rodríguez Zapatero government, came out on Saturday while visiting Tetuan, with the heresy that the two cities should be returned (or at any rate ceded) to Morocco (here and with video, here). This did not play well in Peoria and the PSOE countered with “The personal opinions expressed by María Antonia Trujillo about Melilla and Ceuta do not represent anyone in the PSOE and, furthermore, they are false and unacceptable. For the socialists, the Spanish character of the two autonomous cities is unquestionable” (here and here). The last word goes to the City Hall of Ceuta which has called for a plenary session to declare Ms Trujillo persona non grata.
From The Sunday Times here: ‘Banks cut expat customers adrift’. It says that ‘…About 1.3 million British citizens live in EU member states. Although they will almost certainly have a bank account in the country in which they live, many expats rely on a UK bank account to receive money in sterling, such as from a private pension or income from renting out British property…’
A news-letter from The Guardian says in part ‘Britain has a new prime minister, voted in by just 0.17 percent of the electorate. It’s a thin mandate for someone facing such a thick pile of problems: energy, inflation, strikes, the NHS, recession, climate…’ (Podcast).
Covid cases continue to fall, slowly. 20Minutos says there are now under 3,000 people hospitalised across Spain. For those over 60 years of age, the rate now stands at 149 per 100,000 people. In total, 112,804 people have died from Covid across the country (06/09).
‘The oil companies threaten to take Sánchez to court after the ‘special-taxation’ and the discounts on a litre of petrol and diesel. The energy companies worry that fuel reductions could extend beyond the end of the year says El Independiente here.
Sex workers – are their adverts in the back of some newspapers illegal? The new ‘Yes means Yes’ law affects classifieds such as “those advertisements that present women in a humiliating or discriminatory manner” says El Salto Diario here. We shall have to see if they are still present in the back pages of this week’s leading English-language freebie.
A good TV show will offer the two sides to a debate. Sometimes, though, there simply aren’t two sides, and that’s when we discover that maybe it isn’t such a good TV show – merely an entertainment vehicle to sell commercials. elDiario.es looks at – for example – the case of the global warming scientist who must face the flat-earther on Cuatro’s ‘Todo es Mentira’. Yahoo! Noticias also mentions the system of the balanced TV debate (giving the spurious example of where a baby comes from, as explained by a paediatrician, and somebody who reckons the stork brings them along). By the way, from eight years ago, here’s the Climate Change Debate with John Oliver on YouTube.
Not since the long story of Spain’s most famous bandit, El Lute (Wiki), who escaped from jail on several occasions, and whose death sentence under Franco was finally commuted to thirty years, has a character been the subject of so many hostile interviews, editorials, articles, opinions, rulings and persecutions as Pablo Iglesias, who never robbed a bank, killed anyone, or indeed went to or escaped from any jail. Well, there it goes, who’d be a successful threat to The Establishment? Julian Assange, anybody?
The foregoing is the synthesis of a preface by Miguel Mora to Pablo Iglesias’ book ‘Medios y Cloacas’ (something like ‘The Media of the Sewers’) which dwells on his life since he left both Podemos and politics. You won’t see him much on the TV, but his articles in various left-wing publications are avidly read by many supporters. The piece appears in ctxt here.
‘Doñana dries up completely. The last permanent fresh-water lagoon that resisted drought and illegal wells in the emblematic national park has gone’, says El País here (Paywall). The Guardian says: ‘Over-consumption and drought reduce a lake in the vital Spanish wetland to a puddle. Experts and environmentalists say the aquifer feeding Doñana national park, a Unesco heritage site, has been overexploited for tourism and to water fruit farms’. Enjoy a short and pithy video comment from Miguel Charisteas on YouTube here.
It was a hot summer. From elDiario.es here: ‘Record heat. The hottest summer in 31 provinces since records exist. June, July and August 2022 have become the most extreme summer period in the historical series in Spain: 42 days trapped in heat waves, the worst year in fires in the last three decades, with drought and skyrocketing deaths from heatstroke’. The article includes various graphics.
elDiario.es has a list of all the bus and metro discounts across Spain here.
From The Guardian here: ‘Free rail travel scheme begins in Spain to cut commuters’ costs. The initiative, running to the end of the year, will also benefit leisure travellers and tourists’.
From Human Rights Watch here: ‘“We Can’t Live Like This”. Spain’s Failure to Protect Rights Amid Rising Pandemic-Linked Poverty’. It begins ‘Food insecurity and poverty are enduring problems in Spain. Just over a decade ago, the 2008 global financial crisis sharply exacerbated both food insecurity and poverty. And just as people’s living standards seemed to improve, the Covid-19 pandemic and its economic impact have made both poverty and food insecurity worse once more…’. (Thanks John).
La Vanguardia has an exhaustive (and slightly silly) article about Spanish number-plates. Yes, the ‘M’ is next. Any day now. It does say somewhere that, if you are buying a second-hand car, then Tráfico has a webpage where you can check to see if it has any fines or liens on it (it is, of course, a delightfully complicated webpage).
‘I photographed abandoned hunting dogs in Spain and I tell their story through my photos’ with Travis Patenaude. An article at 121Clicks from December 2021.
From Australia’s ABC News here, a story about how ‘Weavers recycle shopping bags to shield Spanish village from sun’. The village is Valverde de la Vera in Cáceres.
Joan Manuel Serrat (Wiki) is Spain’s best-known cantautor (singer-songwriter). He no longer performs at concerts (he’s 78) but – after ‘singing of our lives in over 300 songs’ (here), he says he is still recording.
El chiquiteo is the Northern Spanish habit of going out drinking in a group of friends (una cuadrilla) and wandering from one bar to another. Wiki says it comes from enjoying un chiquito or un chato (we say in Andalucía, un chatico) de vino in each establishment. (Thanks to Colin for this link from Calle Laurel).
It seems that Renfe, plagued with daubs of paint on their rolling stock, spend some 36,000€ a day in cleaning off the graffiti says ECD here. Who puts this stuff on the trains, and why aren’t they better protected? A story from La Razón from June speaks of multiple arrests in the Basque Country – where 26 nitwits had caused two million euros in damages between them with their spray-cans.
elDiario.es brings us ten destinations in Spain from the Roman empire, with photos.
From Mapping Spain here: ‘Toledo’s Catedral Primada. One of Spain’s most beautiful Cathedrals’ with photos and video.
The Gipsy Kings with Caminando por la Calle on YouTube here.