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Differences between home invasion and squatting

In everyday language, we often use the term “squatting” to describe when someone has invaded another person’s home with the intent to reside there. However, this could be a case of trespassing, a legal term that is not used as frequently in everyday life.

In this article, we want to clarify the differences between breaking and squatting. Although both concepts involve the unlawful invasion of property, the legal implications and consequences of each are different.

Definition of trespassing and squatting

Trespassing

Breaking and entering is defined as entering or remaining in a dwelling without the owner’s consent, infringing on the right to inviolability of the home. This act directly affects the privacy and security of the person residing in the property.

Interestingly, the term “dwelling” is not limited only to apartments or houses, but also includes caravans, hotel rooms and even tents, i.e. any enclosed space where a person conducts his private life. In addition, any enclosed place where a person has belongings, even if it is not his or her usual residence, such as a second home used only on vacation, is also considered a dwelling.

Squatting

The term squatting, on the other hand, is not a specific legal concept, but refers to the action of settling without permission on someone else’s property that is not being used as a residence. Squatting can include various scenarios and, although it is not typified as a crime in the Penal Code, it is usually associated with usurpation or other legal figures depending on the circumstances.

Key differences between home invasion and squatting

We can identify three fundamental differences between breaking and entering and squatting:

  1. Intent of the act.
  • Breaking and entering implies an invasion of the privacy of the home, which is inviolable by law.
  • Squatting is related to the usurpation of a property without the owner’s consent, without necessarily invading the privacy of an active home.
  1. Consent of the owner
  • In home invasion, entry is always against the owner’s will.
  • Squatting occurs on unoccupied property where the owner is not present to express his or her (lack of) consent.
  1. Status of the property
  • Trespassing applies exclusively to places considered to be dwelling places, where someone habitually resides.
  • Squatting refers to real estate not used as a primary residence, such as vacant, under construction or disused buildings.

Legal aspects of the offenses

Spanish law punishes with imprisonment from six months to two years those who enter or remain in the dwelling of another person without his consent, i.e. breaking and entering. If this act is carried out with violence or intimidation, the penalty is aggravated and can range from one to four years imprisonment.

As for the squatting, legally treated as “usurpation of real estate”, the penalty is a fine of three to six months and eviction by court order when there is no violence or intimidation. If it occurs by resorting to violence or intimidation, the legal consequences may be more severe, including possible compensation to the owner if damage is caused to the property.

Legal Proceedings and Eviction

Procedure in case of a home invasion

In the event of a home invasion, the police do not need judicial authorization to evict the intruders, as it is considered a flagrant crime. It is crucial to file a report as soon as possible to allow the authorities to act immediately.

Procedure in case of squatting

For squatting, eviction usually requires a court order, in addition to the corresponding complaint by the property owner. The eviction process may take longer depending on the situation and obtaining the necessary evidence.

Long-term rentals, a solution against squatters

Squatting generally occurs in dwellings that are not being used by anyone. Therefore, an effective way to protect an empty property is to put it up for rent:

  • A rented apartment has a much lower probability of being occupied, as signs that it is inhabited deter potential intruders (lights on, windows open, etc.).
  • Converting an empty apartment into a tenant’s home “invests” it with the character of a residence, so that if someone were to enter without permission, it would be a trespass and not a squatting.
  • Long-term tenants care for and maintain the dwelling as if it were their own, since it is their habitual residence.
  • Having a tenant present “on the ground” ensures that they are constantly informed of the status of the property and possible occupancy attempts, which is especially useful if the owner lives in another city.

In addition to the anti-squatting advantages, renting a property provides constant passive income and tax benefits that are not obtained if the apartment is left empty or is intended for vacation or temporary rental.

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