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Spain: Decree Law Protecting Tenants in Vulnerable Economic Situations Enacted

(Jan. 13, 2021) On December 22, 2020, the Spanish government enacted Royal Decree-Law 37/2020 to adopt urgent measures to protect people in vulnerable economic situations from losing their housing because of the COVID-19 emergency.

The new law allows the tenants of a permanent residence to request an extraordinary suspension of eviction or release because they are in a situation of economic vulnerability that makes it impossible to find alternative housing for themselves and the people they live with.

Although the exceptional situation may not have been a direct consequence of the COVID-19 emergency, the emergency may have exacerbated it. Therefore, the law extends the suspension of the eviction until the end of the state of emergency so that social services can offer solutions to tenants who are economically vulnerable and without alternative housing.

The court processing the eviction will coordinate with the competent social services office to assess the vulnerable situation of the tenant. The court will also consider the landlord’s situation in order to formulate the best measures for both parties involved.

The suspension will be effective while appropriate social measures, such as a search for an acceptable housing solution, are taken.

Landlords affected by the extraordinary eviction suspension have the right to request compensation if no alternative measures have been taken within three months after the social services report has been issued.

The compensation will include the average rental market value of the dwelling and any expenses for the dwelling incurred by the landlord between the time the suspension is agreed on and the moment it is lifted by the court, or when the state of emergency ends.

The compensation request may be submitted up to one month after the COVID-19 state of emergency declared by Royal Decree 926/2020 of October 25, 2020, becomes effective.

Landlord groups have criticized the measures as being late and unfair because, according to them, landlords have not been paid rent for more than nine months since the beginning of the COVID-19 emergency and now will have to wait a further three or more months to be compensated for delinquent payments.

Royal Decree-Law 37/2020 also provides for special protection from eviction to households whose habitual residence is not derived from a rental contract or any formal legal title if they are dependents, victims of violence against women, or minors in charge.

In this case, the judge, on assessing the case, may decide to suspend the eviction when the owners of these properties are individuals or companies that own more than 10 homes.

The competent social services will issue a report on the economic vulnerability situation in each case and identify the measures recommended to respond.

The suspension of the eviction procedure may never be issued  in the following circumstances:

  • The home is the owner’s habitual residence or second residence
  • The property has been transferred to an individual who has his/her habitual residence or second residence there
  • The entry or stay in the home has occurred through intimidation or violence
  • There are reasonable indications that the home is being used for illegal activities
  • The property is intended for social housing and the housing has already been assigned to an applicant
  • The entry into the property has occurred after the entry into force of the Royal Decree-Law

In the event that a housing solution is not offered within the three months following the issuance of the social services report, the owners of the property have the right to request compensation upon providing proof of economic harm.

Royal Decree-Law 37/2020 also prohibits suspending the supply of electricity, natural gas, and water to consumers in vulnerable conditions or at risk of social exclusion.