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Andalusia may embargo homes subject to eviction orders

Source: El Pais - Tue 9th Apr 2013
Andalusia may embargo homes subject to eviction orders

The Andalusian government on Tuesday approved a decree under which in the most extreme cases the homes of the most needy families subject to eviction proceedings initiated by banks will be embargoed by the region for a maximum of 3 years.

The Andalusian commissioner responsible for public works and housing, Elena Cortés, said the government also plans to impose fines of up to €9,000 on banks and real estate companies that leave empty homes that are fit to live in.

Cortés said the measures aimed at "meeting social needs" are backed by existing legislation. Fines imposed for leaving homes empty will be used to help house people. The decree also reinforces a system of subsidies to allow families to rent homes.

The commissioner praised the efforts of pressure groups such as the Mortgage Victims Platform (PAH) and labor unions to stem a flood of evictions by banks. There have been an estimated 86,000 evictions in Andalusia since 2007.

Individuals with an empty property will not be subject to the decree, which also will not apply to second homes, tourist accommodation and property rented out on a temporary basis.

Individuals will also be encouraged to put empty homes they own on the rental market by providing them with tax breaks and insurance cover for unpaid rent and damage to their property. The decree takes effect on Thursday. It will be subsequently debated in the regional assembly with a view to its being passed into law.

The initiative is aimed at getting between an estimated 700,000 and one million empty homes in the region onto the rental market. Of this figure between an estimated 350,000 and 500,000 properties are owned by corporate bodies, mainly banks and real estate companies. The government is also aiming to increase its pool of available housing at affordable rents.

The decree specifies that a home will be deemed to be empty if it lacks contracts for the supply of water and electricity or the consumption of these is very low. Other factors that will be used to determine if a property is empty include whether mail addressed to the home is redirected elsewhere. The government will have to demonstrate that a home has been unoccupied for six months in order to declare it empty. The administration plans to set up a register of empty homes and a system of inspection to verify if a property is unoccupied.

Cases of the embargo of housing will apply only to situations which affect the permanent home of a family and in which eviction could lead that family to find itself in a situation of "social exclusion." Such cases will also only apply when a significant deterioration in the economic circumstances of the family since the mortgage on the home was granted can be demonstrated.

Embargoes will also only be enforced in the case of families with income of no more than three times the monthly benchmark amount for entitlement to social assistance and grants, which for this year has been set at €532 per month.

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