The law on evictions, which Congress greenlighted on Thursday thanks solely to the votes of the Popular Party (PP), does offer some improvements to the existing legislation governing mortgages and the circumstances concerning foreclosures. But it does not meet the demands of the opposition and society in general, who are faced with a problem that has become a symbol of the crisis afflicting Spain.
The bill provides some relief for the most vulnerable debtors and certain improvements in the conditions for anyone who signs up to a mortgage. Among other changes, the bank will have to show three instances of non-payment before it can set an eviction order in progress; the independence of appraisers in relation to the banks will be strengthened; special interest rates for overdue payment will be limited; and a social rental stock of 6,000 homes will be set up. Nevertheless, all opposition parties and the PAH Mortgage Victims Platform railed against the reform for failing to include their demands for more sweeping changes to Spanish legislation.
The PP was originally disinclined to make any alterations to the existing laws. But the sense of alarm arising from the steep upturn in the number of evictions on top of spiraling unemployment have forced the administration to budge from its starting position. The Socialists, the other traditional party of government, have also undergone a transition, considering that until a few months ago they had not acknowledged any need to change a legal framework that is completely imbalanced and unfair on consumers. The circumstances have changed, however, demanding a greater effort from this government now that so many authoritative voices, including that of the EU’s Court of Justice, have demonstrated the serious errors within the existing legislation. These flaws have not only led thousands of families to ruin, but also renders them incapable of rebuilding their lives while the banks continue to receive public funds.
The opposition has presented interesting proposals; among them, the establishing of mechanisms that offer the debtor a second chance. Dation in payment, applied retroactively, could have been considered in certain cases. The government has left by the wayside the Andalusian proposal of temporarily expropriating vacant properties, its rejection of the plan coming on the same day that the National Statistics Institute revealed that there are 3.5 million empty homes in Spain.
The end result is that tens of thousands of families are not going to be saved from the serious damage inflicted on them by the present unfair legal framework.
This government, which somewhat paradoxically is the first to have tried to improve this 100-year-old legislation, has remained impervious to the facts, the analysis and the alternative reform proposals. It has come up short, especially in a context where the judiciary is making its own strides toward a more just interpretation of the law. This is underlined by the latest legal ruling, by a court in Burgos, which has determined that an eviction cannot be set in progress as long as judges do not have the power to annul abusive clauses, something that is still happening to this day.