Barcelona to stop landlord harassment with new system of fines
Unused legislation gives city council power to act against companies trying to drive tenants from their homes
Barcelona City Council is to bring in an “unprecedented” system of fines to stop harassment of tenants by investment funds and property firms. The council hopes that by introducing the administrative fines, which go from 90,001 to 900,000 euros, depending on the seriousness of the case, it can help stop tenants being driven out of their homes.
The council’s housing department has detected 10 cases of suspected landlord harassment and is preparing lawsuits against the owners of three properties in the city’s central Ciutat Vella neighborhood. The local government has also begun the process of fining the owner of another dwelling in the same area on Carrer del Carme.
A Catalan housing law from 2007 gives the council the power to take action in cases of landlord harassment. However, no local government has ever invoked this aspect of the legislation to levy fines against those firms attempting to drive people out of their homes. Barcelona will now become the first council in Catalonia to do so.
The council says it has decided to take this new direction because landlord harassment is becoming a common practice in the property sector, especially among investment funds and large property companies. “We want to send a clear message to the vultures besieging our city,” said a council representative, who also called the practice “antisocial” and “shameful.”.
Under the legislation, the council can begin the process of issuing the fines once inspectors or local police become aware of an harassment case, or after victims report it. Thus the local government is urging the public to make use of their rights and report any harassment incidents. Victims tend to be older people, without much money, living under old rental conditions.