Misc 22/06/2021

When being vulnerable doesn't stop you from being thrown out of your home

Suicide in Sants eviction reveals ambiguity and restrictive interpretations of the moratorium

3 min
A rally Tuesday to mourn the death of Segundo with the slogan "They are not suicides, they are murders".

BarcelonaSegundo, the neighbour of Sants de Barcelona who, a week ago threw himself into the void when he was about to be evicted from his home, had a vulnerability report from the social services. The document said that he didn't have "sufficient economic income" to have access to a new home. Why didn't this report serve to apply the moratorium on evictions and prevent Segundo from being evicted? This is the question that has resounded since this suicide came to light and that gets a different answer depending on who you ask. But what Segundo's eviction and death reveal are the difficulties in recognizing a situation of desperation and the margin of interpretation left by the state moratorium.

First instance judge Roberto García Ceniceros said on Friday that Segundo's case is "very tragic", but that he shares the usual problems of evictions caused by not paying rent. For example, that the request to stop the eviction came "at the last minute" and lacked concreteness. García Ceniceros warned the ARA a few days before that the vulnerability report of the social services is not enough to stop the execution. According to the royal decree that regulates the moratorium, you also have to provide documentation proving that you are out of work, the number of people living at home and that you do not own any other property.

But the entities that defend the right to housing think that the interpretation of the judges is too restrictive. According to the spokesman for the Sindicat de Llogateres, Jaime Palomera, "the ambiguity of the royal decree" allows the courts to make a "contradictory" reading because Segundo's case was "covered" by the moratorium. "If the judge considers that it has to be accredited with more documentation, he can ask for it", adds the director of the Observatori DESC, Irene Escorihuela, who questions that with the report of vulnerability - knowing the lack of income and no alternative housing - the court does not give a time, before executing the eviction, to present the missing information.

The spokesperson for the PAH in Barcelona, Lucía Delgado, also questions the fact that the judge is still demanding more documentation when he has already received the vulnerability report that shows "an extreme situation". She thinks that "it should be enough". Furthermore, as Segundo was in the flat with a rental contract - he stopped paying in June last year after months without work - Escorihuela explains that the moratorium had to be applied whether he was a small or a large owner: "The only exception is that the owner needs the flat because he is in a vulnerable situation".

Not easy procedures

Another obstacle that adds to the difficulties in receiving recognition from the courts is the bureaucracy. "People who are in a moment of vulnerability, not only economically but psychologically and physically, have to do a gymkhana for the procedures", regrets Delgado. Escorihuela defines that these procedures are "not simple at all", which means that many people do not arrive in time to present the documentation. A task that is also linked to the lawyer who represents people who may be left on the street.

But Delgado goes beyond the suicide of Segundo because she states that evictions are "the tip of the iceberg" of the housing crisis, which has lasted more than a decade. Palomera recalls that the neighbour of Sants had had to re-rent rooms to try to pay the 800 euros a month to rent the flat, but with the pandemic the numbers could no longer be reached. He also criticizes that judges are accustomed to viewing the tenant "as a social parasite". So he asks that "when in doubt to push someone to the inhuman end of knocking on the door to throw him out of the house", the courts think twice.

Palomera calls on the courts to review the balance between the right to housing, life and private property: "It seems that property takes precedence over any consideration. The interpretation is far from European standards". According to the judges, the evictions that have gone ahead are those that did not meet the requirements of the moratorium, which from August 9th will cease to apply unless the Spanish government extends it.