Spain to extend ban on evicting vulnerable homeowners, protect tenants

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain’s left-wing government will extend a ban protecting vulnerable homeowners from eviction and is also preparing measures to restrict evictions of tenants who cannot pay rent, Deputy Prime Minister Pablo Iglesias said on Monday.

These are some of the first steps taken by the leftwing government of Socialist Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Iglesias’s hard-left Unidas Podemos to guarantee the right to decent housing, which was a priority in their coalition pact.

Rental prices in Spain have increased by more than 54% in the last six years, according to data collected by Idealista, a portal with wide coverage of the nation’s rental prices.

U.N. Special Rapporteur Philip Alston said last month that Spain was facing housing problems of “stunning proportions”, affecting people who were already struggling, without jobs or adequate welfare benefits.

The moratorium on the eviction of vulnerable homeowners who miss mortgage payments, which was decided during the country’s financial and real estate crisis, was set to expire on May 15 but will be prolonged by two to four years.

“Not only will the moratorium be extended to avoid evictions due to unpaid mortgages, but its remit will also be extended so that the decree which comes out tomorrow includes more cases of vulnerability in many families,” Iglesias said on Twitter, confirming what three government sources had told Reuters earlier on Monday.

The sources told Reuters that the decree, which can enter into force quickly but later needs to be rubber-stamped by parliament, will extend the scope of the moratorium beyond banks to cases involving any legal creditor.

The government also plans to make this available to more homeowners by relaxing the income threshold and including all single-parent families, the sources said.

Beyond this, the government plans measures on the rental market, which will not be included in Tuesday’s decree.

“The government is also going to stop some evictions for non-payment of rent in high-tension markets where there are vulture funds involved,” Iglesias said.

The sources said these measures will particularly focus on zones such as Madrid and Barcelona - where the rental market is especially tight - and would fall under the broader reform of Spain’s Urban Lease Law, expected to pass before the summer.

The government said last month that it would publish an index of nationwide rental prices, which could be a first step towards enabling rent controls.

Reporting by Belen Carreno and Clara-Laeila Laudette, additional reporting by Jesus Aguado; Writing by Clara-Laeila Laudette; Editing by Ingrid Melander