May 14, 2021

Large homeowners: should they have different conditions?


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With the debate arising from the
future Housing Law
prepared by the Government, in recent times the figure of the large housing forks, for which there is no clear definition, has gained relevance; and with it the possibility, as some autonomous communities already apply, of make distinctions with smallholders when taking action against empty homes.

What is considered an empty house and what is a large home holder are the two issues that the changes that the Government are studying for the
future Housing Law
. Specifically, with a view to implementing measures to encourage uninhabited homes to go onto the market.

So far, the only definition that the Government has made about what a large fork is is from March of last year: the one that appears in the decree to deal with the covid in housing, which already distinguished between small and large owners when granting their tenants a moratorium or discount of 50% of up to four months of rent, which small owners could reject.

In this decree, the natural or legal person who owns more than ten urban properties, excluding garages and storage rooms, or a constructed area of ​​more than 1,500 square meters. Therefore, other types of properties in addition to dwellings, such as premises or plots, also entered into this calculation.

What is a big fork

However, it is not the first definition that is made in Spain of the great fork. Some regional governments had already specified it before. The first was that of Catalonia, in Law 24/2015, of July 29, on urgent measures to face the emergency in the field of housing and energy poverty.

In the text, the financial entities, the real estate subsidiaries of these entities, the investment funds and the asset management entities, including those from bank restructuring, are considered a major holder; in addition to legal persons that, alone or through a group of companies, own a living space of more than 1,250 m2.

In this case, the big forks were obliged to make a social rental proposal to tenants at risk of social exclusion who could not afford the rent before filing an eviction claim.

The Valencian Community gave its own definition when it legislated for
take action against vacant homes
: natural or legal persons who are engaged in some activity of the real estate market and who are owners of more than 10 properties. A consideration very similar to the one that exists in the Balearic Islands.

Difference of opinions

At the heart of the conflict is the clash between the right to private property and the right to housing, together with the subordination of private property to the public utility or social interest that the Constitution includes. Also article 47 of the Constitution, which recognizes the right to decent housing, urges the public powers to make this right effective “by using the land in accordance with the general interest to prevent speculation.”

More than in the number of dwellings, associations for the right to housing such as the Tenant Union put the accent on the speculative use that is given to these properties, and call for measures to prevent speculation by “rentiers” who are in the middle between large holders and small owners.

For its part, the Association of Rental Home Owners (Asval) considers a discrimination in the right to property the distinction between small and large owners, which he considers bordering on unconstitutional.

In Spain most of the supply of rental homes belongs to small owners. The percentage of properties in the hands of large holders is unknown, among which would be investment funds, administrations, companies and individuals, and that according to the estimates of different sources it would not in any case exceed 15%.

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