Squatters - new law

Infobae (based in Miami) has been picking up some interesting stories. This one about potential new law for dealing with squatters. And of course the demonstrably corrupt Boric government is unsurprisingly on the side of the … squatters. But once in a great while the legislature actually tries to do something right.

In Spanish of course but a brief translation:

Controversy in Chile over a new law that would enable landowners to remove land usurpers by themselves-- Law was approved in the Chamber of Deputies but the Boric government warned that it will not enact it, calling it “criminal populism”.

Santiago: With 89 votes in favor, 43 against and 3 abstentions, the Chilean Chamber of Deputies approved the controversial law on squatters [ —original article used the term “usurpations”] intended to increase the penalties for those who take real estate or land [belonging to others] , with or without violence.

This law attempts to classify illegal occupation [ “squatting”] as a crime and punish it with prison sentences, and has been long awaited.

Carolina Tohá, [Communist Party Ministress of the Interior] went to Congress, saying that “we have had a disproportionate expansion of land occupations, in a very significant part of which there is pure and simple business of various types, in the north and in the south. In the south, sometimes these are masked with the excuse of the Mapuche cause. In the north, just look along the coast and see entire cities of houses on the beach that are all illegal squats. And also throughout Chile there are a large number of encampments that have spread as a result of the increase in the cost of housing and,basically, rent.”

The government wants this legislative project to be approved, except for one detail. A clause provides the privilege of “legitimate defense” by legal property owners and allows citizen’s arrest at any time the seizure is conducted. Basically, this would allow the owner to hire a group of people to remove the squatters any way they can.

Although the Boric government tried to amend this provision, their changes were not accepted by the legislature and the project advanced the bill as-is, despite bitter debate in the chamber and Boric coalition votes against that feature.

Republican Party deputy Cristián Araya noted that "what we see is a real protection of illegal property seizures. The only way to face the security crisis that Chile is going through is starting with the most basic things, which is to reestablish the rule of law. And in that sense, fighting with energy and force the illegal takeovers is a fundamental matter. "

There is more in the article - so polish your Spanish and read it…


Thanks for posting this.

Ideally you want the police to remove squatters for you but failing that you should be allowed to do it yourself. Perhaps the law could be that once you have put a request to the police and they have not removed the squatters in a given time period then and only then are you allowed to act.

It will never be as simple as that, of course. Any such law like this would have to confront a lot of details. Should a man be allowed to physically remove a woman? What if there is a pregnant woman, a child? Perhaps it should be OK to try to drag and push them out, but not punch them or kick them. Would you be perhaps be not prosecuted if you injure someone while evicting them, but you will be prosecuted if someone dies? Might it be against the law to evict someone if it is raining, or below zero temperature, or in the middle of the night? Might be dangerous for squatters to be thrown into the street in certain situations.

Which, when you think through the issues, returns us to the point that really the police and the courts should be dealing with this.

Which brings us back to Chile´s fundamental issue that the state doesn´t have enough resources.

The bottom line here is that a small, low taxation state inevitably leads to either vigilante justice or injustice.

EDIT: I am talking about squatters who never had the right to be there in the first place. None of my comments apply to people who started out on a legitimate rental contract and then refused to pay or leave. That is somewhat different situation.

Mendocino – Good points and you have reflected well on the conditions here.

Pacos/PDI prefer to stay in their comfortable zones rather than actually doing the dirty work. The uselessness of Pacos/PDI in this country is disgraceful. It is in my opinion not so much a “lack of resources” as a lack of will, or willingness. Falta de voluntad.

Que Moya lo haga.

We didn’t have this “squatter” problem in the military government days. The Pacos were expected to do their jobs. Chile currently has the enforcement resources to solve the squatter problems. It simply lacks the desire to meaningfully employ them.

The new law raises some thorny issues, as you did well to point out, and clarity is sorely lacking. A property owner trying to conduct an eviction is just asking for a violent confrontation. An attempted eviction in Mapuche country, more so. Potentially lethally so .

But if the Pacos/PDI – as an Instituto de Flojera – won’t do their jobs, then having citizens resort to violence is really blood on their lazy government hands.

I wonder if we might see the equivalent of a “civilian militia” – a small-business opportunity that involves hiring a squadron of goons with bulldozers, cricket bats, pepper spray, and zip-ties to remove the criminally recalcitrant in the middle of the night.

Things could get ugly. Things are ugly now but could get more so.

We have already seen this locally. The Coquimbo municipality sold the old mercado municipal to a property developer. However, some of the stallholders refused to vacate, even setting up nocturnal vigilance to prevent the legal owners from taking possession.

One night, some pickups filled with “volunteers” arrived at the market, stormed the gates, evicted the guard and tossed stallholder contents out on the street.

Yup. It’s more common than many people know about.

About 20 or so years ago, up in Puerto Natales there was a seafood restaurant on the costanera called El Marítimo. The building wasn’t much, and the restaurant operator didn’t own the property.

The property owner gave the restaurant proper notice but they refused to leave, and just kept on cooking. Then very early one morning “someone” forced open the front door (it didn’t take much) and every spoon, plate, pot, pan, salt shaker, tablecloth, and toothpick was tossed out on the sidewalk, with the property boarded up until the structure was demolished shortly thereafter.

It happens. With any luck, there isn’t much violence.

In the news, unsurprisingly Boric is reported to be planning to veto the anti-squatter law.

If I remember correctly, it would take a 2/3 vote in both houses of congress to override that veto. So far it has been approved by the Chamber of Deputies with 89 in favor, 43 against, with 3 abstentions. So the votes are not there to override a presidential veto.

What I didn’t cover in the first post on the matter – some of the features of the bill

  1. A change in the penal code which further criminalizes squatting (or “usurpation” or “illegal occupation” as the law calls it). That would include jail time for squatters. Apparently squatters would also be liable for restitution for damages.

  2. Previously discussed - the law allows property owners to forcibly remove illegal occupiers. Tohá and Boric strongly oppose this provision.

The problem of illegal occupation in Chile, along with other crimes – including homicides-- has grown significantly in recent years. Between 2019 and 2022, known illegal occupations in the country grew by 55% according to the Ministerio de Bienes Nacionales. Their numbers show 13,597 illegal occupations in 2019 (the year of Red October) and 21,664 in 2022.

Chile’s high (and increasing) crime rates are no doubt due to the country’s unwillingness – in failures of legislation, enforcement, judicially weakness, and its culture – to meaningfully take on the country’s substantial delinquency. And all indications are that it is only going to get worse.

Takes me back to the days where we physically went to our apt in El Centro and removed them ourselves. Wife was attacked, went to hospital, pacos did of course — nothing. This was years ago now…