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MORTGAGE MISERY

Judges slam royal decree on stemming evictions as inadequate

Legislation is “arbitrary” and still favors banks over homeowners

The country’s three main judge associations on Friday called the government eviction decree “arbitrary” and “absolutely insufficient.”

Magistrates criticized the fact that while the Popular Party administration is calling a two-year moratorium on evictions for the most vulnerable people, it does nothing to reform mortgage legislation, effectively providing a temporary solution to a long-term problem.

José María Fernández Seijo, the judge at Barcelona’s third Mercantile Court, said the decree avoids the core of the problem. The conditions for eligibility to the moratorium also include senseless discrimination, the associations said.

The decree sets stringent requirements. Those eligible must make no more than 19,200 euros a year and spend over 50 percent of their household income on the mortgage. Households with three children are automatically eligible, but those with two are not. “Do those two children not have the same right not to be thrown out on the street?” asks Judge María Teresa Sáez, president of the Professional Magistrate Association. “We lament that the conditions are not more flexible to give us some margin to interpret whether a case is critical.”

Single mothers with just one child are not eligible, those with two are. Pensioners are also left out unless they have dependents in their care.

The decree also stipulates that the freeze on an eviction is only possible when the foreclosed home reverts to the bank. If a third party buys it at an auction, the eviction will be carried out as planned.

“I could find myself with a case of extreme necessity yet the eviction cannot be stopped because the house is not the bank’s — that’s discriminatory," one judge said.

Another contentious point is the fact that late fees are not being stopped along with the evictions, meaning that during those two years the debt will continue to grow, says Joaquim Bosch, spokesman for the association Judges for Democracy. Bosch believes this was a deliberate oversight on the government’s part.

“We bemoan the fact that the government has sided with the lenders rather than with the rights of citizens,” he said.