I’m staying! Spain’s 104-year-old eviction fighter

At 104, Inocencia Zofío is quite possibly the oldest person in Spain fighting not to be kicked out of her home. Her story has sent shockwaves through Spanish society and proven just how ruthless the country's authorities can be when evicting helpless homeowners and tenants.

I'm staying! Spain's 104-year-old eviction fighter
Inocencia, who's been interviewed by numerous Spanish TV stations, reads out her letter to Spain’s Justice Minister José Luis Garzón. Photo: Twitter

After 70 years living in a flat looking onto Madrid’s charming Royal Palace and gardens, Inocencia has been given her marching orders.

Her story is different from most of Spain’s evictees in that she hasn’t fallen foul of banks’ two-sided mortgage policies nor is she behind on her rent.

Inocencia, born in Madrid in 1910, has been “doomed by the views” from her balcony, as she puts it.

Both she and her daughter have been told by Spain’s Inland Revenue they have to leave their lifetime home for six months while construction work is carried out in their building, but they’re not buying it.

According to the two women, as well as the other elderly residents of the building, it’s all a trick to get them out of the building for good so that Spain’s tax office can convert their homes into luxury flats.

“Surveyors came round to supposedly assess the state of disrepair of the buildings, but all they did was take photos of the views from our balcony,” Inocencia’s daughter Beatriz told local daily El Periódico de Aragón.

Inocencia's flat looks on to Madrid's Royal Palace and the Sabatini Gardens Photo: J Peinado/Flickr

Their problems started when in 2001 the owner of the building passed away without having anybody in her will to inherit the property.

Although it automatically went into the hands of Spain’s Hacienda (Inland Revenue), the building’s long-term residents continued to pay very little in rent, keeping in mind the central location and the fantastic views they enjoy.

Inocencia and her daughter, for example, pay €51 a month for a 170sqm flat, as their home is still judged as a “renta antigua” (old rent) property.

Despite the fortunate circumstances they’ve enjoyed, Inocencia, who’s in the early stages of dementia, now faces imminent eviction and the prospect of a €168,000 fine for not leaving her home when she was told to.

She’s not giving up without a fight however, as an extract from her letter to Spain’s Justice Minister José Luis Garzón proves all too well:

“Dear Minister,

I’m not leaving. I’m not strong enough anymore but I’ll wait until I can look straight into the eye of the guards you send with a decree which may be legally correct but is still inhumane and wicked.”

The response from the Spanish media and the general public as a whole has been one of disgust and anger, possibly having an influence over a decision by Madrid’s Provincial Court on Thursday to push back the date of her eviction to June 1st and rid her of the costly fine.

One battle won, but many more to go for Inocencia before she wins the war.

Perhaps the biggest hurdle she now faces is that of the Boyer degree, a 1985 court ruling which set this year as the deadline for cheap “renta antigua” contracts to no longer be valid.

That would mean that Inocencia’s €51 monthly rent could well, if she does make it back to her home, be put up astronomically by the people she thinks are trying to banish her by any possible means.

Don't miss stories about Spain, join The Local on Facebook and Twitter.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Spain slammed over eviction of single mother and her six children

A UN committee has ordered Spain to compensate a single mother and her six children who were forcibly evicted during a housing crisis that saw tens of thousands forced from their homes.

Spain slammed over eviction of single mother and her six children
Archive photo of an anti-eviction protest in Barcelona. AFP

The UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights said on Wednesday that Madrid had violated the family's right to housing by failing to consider their vulnerability and should prevent similar cases from happening.

The mother, Maribel Viviana Lopez Alban, filed a complaint with the committee in June 2018 after attempting for several years to go through the Spanish courts to block her family's eviction.

She maintained that she had been renting an apartment in Madrid for a year when she discovered that the person she had been paying rent to was not the property's legal owner, committee documents showed.

In December 2014, the financial institution that really owned the property initiated eviction proceedings.

The family then applied for social housing, but their request was denied on grounds that people illegally occupying property were barred from the regional social housing programme.


Children suffered panic attacks

The UN committee, which has no enforcement powers, is made up of 18 independent experts tasked with monitoring whether countries adhere to their commitments under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.

It had requested that Spain not evict the family while they were examining the case but the family was forcibly removed from their home by police in anti-riot gear shortly afterwards.

They bounced between temporary shelters and Lopez Alban told the committee her children had suffered panic attacks and learning difficulties.   

They were among tens of thousands of people who have been evicted from their homes in Spain since the housing bubble burst and the global financial crisis began in 2007.

The country's national statistics institute NIE tallied that there were 34,680 evictions in 2014 alone at the height of the crisis.

Last year, some 6,500 people were evicted from their homes, according to the latest available statistics.   

In its ruling, the UN committee found that the Spanish courts failed to weigh the rights of the property owner against the consequences of an eviction on the family.   

It also found that the rejection of the family's request for social housing violated the Covenant.

The UN experts called on Spain to “compensate the victims and to create a legal framework to prevent similar violations in the future.”   

They gave Madrid six months to provide an update on its implementation of the ruling.

READ ALSO: Nearly 100 families lose homes each day in Spain