Meet Madrid’s anti-eviction warriors

Leah Pattem shares what it's like to be on the front line of an eviction.

Meet Madrid's anti-eviction warriors
All photos by Leah Pattem
I’d heard on the radio that there was going to be an eviction at 11 am, just a five-minute walk from where I live. I turned on TeleMadrid and their cameras were already there. I put on my coat, grabbed my camera and said to my other half, “look out for me on the TV”.

Rosa, who’d been living in her three-bedroom flat on Calle Argumosa for more than 20 years, was the latest victim of property speculation. Her building had recently been bought up by investors demanding an increase in rent from €400 per month to €1,700 – a distorted hike with one objective: eviction.

Lavapiés, the neighbourhood that both Rosa and I live in, has always been – and still is – a working-class barrio. Most residential buildings here were quickly erected centuries ago to house a flood of economic migrants from elsewhere in Spain but, today, these buildings host some of the smallest flats in the country.

In recent decades, Lavapiés has also become home to migrants from Asia, Africa, the Middle East and Latin America. Walk through the narrow, sloping streets of Lavapiés and see spice shops and Latin diners oscillating between old traditional Spanish shops – it’s a beautiful neighbourhood, if you ignore the crime, filth and inequality.

READ MORE: The real reason why this Madrid barrio is the world's 'coolest' neighbourhood

I squeezed through the TV cameras filming Rosa, who’d come to join the 100-strong protest outside her flat, and found Carlos, the leader of this tactical operation. He explained to me that he believes, for being an EU country, Spain is quite unique in its cruelty, evicting families with young children.

There appear to be no laws in Spain that protect tenants from investors buying up their rented property and throwing them out. These evictions – one occurs every eight minutes – are even more disturbing when you realise that around 3.5 million properties currently sit empty across Spain.

I spoke to several others in the crowd; they were all victims of evictions. Their trauma and misery had quickly turned to anger, which led them to join Stop Desahucios, where Carlos (Pictured above in green) and his warriors convert rage into activism.

Stood outside the evictee’s home in their well-known red and green vests, the activists chant, scream and envelop the building in spray-painted bed sheets. They make the whole city aware of what the landlord is doing, which is humiliating and bad for business.

Stop Desahucios activists pull back tenants from the edge of losing everything. Their success further empowers them all and, in the process, they gain a new warrior.

Chanting suddenly turned to cheering and Rosa was absorbed into a crowd of hugs.

“We’ve won! The landlords negotiated with Rosa and she’s been given one more month to stay. So, we’ll be back here again in a month.”

In this building alone, Rosa is the tenth eviction that Stop Desahucios have either stopped or delayed, with a further two prevented in the last week, making Calle Argumosa 11 an iconic example of what this unstoppable force of people can achieve.


If your contract expires, your landlord wants to increase your rent and you accept their increase, you’ve become part of the problem. Negotiate hard. This comes with undeniable risk: if you lose, you’re out and someone else will turn up willing to pay the price you walked away from, so stop them: negotiate to stay for what you believe is a fair price.

READ MORE: Renting property in Spain: Know your rights as a tenant

If you anticipate eviction for any reason (speculation, job loss, personal crisis, rent increase), get in touch with Stop Desahucios. By fighting your battle, we come one step closer to winning the war.


  • Stop Desahucios are Spain-wide. Find your city’s organisation here.
  • For Madrid, find your neighbourhood group here and get involved by attending one of their upcoming events listed in the calendar.
  • Follow PAH (Plataformas de Afectados por la Hipoteca) on Facebook and Twitter.

See you there.

Leah Pattem is the founder of Madrid No Frills, a blog that celebrates those overlooked corners of Madrid untouched by the gentrification and modernization that has transformed the city in recent decades.

To discover stories that reveal the grittier, real side of Spain's capital, follow her on the Madrid No Frills blog, on Facebook and in Instagram

IN PICS: Madrid's hostile anti-homeless architecture that you see everyday but don't even notice 


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EXPLAINED: What you need to know about locksmiths in Spain

If you get locked out, have a break-in or need to change or fix the door lock at your home in Spain, here are the rates and advice you need before calling a Spanish locksmith (cerrajero).

EXPLAINED: What you need to know about locksmiths in Spain

Like anywhere, locksmiths are generally expensive and the price can vary greatly depending on the service you need and where you are.

It also depends on when you need them, as it’ll cost much more to call them out on a Saturday night than a Monday morning, for example.

Nor would it cost the same to open your front door as it would a reinforced security door.

But locksmiths don’t just make copies of keys and bail you out when you’re stuck outside your flat.

They also offer a whole host of different services including, but not limited to, opening safes, creating master keys, installing security doors, anti-drill doors, cutting specialist locks that reject copied keys, and even unlocking the boot of your car.

How much does a locksmith cost in Spain?

Given all these variables, the price can range massively.

According to Cronoshare, the average price for a nationwide call out in Spain can start from €80 anywhere up to €400.

On average, for a basic service, you can expect to pay anywhere between €40-€70 an hour for the labour, with the price of changing or installing a basic lock anywhere between €80-€200. 

For basic door openings, it depends on the situation you find yourself in: for doors locked with a key, which is a more complex task, prices average around €200, and for doors that are jammed or slammed shut, slightly cheaper in the €80-€100 range.

For an armoured or security door, prices can start at around €300.

In short, a general rule is that the more complex the task is, the higher the prices.

And as always, prices can vary depending on where you are in Spain, the quality of the locksmith, the time of the day and week you need his or her services, and if its a public holiday or not. 

So, as always, compare prices to try and find the most economical solution without skimping on quality.

As such, the following rates are estimations taken from average prices from locksmith.

Weekend/holiday rates

Where prices can really start to add up, however, is when you have an emergency situation requiring a locksmith’s assistance at the weekend, on a public holiday, or outside of normal working hours.

And if you live in Spain, you probably know there’s quite a few of those days throughout the year.

If you really need a cerrajero on a public holiday or during non-working hours (usually defined as anything between 8pm-8am) prices can reach €300 or €500 due to the fact you’ll have to cover the cost of travel, which starts from around €40 plus the increased rate.

Then you must also include the price of labour to the flat rate, which is usually somewhere between €40 and €70 an hour regardless of when you call them out.

Key vocabulary 

We’ve put together some of the basic vocabulary you might need if you find yourself needing a locksmith while in Spain.

el cerrajero – locksmith

la llave – the key

la llave de repuesto – the spare key

la puerta – the door

la cerradura – the lock

la bisagra – the hinge

día festivo – public holiday

cambio de bombín – change of cylinder lock

puerta blindada – armoured door

coste de mano de obra – labour costs

quedarse afuera – get locked out 

puerta cerrada de un portazo – door slammed shut

puerta cerrada con llave – locked door

Tips relating to choosing a good locksmith in Spain 

If you’ve just started renting a new place or have bought a property, it’s advisable to change the lock as you don’t know who has keys to your front door. If you’re a tenant, try to negotiate this with your landlord as it’s in both of your interests that only you two have keys to the property.

If there has been a burglary in your property while you’re living in it and there’s no sign of forced entry, then there’s a very big chance that the burglars had a copy of your keys, and you should definitely change the locks. 

If you’ve lost your keys and you think it happened close to your home, again it’s advisable for you to change the locks.

One of the best ways to avoid being locked out and having to cough up a hefty sum is to give a spare set to someone that you trust that lives in your town or city in Spain. 

When it comes to choosing a locksmith in Spain, you should make sure he or she is a reputable one. Asking friends and family first can be your first port of call.

If not, make sure you read reviews online if available to get any insight beforehand.

In order to avoid any nasty surprises, ask them on the phone for a budget (presupuesto) for all the costs attached to their services before accepting.

Be wary of cerrajeros that automatically want to change the whole lock when a simpler and less costly option is possible. 

Usually they should offer you a contract for you to read carefully before signing. It should include a three-month guarantee for the potential new lock or at least a breakdown of the costs.

Make sure that they are not charging you an excessively high price if it’s an emergency, as this is not actually legal.

There’s also asking them to prove their accreditation with the Unión Cerrajeros de Seguridad (UCES).

Weekend and holiday rates can be higher nonetheless, so consider your options and if it’s worth staying with a friend or family member for a night to save some money. A trustworthy and honest cerrajero will let you know about the money you could save if you choose to wait as well.