Sentenced to debt

Some 200 people formed a tight shield blocking the access to a residential building where Maria José and her family were waiting. The family was to be evicted from their home in Madrid for unpaid mortgage payments. The protesters claimed it was unjustifiable. According to Spanish law, in case of mortgage irregularities a bank may repossess a real estate for half price. The bank can then claim the other half of the mortgage from the former owner regardless of the current value of the real estate. That is why María José has a burden of 200 000 euros on her shoulders, including interests and court expenses, even though she had lost her property and her original mortgage had been 157 000 euros. Unemployed and single mother of a disabled son, she now had no place to go. "Families are being sentenced to perpetual debt", said the family's lawyer Rafael Mayoral. Since 2009, 300 000 Spaniards hit by unemployment and economic crisis have faced court proceedings for repossession. The protesters say many were victims of bad loans. They demand the banks to be hold into account for not carrying out responsible credit checks. The crowds, many of them sympathizers of May 15th movement and an organization defending home-owners, have stopped more than 60 evictions around Spain. María José, too, was saved. But the joy was short-lived. Two weeks later riot police made sure that the family was forced to leave their home.
Published in Helsingin Sanomat in 2011.

photos by ángel navarrete