Spain bank stops evicting after homeowner suicides


Mon, Nov 12, 2012 - Page 15

A Spanish savings bank halted all homeowner evictions over the weekend after a ruined client threw herself out of a window to her death, unleashing anti-bank protests in the streets.

The decision by Kutxabank, a lender in the northern Basque Country, was unprecedented in Spain, where banks and homeowners have been financially crushed by a 2008 property crash.

It was the second suicide linked to the eviction of a financially distressed homeowner in 15 days.

Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy promised on Friday to offer proposals to ease the pressure on homeowners today in talks with the opposition Socialists.

“The president of Kutxabank, Mario Fernandez, has instructed that the entity should immediately halt all mortgage-related eviction procedures until the new related regulations are known,” the bank said on Saturday.

The suspension of evictions only affects loans on people’s primary homes, it said.

The previous day, 53-year-old former Socialist politician Amaia Egana committed suicide by hurling herself out of her apartment window “as the bailiffs were to evict her from her home,” Basque police said.

Her suicide came 15 days after 53-year-old Jose Luis Domingo hung himself shortly before bailiffs came to turn him out of his home in the southern city of Granada.

After the latest suicide, hundreds of people demonstrated on Friday in Madrid and in the victim’s municipality of Barakaldo.

With cries of “Guilty! Guilty!” and “Shame! Shame!” the Madrid protesters denounced banks like state-rescued lender Bankia for continuing to evict homeowners struck by unemployment and the eurozone crisis.

A banner reading “credit scam” could be seen hanging next to Caja Madrid — part of the Bankia group — as the protesters held a minute’s silence for the dead woman.

Indebted homeowners have been camping outside Caja Madrid with mats and sleeping bags since Oct. 22, demanding they be spared eviction and have their debts renegotiated.

Last month, a group of top magistrates released a report denouncing the trend of forced evictions, which they said have risen by one-fifth this year and totaled 350,000 between 2008 and last year.

They complained of “extremely aggressive judicial procedures against debtors” who “find themselves defenceless in a crisis that they did not cause.”

Rajoy on Friday said he hoped that the talks with the opposition would include discussion of a “temporary halt to the evictions which are hitting the most vulnerable families.”

He is also seeking ways to make the banks better apply their codes of conduct, to renegotiate debts and allow people to remain in their homes.

“It’s a difficult subject and I hope we will soon be able to give good news to all the Spanish people,” Rajoy said.

Spain, the eurozone’s fourth-largest economy, has been mired in recession since last year, building up a record-high unemployment rate of more than 25 percent.