The European Union’s top court has ruled that Spain’s mortgage laws are in breach of the bloc’s regulations. The ruling was welcomed by homeowners struggling to pay off their debt.
The current Spanish legislation does not give courts the power to stop evictions of homeowners based on mortgage contracts that are deemed “abusive.” They also cannot step in to delay an eviction while homeowners contest what they see as unfair clauses in court.
The European Court of Justice ruled on Thursday that this is in violation of an EU directive on consumer rights.
Thursday's ruling came in response to a 2011 lawsuit filed by a Morrocan national who was evicted from his home by the CatalunyaCaixa bank . The Barcelona court where Mohamed Aziz filed his case then asked the Luxembourg-based Court of Justice whether the Spanish law complied with European rules.
"It is a judgment that we consider very important because it protects the rights of European consumers," said Michele Cercone, a spokesman for European Home Affairs Commissioner Cecilia Malmstrom. "The commission will review it in full and see what measures need to be taken with Spain," he added.
The Platform for Mortgage Victims (PAH), a group that represents Spanish homeowners who have defaulted, regarded the court ruling as a major victory.
"We are very satisfied," PAH spokesperson Ada Colau said. "This is a big step forward for what we have been campaigning for, over four very hard years."
The Spanish government responded by announcing that it would ensure that a new bill currently being debated in the country's parliament would comply with EU rules.
"We commit ourselves to revise all aspects of the law that have been declared in breach of the European legislation," Spanish Justice Minister Alberti Ruiz-Gallardon said.
About 350,000 Spaniards have been forced out of their homes since the country's property market crashed five years ago.
pfd/mkg (AFP, dpa, Reuters)