Real Estate Litigation or Claims of Debts – Criminal Action

Posted in: Criminal Law, Legal

Under Spanish law real estate litigation or claims of debts are a civil matter, normally coming from a breach of contract. We have written on this subject before.

Many clients have used us for claiming debts and been successful, but sometimes it is difficult if we can see the debtor has no assets.

If the debtor is a company one of the first things we do is a check at the Companies Registry in Spain to see if there are assets. If they are an individual or individuals, we check with the Land Registry to find out if they own properties. We also ask the client as to whether there are assets like cars, bank balances and their thoughts on this.

If we feel that the debtor has no assets a civil claim must be considered carefully.

There is another option, however, that we have not mentioned on our website for real estate litigation or claims of debts – criminal action.

Criminal Action for Real Estate litigation

Sometimes the breach of contract for claims of debts could be considered fraud, in which case it could be pursued as a criminal action.

An example is if a Real Estate agent keeps money from a buyer/seller when they are not entitled to. Another example whereby we could pursue a criminal action is if the debtor never had the intention to complete the contract. One more that has happened many times is if a constructor receives money and doesn´t build the construction.

Why consider Criminal Action for real estate litigation?

A criminal action is a longer process than a civil action, but sometimes it can be the most effective.  It is also the only way to recover a debt when the debtor is insolvent. Why? Because unfortunately, some debtors hide money, and they don´t pay when they receive a civil action. However, when they receive a criminal action and a threat of a potential prison sentence, it is incredible how money can appear out of thin air. Then they pay to avoid a prison sentence. Depending on the seriousness of the claim, a prison sentence can be for many years in these cases. That is quite an incentive to pay, even at the last minute before Court to avoid this.

It is not always possible to claim a debt by a criminal action. However, it is worth studying this course of action and the case. More than ever in these current times when debtors could try to avoid payments. There has to be proof however that the debtor/s has taken steps to hide assets (transfer/sale/ transfer of funds abroad etc.)

Can a Judgement against a Debtor be Enforced Abroad?

Yes, if you have won a Judgement against a debtor in Spain, or another country and they have assets in Spain, it is possible to enforce the judgement in another jurisdiction. Whether a civil or criminal claim.

Won/Lost a Civil Action? – can a criminal action now be pursued?

You have won (or even lost) a claim for a debt, but the debtor has assets hidden. Then you could potentially start a criminal action against them providing that there is supporting evidence. It is not possible to start the same action twice in Court but if it is different if  civil versus criminal actions, this is possible.


Do you have someone who owes you money? Do you have evidence of the debt? Whether it is to do with real estate litigation or another claim of debt, as long as we are within the time limitation, we can maybe assist with a case. Please contact us to study your case.