Ada Colau
Ada Colau, Barcelona's mayor, said the city wants to send a message to landlords and property speculators Getty Images

Barcelona's council has fined three banks hundreds of thousands of euros each for leaving apartments in the city empty for over two years.

Santander, Spain's largest bank, and BBVA, the country's second biggest, were each fined €315,000 (£269,500) for leaving two flats empty. Sareb, the Spanish government's "bad bank" created during the financial crisis to hoover up dodgy assets from failing banks, was fined €630,000 for two empty homes it owns.

"We want to send a clear message to landlords: Barcelona stands up to speculation," the city's Mayor Ada Colau tweeted.

The banks were sanctioned using a 2014 law passed in the city allowing the council to fine financial institutions which own property sitting empty for more than two years.

"The goal of the municipality is not to collect money, but to ensure that homes have a social use," said Barcelona's city councillor for housing, Josep Maria Montaner, reported The Local.

It is not the first time the law has been applied. In September 2015, BBVA, Banco Sabadell, and Sareb were fined €60,000 for each of 12 vacant properties they owned in Barcelona that had sat empty for over two years. City officials were at the time looking into a further 62 properties, reported the Guardian.