Tourist property rental licences in Catalonia

Earlier this year (2008) the government of Catalonia introduced a new housing law (Ley de la Vivienda) including regulations for renting apartments in Barcelona to tourists on a short term basis.

Under the previous law, the only restrictions on holiday lettings were limited to a special category of regulated property, called ‘apartamentos turísticos’. All other types of property just had to comply with standard rental laws (Ley de Arrendamientos Urbanos). That left a grey area when it comes to renting apartments in Barcelona to tourists (or any other type of property in Catalonia), as standard rental laws are not clear on the subject.

The new law introduces regulations for any property in Catalonia that is rented out to tourists (or other visitors) on a short term basis by defining a new category of ‘tourist use housing’ (vivienda de uso turístico). According to this new definition, ‘tourist use housing’ is any property rented out on a short term basis that is neither a principal or second home. So if you have invested in a holiday rental apartment in Barcelona (neither your principal home, or holiday home) then the new law affects you.

The main provision of the new law are as follows:

1. Town halls have the power to licence this activity, and individual town halls can decide on the conditions they impose. In the case of town halls that require licences (like Barcelona) owners have to request this municipal licence in person. Previously, no licences were necessary, the only condition being that the property was registered with the regional government’s department of tourism, a bureaucratic formality that rental management companies could do on behalf of owners.

2. Owners are now financially responsible for any problems arising from their rental activity, such as distress to neighbours. Neighbours can report bothersome tourist rentals, for example noisy rental clients, to the municipal police (Guardia Urbana) or the town hall (ayuntamiento). In the case of illegal tourist rental apartments (no licence) complaints are made to the Dirección General de Turismo de la Generalitat de Catalunya. Fines can run into tens of thousands of Euros, especially in the case of illegal tourist rentals.

Further regulations are expected towards the end of 2008, and for now it is still not 100% clear what is legal and what is not when it comes to renting property to tourists on a short term basis. Furthermore, the new law appears to replace the previous legislation (Ley de Arrendamientos Urbanos) with respect to tourist rentals, yet it does not do so expressly, which leaves room for interpretation.

In the meantime, some town halls, like Barcelona, have introduced their own regulations for tourist lettings, within the framework of the regional laws.

Tourist rental apartments in Barcelona

For example, Barcelona’s local government (Ayuntamiento) has introduced the following provisional regulations, pending further instructions from the regional government of Catalonia (Generalitat):

– With the exception of Barcelona’s Old Town (Ciutat Vella), all apartments already registered with the department of tourism can continue with tourist rentals until new regional government regulations are introduced. Apartments in the Old Town will be subjected to a special review.
– No more municipal licences will be granted for tourist rental properties in the Old Town. Around 1,190 properties already have licences, but there will be no more.
– In districts outside the Old Town, properties not already registered with the department of tourism will need a municipal licence to start renting out to tourists. To get a new licence, owners must apply in person, must have a habitation certificate, and must have advised their neighbours (community of owners).
– Owners who rent their property in Barcelona to tourists without a municipal licence can be fined up to 30,000 Euros. They may also be reported to the tax authorities for investigation into tax fraud.
– Tourist rentals that lead to serious complaints from neighbours can lead to fines of between 1,800 and 15,000 Euros for both owners and rental management companies.
Anyone wishing to rent out a property in Catalonia to tourists on a short term basis should check with their local town hall as to licences required, if any.

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