Holiday-lettings in Catalonia

Holiday lettings in Catalonia will soon be controlled by restrictive local laws, as the Government in Madrid moves to devolve the regulation of holiday rentals to Spain’s 17 autonomous regions.

The national Government in Madrid is changing the national tenancy act (Ley de Arrendamientos Urbanos) to devolve the regulation of holiday rentals to regional governments, where powerful local hotel lobbies are eager to put the cosh on competition from private landlords. Holiday-home owners in Catalonia, as elsewhere, will have to bone up on local laws to avoid fines for engaging in illegal holiday rentals. Most won’t bother, or won’t even know about it, and will carry on as before.

In Catalonia, tourist rentals are covered by decree 159/2012 of December 2012. This distinguishes between tourist apartments (apartamentos turísitcos) and homes used by tourists (viviendas de uso turístico).

[link type=”info-dark” href=””]Learn how landlords can register for holiday-rentals in Catalonia[/link]



12 thoughts on “Holiday-lettings in Catalonia”

  1. Mike Goldberg

    Talk about shooting yourself in the foot. Why don’t they just accept that this is a free market and that all these tourists who prefer to stay in an apartment rather than a hotel room spend money in bars, restaurants and shops that are not in tourist areas, creating jobs and income for all.
    I think Spain actually prefers to go bust than to sort out its problems.

    1. carmen

      An illegal holiday home that is packed with a group of holiday makers who do little more than stock up in Lidl and get pissed by the poolside does not create jobs or give any benefit to the local community.
      Tourists have the right to stay in holiday homes, legal, registered, safe and insured apartments and villas in the right location (near the beach, shops, restaurants, bars etc, and not in a residential area up the hill without a bus service, where all they manage to receive are complaints from the local working population) with official complaint forms to present to the police if they encounter unexpected problems. Only the property owners that see an end to a lucrative scam are badly affected and complaining.
      Legal hotels, holiday apartments and villas supply jobs and national insurance for the Spanish and people who live in Spain and work in the tourist industry…why would they want a tourism that leaves most of its money in the pockets of a person living in another country or working in a job completely unrelated to tourism? The upkeep of a tourist resort falls on the local authorities and illegal rents do not cover their share, the local bars and restaurants pick up the tab, while the would be customers are drinking supermarket plonk on the balcony until the small hours in a residential area.
      A good deal of the foreign owners and Spaniards have alternative employment, or are receiving pensions or benefits, are renting out large properties to large groups for a good 6 months and are making a lot of undeclared money. Many weekly rents are more than a hotel waiter earns (including his national insurance contribution) in a month.Most are second properties, the owners do not live in these properties but have a roof over their head else where, so I doubt that they are so hard up that it is the only way to feed their family. Forget that sob story. People who work in the legal tourist industry would appreciate a tourism that helps supply jobs and gets national insurance paid for their pensions and benefits. They would appreciate being able to go to their one and only home in a quiet residential area away from the main tourist attractions without the illegal rents full of loud strangers disturbing their peace day and night.
      If you want to be in business get legal, invest in a property in the right place but forget the big illegal profits. With owners pocketing weekly rents from a lowly 800€ – 3,000€ and managing on average 16 weeks occupation you think 250€ is exorbitant? Wait till they start saying saying insurance, health and safety,public pool hygiene, rubbish recycling etc not to mention the fines for your guests anti social behavior.

      1. Peter

        Tell me Carmen, how does a holidaymaker looking to rent a villa know which are legal and which are not? I’ve had a look at plenty of online adverts and I can’t tell. I my experience the large groups who spend nothing in the local town and ‘get pissed’ till the early hours are those in ‘all-inclusive’ hotels. Take a drive through any big resort at 2am. Drive through the ‘legal’ hotel areas and listen to the racket and behaviour of the holidaymakers. Then drive through an urbanisation and listen to the nightingales, it’s all you will hear.
        The real problem is the hotel industry. They exercise no control over the rabble they house, they work very hard to ensure the tourist Euro stays on their premises and offer inducements to keep the residents up all night ‘partying’.
        Further, ask any member of a hotel staff how good they think their conditions of employment are. They work slave hours for slave money.

        1. carmen

          Peter, I work slave hours for slave money,so I have a lousy job but I pay my taxes and I expect that my rights to live in a quiet residential urbanizacion to be protected. Unfortunately, I no longer hear nightingales.. even the hedgehogs have left, as I am surrounded by 3 villas whose owners (Dutch, Belgium and a Spanish pensioner) use their properties as tourist establishments. They have invested in swimming pools and added on extra bedrooms. The offers are for 10-12 people in one, 13-16 the next and the third one for 13 people available 6 months a year, usually there are between 10-12 persons with at least 4 months solid occupation with prices that range from 1,000-2,950€ per week. That’s over 30 strange people who are not working or going to school, are not sitting indoors watching TV, but are wanting to enjoy their holiday, 3 big swimming pools, 3 barbecues, 3 tables for 12 on 3 balconies, a petanca area, a kiddies play area, pets welcome and music for all tastes, day after day, in my back garden. The Dutch owner says in her ad that young ( 18- 25 yrs) groups are welcome and on arriving they are told that they can do what they like as it is a private house (as long as they pay a good deposit to cover the costs of damages to the property).

          The majority of these holidaymakers are not rabble but they are in the wrong place and solely for the personal gain of self interested owners.These black market businesses will eventually have to close as they will not get permission to legalise them in this urbanizacion.
          Like most people who work long term with holiday makers I welcome tourists and appreciate that they choose Spain.
          Look for a HUT (Habitatge d’us turistic) registration number in the advertisement if you want a legal property in Catalonia. You should also be able to find an official complaint form that you can present to the police if you have any problems in your dealing with the owners or agency.
          Dena Rowlands River Ebro Apartments look very nice and are in a beautiful setting, all completely within the law!

          1. Profile photo of Mark Stücklin Post Author

            Carmen, thank you for this post. It has helped me see the other side of the argument a bit better.

  2. Amanda

    I agree, it seems crazy. A lot of foreign residents rent out small parts of their property or outbuildings and this income is very important to them right now. In some cases it may be the only way to feed their families. It seems like just one more nail in the coffin, no wonder everyone is leaving…

  3. Carol Longman

    Agree with both Amanda and Mike’s comments, very sensible not to bite the hands that are feeding them, but then, we are talking about Catalonia! We just paid 250euros for our licence at the local town hall in Lloret de Mar. And what do we get for this exorbitant amount? Sweet FA. Our guests already pay (and quite rightly) taxes via the agent, as do we so why this stealth tax on top? Makes renting your property and putting cash behind the local bars etc, as mentioned in this comment stream, even less viable to international investors like us. Anyone want to take over the fiscal arrangements in Spain? I have a large ginger tom who I’d like to put forward…

  4. Dena Rowlands

    The title of the article “Holiday-lettings in Catalonia” and the first line which says they will “soon be controlled” is, I think, rather misleading as Catalonia has already put laws in place to try and regulate private holiday lettings. As I understand it, the move by Madrid to change the National Tenancy Act will impact more on regions who haven’t yet made attempts to control holiday lettings and it will enable/encourage them to do so. I know nothing about the National Tenancy Act but I rather suspect that it related to allowing residential lettings; I’d like to bet that it was not intended to allow a huge industry of private holiday rentals that operate under the radar! Since Spain has been in the EU and particularly over the last 10 years, the number of foreigners buying homes in Spain and then renting them out has mushroomed. It is a situation that I’m sure was never envisaged and for which there were no clear regulations. Spain has no money. Its major asset is tourism. Is it any surprise that it is now looking to regulate a growing sector of tourism and at the same time plug the holes where millions of Euros seep away each year in unpaid IVA, tourist tax, income tax and Social Security payments?

    Quite frankly, I am astonished at the indignation I have seen here and elsewhere on the net, about the possibility that illegal rental owners may have to start paying tax!

    I do not see it as restricting the “free market” as Mike claims.. There is no suggestion, on any of the official docs that I have read, that the government wants to ban all private rentals. Why would they? They are a valid and popular option of tourist accommodation. But they DO need regulating! You simply can’t have an infinite number of them, especially when an estimated ⅔ of owners do not declare their earnings! Of course the legal hotel and apartment owners have complained! Of course the government wants its cut! Show me a country where it wouldn’t be so?

    I agree with Carmen that for many people the rental income is a cushy, undeclared top-up to other earnings, pensions or benefits although there are others for whom it is quite clearly their main income. What gets me is that the very people who are complaining about “their right” to rent their houses are probably the very same people who would be the first to complain back in Britain if immigrants were operating businesses and not paying a penny into the system through some perceived loophole! It is no different! You run a business and earn money? You have to comply with regulations and pay taxes! It’s a tough fact of life! And no, they don’t exactly make it easy. I already wrote about running a rental in Catalonia on my own blog a few weeks ago:

    Peter, I agree, there is no way of knowing on most advertising sites whether a rental is operating legally or not. There are a couple of Spanish websites that only accept properties with a tourism registration number but that’s a drop in the ocean compared to the thousands that are advertised elsewhere.. Actually, Catalonia does have a register of legal holiday rentals that you can access from the Government website ( Check it out if you wish at this link and then click on “Habitatges d’us Turistics” (homes for tourist use) It is a bit basic in the form of an Excel Workbook.. There is a tab for the regions at the bottom and then the towns are alphabetical within each sheet.

    It will be interesting to see how this regulation develops through other regions of Spain and how well it is policed both here in Catalonia and in other areas.

    Dena Rowlands
    Tourist registration HUTTE-000089

    1. Anne

      We are currently looking to buy a property in rural Catalunya (we have done long term rentals here over the years so know the area well). I am now semi-retired although my husband will continue to work in England and split his time between the UK and Catalunya. We had thought to invest in something where we could offer Bed & Breakfast converting the upper floor to three possibly four rooms with a shared lounge/diner and basic catering facilities and a terrace with access to a shared garden and pool (shared with us the owners) Our own accommodation being on the ground floor and completely self contained.The thought process behind this would be to replace some of the income I have lost by going part-time and as my husband reaches retirement age give us a supplement to our (small) pension, also allowing us to invest in the property, it’s upkeep and maintenance.

      Our plan was to rent the rooms separately, or, as one unit for families depending on the summer season. Paying, of course, income tax on profits earned (from what I have read completing a tax return would be necessary once we fully retire and take up permanent residence here). However, I am now unsure whether this plan would be either possible under the new regulations or, indeed, financially viable. After costs and taxes we would make only a small profit, add to this the painful social security autonomo payment (possibly for both of us depending on whether the “business” is just me or both of us) and we would be lucky to break even on such a small venture.

      From an “invasion of the community” perspective, we would have expected and instructed our guests to respect the neighbours, including us! So no wild parties into the early hours, using the pool late into the night or general rowdiness and as we would be on site so to speak this would have been easy to manage. The villages we have been exploring, researching and most especially talking to people in the community, bemoan that many of the properties are now second homes for holidaying Barcelonians who invade each summer, often woefully overcrowding their private residences with non paying family and friends. Which whilst boosting the local economy a little, rather overwhelm the small communities. Personally I believe an owner managed small business with the business owner on site and part of the community would be less of a disruption.

      I agree that the industry needs to be regulated. Protection of the community and it’s standards. Quality of accommodation, Health and Safety, registering with the Tourism department (which in itself helps to promote a tourism business) but the hoops seem many to jump through and the tax upon, tax, upon tax onerous and preventative.

      Needless to say we are revising our plans!

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