Are Holiday Rentals Legal In Spain?

barcelona holiday rental flat

Barcelona holiday rental. Photo credit: OK – Apartment / Foter / CC BY

Is it legal to rent out your home for a few days to tourists? That’s the question posed by a recent article published by the Spanish daily El Pais, trying to make sense of the myriad regional laws that make such a mess of a common activity in Spain.

Adaptation and translation of an article published by El Pais.

Can you let your home to tourists on holiday for a few days in Spain? It depends on where you live. Until May 2013, few autonomous regions had any restrictions, and the national Urban Rentals Law allowed short-term holiday lets provided the owner declared the income. But two years ago, all this changed: the government excluded holiday lets from the national legislation, and invited the regions to legislate as they saw fit. Each one has approached it in a different way and furthermore, each region has had to allow room for individual councils, responsible for urban planning, to set their own limits. The end result? A hodgepodge of laws that allows or prohibits holiday lets separated by just a few miles.

Last April, more than 5.5 million foreigners visited Spain. According to statistics from the Ministry of Industry, 583,229 of them stayed in holiday rental homes, 20.4 per cent more than last year. The holiday rental option against hotels is also increasingly popular among the Spanish. Partly because supply has increased: joining the typical apart-hotels and holiday homes let by their owners for a few months a year, are more and more private owners who are even putting rooms in their homes on the rental market. The arrival of internet platforms such as Airbnb and HomeAway, who act as intermediaries, has boosted a supply that isn’t always legal.


“Letting a property to a tourist is nothing new. What has changed over the last few years is the way it’s done thanks to the internet,” says Eliseo Martínez, a partner at Aius + Aequitas Abogados legal firm, who acts on behalf of several owners’ associations. He points out that in Spain, the first legislation for holiday homes was instigated by Manuel Fraga in 1976. This was followed by several types of regulations until the one in 2013, which has “led to an avalanche of different rules” because it has meant that most regions have presented their own laws, or at least started preparing them. Some, such as the Valencian Community or Galicia, have left some margin for holiday lets by the day as long as owners register and comply with basic requirements. Others, such as the Canaries, limit holiday lets to areas where there are no hotels. And others, such as Madrid, have imposed a minimum of 5 consecutive nights’ rental for legal rentals.

The increase in supply has put the cat among the pigeons in the hotel sector. Exceltur, the association of large tourist companies, insists that regulations are needed to avoid “unfair competition” that puts accommodation on the market that isn’t subject to controls, or that does not invest in security regulations that, incidentally, are also different in each region. In the face of pressure from hotels, regulations on apartments multiply, which in turn has led property owners to create associations that act as lobbies in defence of their interests. “One of the biggest problems we have is that, as well as regional regulations, there are those imposed by local councils for planning reasons. And that means compliance is impossible,” complained Pablo Zubicaray, president of Fevitur, an association for holiday-rental homeowners, at a conference in Madrid a few weeks ago.

“It’s true there are many regulations, but this isn’t just a Spanish problem, It happens in many places in Europe and even in the US, because in tourism it’s usual for cities to be influential,” explains Arnaldo Muñoz, Airbnb’s representative in Spain. This digital platform that puts owners of holiday lets or rooms in contact with tourists is the one that raises most hackles in the sector, mainly because its market share is growing. Last year, 620,000 Spaniards used this website. And this year the figure is expected to double. Barcelona is the city with the greatest number of properties listed with Airbnb: 15,200.

“From Airbnb we send a note to our registered hosts every year reminding them that they should declare their rental income and pay income tax,” Muñoz claims. He chooses to be conciliatory. He says that they’re prepared to comply with the regulations in every city. Although they also aspire to influence – Muñoz talks of “converting” – to try to get laws conforming to models they believe to be the fairest.


Holiday letting isn’t new, and nor are complaints of unfair competition from hotels. Each country has its own regulations, sometimes limited to a particular area. Arnaldo Muñoz, Airbnb’s representative, gives the example of Paris, which allows rentals linked to the collaborative economy. It allows inhabitants to let their home with no requirements (other than paying taxes) if they can show that it’s their principal home. A law passed in 2013 in Hamburg is similar – it’s legal to let a home with no restrictions or permits while the owners are on holiday.

In Spain, the government invitation to the regions to regulate holiday lets is based on a premise: the decision as to whether the property that’s a principal residence can be used as a holiday let.

One option is registration. Some regions, such as the Valencian Community and Aragon, have chosen to allow holiday lets, but they require the property to be registered. Catalonia also requires that the owners have a licence from their local council and Barcelona, for example, froze all new licence approvals last year.

Other regions leave little margin. The Canaries, for example, only allows holiday lets if the apartment is located outside the tourist areas. That means that the frontline beach is reserved for companies. The Balearics only allow private owners to let their home if it’s detached, and not part of a building with other neighbours.

Madrid’s course of action is, however, under appeal. The national Department of Competition (CNMV) appealed against Madrid’s decision to restrict tourist lettings to periods of five days or longer, which the CNMV suspects might be intended to give hotels an unfair advantage.

Spanish Property Insight adapts and translates selected articles from the local press for the benefit of non-Spanish speakers.

This translation is based on the following article (in Spanish): ¿Es legal alquilar la vivienda propia unos días a un viajero?



5 thoughts on “Are Holiday Rentals Legal In Spain?”

  1. Mennisdennis

    My understanding -as regards here in Tenerife at least- is that holiday or tourist rentals can only be done in licenced premises, and then only via the agent officially responsible for the block or whatever.
    Without the licence you can not rent out your property to tourists, other than long let.
    Furthermore properties on say a residential only community where the community have forbidden renting-out can not in any case be rented.

    It seems to spell the end completely if individual owners renting out and collecting cash themselves (whether they intend to declare the income or not).

    I believe there us also an approved system, however, for Rural short term basic kettings, when owners obtain a Rural licence.

    The Hotel lobby is very strong it seems, and economically I presume many people have for years been renting out their properties (friends and family, allegedly) and no doubt deciaring no income (and therefore paying no tax) in Spain or in their home countries .

    Ah well, at least the sun is shining.

  2. Roy Benahavis

    A ludicrous situation made even more complicated by the illogical Autonomous Region setup in Spain.

    The housing market, which is driven in most regions except Madrid, is inseperably coupled to the rental activity. Many ex pats are ready to invest in the property market here if they can at least rent out their properties as a source of income. With properties not increasing in value unlike elsewhere in Eutope thi makes investment sense.
    Having burdensome and complicated regultion in an over supplied property market is a real negative for owners and would be buyers. To use the threat of hotel customer intake falling is a pure red herring as these are two completely diffrent markets and people wanting self catering type accomodation; ofter with children, are not lookinh to stay in hotels.

    Do not misunderstand as in a structured market where there is no housing glut and a simple fair National system for rental income control it makes acceptable sense to have sound regulations. But this is not the case in Spain for the forseeable next 10 years or more so sombody needs to wake up before this and recent tax measures drive ex pats away and bring on anither property disaster here.


  3. Jean Howard

    In Majorca it is virtually impossible for expats to let out their apartments legally as holiday rentals. The fines if you are denounced by a disgruntled neighbour are huge – up to 30,000 euros. The authorities are also threatening to trawl through AirB&B, Owners Direct etc websites, to track down advertised properties, in order to prosecute. As a result it is also impossible to sell your property at anything like you paid for it. I wouldn’t advise anyone to buy here unless you have money to throw away.

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