Regular legal-contributor Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt explains the new regulations governing holiday rentals just introduced in Andalusia. He gives us an overview of the Decree in force, the requirements landlords must meet, how to register your holiday rental in Andalucia and explains the steep sanctions for non-compliance.
By Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt
Lawyer – Abogado
8th of March 2016
Since 2013 I have highlighted the ongoing trend in all regions of Spain to pass legislation on private holiday rentals:
Anyone who has read my articles here will know I am not in favour of these tourist rental laws because they have not been drafted with consumer’s best interests in mind, but rather with those of the hotel industry that fought tooth and nail to regulate this sector, and thwart what they call “unfair competition”.
Spanish politicians, and particularly those in Andalusia, have taken a string of controversial decisions in the last few years in the face of an anemic post-crisis recovery (i.e. the infamous worldwide asset declaration requirement (Model 720), stringent regional Holiday Rental Laws in various Spanish regions, the empty home expropriation decree for ‘social reasons’, a disappointing ‘Golden Visa’ residency investor scheme, draconian anti-money laundering laws etc.). These laws are proving to be highly unpopular with expatriates to the point of driving many away. Unsurprisingly many town halls are reporting of late that foreign population has taken a sharp dip in their census over the last few years (for example, the Marina Alta region of Valencia has lost a third of its foreign population). Maybe some expats have chosen to live under the radar to avoid complying with Tax Model 720 worldwide asset declaration, others have simply had enough and packed their things and gone back to their home country.
If Spain had truly a modern diversified economy these unpopular laws wouldn’t be such a big deal after all, and we could shrug it off. But the sad fact is that Spain’s GDP is unhealthily over-reliant on the Tourism and Construction sectors (over 20%), and this fact, coupled with huge unemployment levels that reach alarming all-time highs in Andalusia, make for a bleak picture. Perhaps regional politicians would do well to ponder carefully on the far-reaching consequences of decisions taken on the hoof. In my humble opinion there are many countries out there that are doing a sterling job at attracting foreign investments by adopting superb fiscal measures (chiefly Portugal). Spain should take a good hard look at itself and abandon its self-complacent attitude and start embracing competitive measures that would renew the market’s interest (especially amongst British, traditionally our largest market by far). Spain has all the makings to become the hotspot; all it requires is competent down-to-earth politicians passing tax-friendly laws that attract foreign investments. Is this too much to hope for?
In February 2016, after a long struggle, Andalusia finally passed its own regional holiday rental law in the wake of much upheaval. This article serves as a gentle reminder on this new law to all those landlords who are currently letting out property in the region of Andalusia or intend to in the near future. I strongly advise to heed the guidance I provide below and not to ignore this new piece of legislation. The fines for non-compliance are very steep (ranging from £1,500 to £115,000).
Anyone who thinks the Junta de Andalucía will not hound infractors and fine them harshly is deluding himself. The whole purpose of this legislation was geared from the outstart towards sanctioning offenders as those behind it had an axe to grind. Moreover in other parts of Spain town halls are already levying substantial amounts on the back of similar new laws. They are using new technology (‘web crawlers’) that methodically and relentlessly trawl internet to come up with non-regulated rentals that are advertised over the web. Authorities cross-reference this information against their public records and unregistered properties are brought to light as a result. Not to mention that at a time where Administration’s coffers are bereft post-crisis this represents a golden opportunity to hunt, apologies, I meant raise taxes and prop up politicians’ dwindling coffers (because gold statues and palaces don’t pay for themselves you know). God bless them all.
A positive side effect of this law will be to bring into the open all the undeclared tourist rentals. So if after reading my article you become a law-abiding citizen registering your properties to rent them out as tourist accommodations make sure you are filing and paying your Non-Resident Taxes in Spain as well! It would be a faux pas to register them and not declare and pay tax on your rental income in Spain. EDIT 11th April: newspaper article from El País: Taxman turns attention to hidden internet property rentals.
Let this article act as a stern warning to all landlords in Andalusia: The Taxman Cometh!
Andalusia’s Holiday Rental Decree
Andalusia approved on the 3rd of February this new decree which had sparked much controversy and debate. The final version has dropped some of the more contentious points but still retains many which are highly questionable in my humble opinion. Andalusia’s Holiday Rental Law was officially published in the BOJA on the 11th of February. Link to the new law:
The official name is Decree 28/2016, of 2nd of February of Tourist Holiday Rentals (viviendas con fines turísticos). The best way to go around it is simply analysing point by point what it establishes.
Obligation to Register your Property: as from the 11th of May 2016
In compliance with this Decree, and with Law 13/2011, of Tourism in Andalusia, landlords may register as from the 11th of May 2016 onwards, day on which this new Decree will come into force. Mr. Rafael Salas Gallego, Malaga’s Tourism Director, has confirmed the registry will not be operative before the 11th of May. So landlords now have a three-month deadline to gather all their paperwork and may start registering themselves as from the 11th of May onwards before Andalusia’s Tourist Registry (or ATR going forward). The Junta de Andalucía has promised public awareness campaigns to clarify on this new law.
You can download and fill in the form supplied by the ATR called ‘Declaración Responsable’ and hand it over at one of the ‘Delegaciones Territoriales de Turismo‘ once completed. Registration is free unlike in other regions of Spain.
If your command of Spanish is low, you can hire a lawyer to do this on your behalf in exchange of a reasonable fee.
The following properties are excluded from being regulated by this decree:
• Properties which are lent to friends or family without an exchange of money (free).
• Properties that are let to the same individual for a continuous period of time exceeding two months. In which case it will be regarded as a standard rental agreement subject to Spain’s Tenancy Act. More details in my in-depth article: Spain’s Tenancy Act (LAU).
• Rural properties, located in what is legally classified as rural land, are expressly excluded as they are subject to their own legislation: Decree 20/2002. I have covered this in an in-depth article: Andalusia’s Holiday Rural Rentals.
• Landlords, or property management companies, that own or rent three or more properties, personally or through corporate structures, each located within a radius of 1 km from the reception office in the same unit (i.e. building, urbanization, condominium) will be excluded from this new decree (this is very bad news). They will be subject to the much harsher Decree 194/2010 (Apartamentos Turísticos) which basically equates these properties to a hotel. This has very serious restrictions on use i.e. landlords cannot use the property themselves for more than two months a year, they must cede the management of the units to a professional company for a minimum period of ten years etc.
Definition of Holiday Rental – What Properties are Included
The decree is rather vague on this point. Any property that complies with the following points will fall under the remit of this new regulation:
• The property is located in land classified as ‘residential’ (in other words, rural and tertiary land are excluded as they are each subject to their own legislation on rentals).
• The property is rented out to tourists regularly on a short-term basis (days, weeks, months).
• Reservation system is enabled. Reservations can be made.
• The property will be regarded to be rented out touristically when the landlord advertises it using specialized media. By specialized media it is understood companies who intermediate between landlord and tenant in exchange of a commission such as: travel agencies, real estate agencies, holiday rental websites (i.e. Airbnb, HomeAway, Tripping, Tripadvisor, Flipkey, VRBO etc.).
Examples of Private Holiday Rentals
All the following landlords fall under the remit of this new law and must comply with its terms or face hefty fines.
1. Mr. Raistlin Majere, and loving wife Claire, own a duplex in a beachside urbanization in Estepona and rent their property out three months a year advertising through HomeAway and similar niche websites.
2. Mr. Aedan Cousland owns a luxury villa in Benahavis, Marbella, which he rents out to affluent Arabs only during the summer season for a substantial return. He advertises only through upscale real estate agencies.
3. Mrs. Morrigan Flemeth and husband Alistair own and live in a Guest House in Fuengirola renting out rooms to tourists all year round. They advertise over internet.
4. Mr. Loghain McTir, UK resident, owns and rents three high-end properties through a management agency. Two of the properties are located frontline in Puerto Banús and the third one in the prestigious Sierra Blanca estate.
Properties can be let as a whole or else by rooms (like in a Guest House).
If it’s the whole property that is being rented out, no more than 15 lodgers will be allowed simultaneously at any time (think of a large villa).
If the property is being rented out by rooms, it is mandatory the landlord lives in the property himself. No more than 6 vacancies can be offered and each individual room cannot exceed four lodgers.
Some requirements from the draft decree have been dropped i.e. wi-fi; which is now a moot point as it is no longer required.
• The property must have attained what is known as a Licence of First Occupation (LFO, for short). It is also known in some parts of Spain as First Occupancy Licence, Habitation Certificate, Habitation Licence, Licencia de Primera Ocupación, Cédula de Primera Habitabilidad, Cédula de Habitabilidad or Cédula de Ocupación. A LFO is a licence issued by the town hall (ayuntamiento) once the building works have been completed, which allows the purchaser to dwell in the property legally. The property developer is responsible for applying for this licence, once the Certificate of End of Construction has been issued. It ensures the property is above board complying with all planning, health & safety and disabled access laws both at a national and regional level. It is also very important as it is required by utility companies to supply the property with water, electricity, gas and telephone connection.
• Rooms must be ventilated and have blinds or shutters to obscure them when necessary.
• Rooms will have the appropriate furniture required for use by lodgers and in proportion to the number of lodgers per room.
• Air conditioning unit affixed in every bedroom including living room (as a fixed fixture, not as a portable device unit) when the property is offered between the months of May and September (inclusive). Landlords will be given one year to adapt the rooms to this requirement as from the time this law is passed (11th of May 2017).
• When properties are let during the winter season (October through to April, inclusive) a heater must be made available in every bedroom including living room (as a fixed fixture, not as a portable device). Landlords will be given one year to adapt the rooms to this requirement as from the time this law is passed (11th of May 2017).
• First aid kit.
• Landlord must provide physical or electronic brochures of the closest amenities, medical treatment facilities, parking spaces, restaurants, shopping centres as well as plans that detail use of urban transport, map of the surrounding area and general tourist guides.
• A complaints book will be made available as well as installing a large visible sign informing lodgers that a complaint book is available. Sample complaints form click here.
• Mandatory cleaning service at the start and end of every new accomodation.
• Clean sheets and bed linen as well as supplying a spare set.
• Provide lodgers with a working contact phone number of person to be held accountable for any complaint or query raised so the situation is addressed immediately.
• Provide instruction booklets to use household and kitchen appliances.
• Inform lodgers on property use restrictions (such as no smoking areas or pet restrictions) as well as on Community of Owners internal bylaws.
Holiday Rental Agreement & Registration Form
i. Holiday Rental Agreement
• It will have the details of the landlord, including a working telephone number as outlined in the previous section above to address complaints, the property’s unique alphanumeric code on being registered at the Junta de Andalucia, the reservation dates (arrival and departure dates), numbers of lodgers and total price of the holiday rental.
• If the agreement does not specify it, it is presumed the rental starts at 16.00 and ends at 12.00pm.
• The landlord, or person designated by him, will show the lodgers around explaining how the kitchen and household appliances work as well as providing them with security cards and access codes to the premises. If the tourist accommodation is included in what is known as a Community of Owners, the landlord must supply his guest a copy of the internal bylaws ruling the community so he adheres to them during his lodging.
• A copy of the signed Holiday Rental Agreement will be stored by the landlord for up to one year to provide it for inspection by the relevant Authorities.
ii. Registration Form
• All lodgers, not just the one making the reservation, will be fully identified in compliance with current Security laws (popularly dubbed as ‘Gag’ Law). Lodgers will supply a copy of their personal ID/passport. Like in hotels, all guests will be required to fill in and sign a registration form on entry. In compliance with art 7.2 this registration form must be then sent to the Police or Guardia Civil for every guest over the age of 16 years old within the next 24 hours of the accommodation following Security Laws from 2003 (Orden INT/1922/2003, de 3 de julio, sobre libros-registro) and from 2015. You can send a copy of the filled in and signed registration form personally, by fax or else by e-mail. Registration forms are standardized by law; click here for a sample copy.
• Online registration: follow this link to submit by e-mail to the Guardia Civil a copy of your completed Registration Form. Alternatively you can also use this other link (scroll down for the links).
• Registration forms must be stored by landlords for a period of up to three years for the inspection of the Security Forces.
Price and Reservation
• Price offered will be per night and all-inclusive. This means it must include all the following: utility consumption (water, electricity, heating, A/C), cleaning of (bed)room at the start and end of every new lodging, clean bed linen, taxes. The bill will give a detailed breakdown of all expenses including any extras requested by the guest (like in hotels).
• It is compulsory for a landlord, or person designated by him, to hand invoices to a guest for every payment made including the initial reservation fee (even if it is just for one night’s accommodation).
Following article 8.2, and for the avoidance of doubt, landlords can decide freely upon the rental terms on the following points (so long as the tenant agrees): price, bookings, reservation deposit and cancellations.
If a landlord does NOT word these terms in a short-term tenancy agreement then by default the following rules will apply:
• Unless agreed otherwise, the maximum reservation fee is 30% of the total price.
• If cancellation of the reserve is done over ten days in advance the landlord can pocket 50% of the reservation fee in compensation.
• If the cancellation is done under 10 days then the landlord is entitled to pocket the full amount of the reservation fee.
• If it’s the landlord that cancels he may do so without penalty over ten days in advance.
• If the landlord cancels under ten days he must pay a compensation to his guest of 30% of the final agreed total price.
• If the cancellation is due to a force majeure, then both landlord and guest are exempt of awarding compensation. Examples of such admitted by law courts are flash floods, earthquakes, strong winds, general strikes.
How to register your holiday rental in Andalucia – Inscription before Andalusia’s Tourism Registry (ATR)
All landlords that wish to rent out their properties in Andalusia must register their property before the ATR.
You can self-register here (as from the 11th of May 2.016 onwards):
Download, print and fill in the form supplied by the ATR called ‘Declaración Responsable para el acceso o ejercicio de la actividad‘; specifically the annex on page 7. Once done, hand it over physically at one of the ‘Delegaciones Territoriales de Turismo‘ in the region where your property is located. It can also be completed online if you have a digital certificate enabled. Unlike in other regions of Spain registration is free in Andalusia. You can find a translated version of the form in English here.
You will need to supply the following details:
• Property details, cadastral reference, number of potential guests according to its Licence of First Occupation.
• Landlord’s personal details and an address for official notifications.
• Details of management agency or designated person if landlord appoints someone to act on his behalf. Any change in details must be communicated so the ATR remains accurate at all times.
• Details of this inscription will be passed on to the local town hall.
• Once the property is duly registered before the ATR each dwelling will be assigned a unique alphanumeric code which – by law – must appear in all publicity offering the property to let (art. 9.4) i.e. internet webs, estate agency brochures, glossy magazine rental advertisements etc.
You will then be assigned a unique alphanumeric code i.e. VFT/MA/00001.
It goes without saying that any property let in Andalusia that does not sport said unique ATR code will be easy to spot and may result in heavy fines.
Fines and Sanctions
They are divided into three categories:
a.- Light offence. Can be either a written warning or a sanction with fines up to €2,000.
b.- Serious offence. Sanctioned with fines ranging from €2,001 up to €18,000. The premises may be shut down temporarily at the authority’s discretion (for periods less than 6 months), the rental licence may be revoked temporarily.
c.- Very serious offence. Sanctioned with fines ranging from €18,001 up to €150,000. The premises may be shut down temporarily at the authority’s discretion (for periods spanning between 6 months to 3 years), the rental licence may be revoked indefinitely.
If the landlord is sanctioned two or more times for very serious offences within a three-year period, the property will be struck off the ATR indefinitely.
Statutory Limitation of Sanctions
• Light offences: six months.
• Serious offences: one year.
• Very serious offences: two years.
The statutory limitation starts as from the time the sanction is imposed by the Administration. The time can be interrupted by the initiation of legal proceedings. If the administrative procedure is paralyzed for more than one month for reasons unrelated to the offender, the statutory limitation will be renewed once again (eventually time-barring the sanction).
If the Authorities catch you red-handed renting out a non-declared property (that is not registered at the ATR) this will be regarded as a serious offence attracting fines ranging from £1,500 up to £14,000.
If you own property in the region of Andalusia and plan to rent it out as a tourist accommodation make sure your property is first registered before the ATR. Do not chance it thinking they won’t catch you as one of the requirements to advertise rentals is to publish the unique alphanumeric code supplied by the ATR in all advertisements (article 9.4). Any offering made going forward that lacks said ATR code and you will be done for. Let alone the unbridled use of web crawlers to hound non-compliers which is proving most effective.
Bottom line, always be on the right side of the law. Hire a lawyer to ensure your property is registered to let and fully compliant with all the minutiae. Ensure you acquire all the gadgets the Andalusian law requires for each room listed above (A/C units, first aid kits etc) to avoid sizeable fines. And to close, do not forget to declare and pay tax in Spain on your rental income (you can read my article Non-Resident Taxes in Spain for more information on your tax liabilities as landlord).
“Politics: the art of creating new problems where none existed.”
Renting in Spain: Top Ten Mistakes – 8th of June 2011
Let-to-Buy in Spain: The Smart Choice – 8th of April 2012
Letting in Spain: The Safe Way – 10th of October 2012
New Measures to Bolster Spain’s Ailing Rental Market – 8th of July 2013
Tenant Eviction in Spain – 8th of June 2014
Holiday Rental Laws in Spain – 8th of March 2015
House Hunting in Spain – The New York Times. June 2015
Resurgent Spain: Málaga Sees Strong Sales – Mansion Global (The Wall Street Journal). December 2015
Andalusia: Decree 20/2002. Holiday Rural Rentals Law – 8th of April 2016
Spain’s Tenancy Act (LAU) – 8th May 2016
Please note the information provided in this article is of general interest only and is not to be construed or intended as substitute for professional legal advice. This article may be posted freely in websites or other social media so long as the author is duly credited. Plagiarizing, whether in whole or in part, this article without crediting the author may result in criminal prosecution. No delusional politician was harmed on writing this article. VOV.
2016 © Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt. All rights reserved.
THE VIEWS EXPRESSED ARE THE AUTHOR’S ALONE