Barcelona city inspectors swept the beachfront neighborhood of Barceloneta this week searching for illegal short-term rentals, in the escalating effort to crack down on unregistered tourist apartments.
A total of 154 apartments were inspected in the review, resulting in the closure of 24 apartments, according to published reports.
The inspections represent the latest escalation of an on-going effort to regulate the city’s short term rentals. The number of apartments registered as short-term rentals has more than tripled in recent years, but many more are operating outside the system.
In the wake of neighborhood complaints and lobbying from the hotel industry, the Barcelona city government earlier this year imposed a ban on new licenses, while it developed tougher regulations. A few months later Catalonia fined Web site Airbnb for advertising unregistered apartments for rent.
In recent weeks, Barceloneta, the often rowdy beachfront neighborhood, has turned into something of an epicenter for complaints against short-term rentals. Several protests have been organized, based on residents’ complaints about rowdy and drunken behavior.
Apartment owners argue the complaints are inflated and the crackdown has been orchestrated by hotel owners, who fear new competition.
The city has received 109 formal complaints about rentals in Barceloneta so far this year, including 50 in August, compared to 54 written complaints in 2013, El Mundo reports.
Barcelona’s mayor is vowing to continue to target the short-term rentals
“We’re going to make things tough for people who cheat with apartments,” Barcelona mayor Xavier Trias told a local radio station. Another 33 apartments have already been identified as illegal, he said.