Spain’s holiday rental regulation mess

Rental flat in Barcelona's Raval district
Holiday rental flat in Barcelona

A recent article in the Spanish daily El Pais described the mess of regional laws covering holiday rentals in Spain.

“Things are moving in the regulation of holiday rentals, but it’s not clear yet in which direction,” writes Laura Delle Femmine in ‘The agony of renting your home to tourists’ (El calvario de alquilar la propia vivienda a los turistas) published in El Pais.

Chaos set in when the national Government in Madrid decided to devolve regulatory powers over tourist lettings to regional governments, partly in response to the success of home sharing and property rental platforms like Airbnb. Since then we have seen an avalanche of “disparate and fragmented” local laws that are constantly changing, leaving many people confused. There’s now a struggle between those who want to deregulate the market, and those who think the answer is more regulation.

Pointing out that 641,332 tourists stayed in rented accommodation in May alone, Delle Femmine explains that hoteliers consider holiday rentals as “unfair competition” now the internet has made them so popular. Hotel lobbies around Spain put pressure on lawmakers to strangle the business with regulations.

They have succeed particularly well in the Balearics, where the hotel lobby has a lout of clout. You can’t legally rent out an apartment to tourists in the Balearics without a licence, and licences haven’t been granted for years, leaving only villas and semi-detached homes with any chance of getting a tourist rental licence today. As the article points out, that means the vast majority of holiday rentals in the Balearics are illegal.

Delle Femmine gives us some examples of the most over-the-top regulations from different regions:

  • Fixed aircon units in Andalusia if you want to rent between May and September, and heating for rentals between October and April.
  • Solid-frame coat hangers, a hairdryer in the bathroom, and an iron and ironing board in the Canaries.
  • A wifi connection in Madrid
  • Minimum room sizes in Aragon
  • Owning a minimum of two tourist rental properties in the Basque Country
  • A ban on renting to tourists in tourist areas in the Canaries (currently being reviewed for legality by the competition authority)

There is a good argument for sensible holiday rental regulations, in particular to protect local residents from troublesome holiday-makers. The problem in Spain is a mess of poorly-drafted regional regulations that are widely ignored, leave many confused, and do nothing to help tourists or the economy.

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