Seasonal lets: an alternative to holiday rentals

Here I explain how seasonal lets in Spain can be a viable alternative to Spanish holiday home rentals in some instances.

Photo: Cala Llombards, Majorca, Spain.

By Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt
Lawyer and Director of Larraín Nesbitt Lawyers
8th of October 2017

Introduction

Are you fed up with the intrusive and obnoxious new regulations on private holiday home rentals in Spain? *cough* Balearics *cough*

Did you know that, at times, landlords can circumvent these restrictive regional regulations offering their properties as seasonal lets instead? I.e. no need for pesky rental licences. Were you aware that thousands of properties all over Spain are rented out legally every year as seasonal lets to tourists without much of a hindrance?

Interested? Read on.

Definitions, definitions

  • Holiday-home rental: short-term contract that spans between a day and a month (varies between regions in Spain). Accommodations are offered through touristic channels (see further below) such as online property portals with an online booking system.
  • Seasonal let: is a type of contract whereby a landlord rents a property not as a permanent abode. It can be either short-term (days, weeks) or long-term (months, years). Seasonal long-term lets are NOT subject to the raft of tenant entitlements set out by Spain’s Tenancy Act (which only apply to rentals that constitute a permanent abode) and most certainly do NOT require a rental licence.

Comparison: Holiday Home Rentals vs. Seasonal Lets

Private holiday home rentals

 

Seasonal let

 

Applicable lawregional holiday home regulationSpain’s Tenancy Act (LAU)
Rental registration requiredyesno
Rental licence required?yes, in some regions i.e. Balearic Islandsno
Urban propertyyesyes
Rural propertynoyes
Commercialization (offer)touristic channelsforbidden to use touristic channels
Online booking systemyesno
Accommodation timeless than 2 months (varies between regions)no time limit (days, years)
Can you rent out individual rooms?yesyes
Guest number limitationyesno
Accommodation mandatory requirementsyes i.e. cleaning service, A/Cno
Place of permanent abodenono
Tenant entitlementsnono
Rental depositvariestwo-month rental
VATusually exempt*exempt
Subject to regional property inspectionsyesno
Fines (non-compliance)humongous. Varies significantly between regions.no
Civil liability insurance required?yes, in some regionsno
Forbidden to rent out yes, in some regionsno restrictions
Enforcedlocally (with regional variations)nationwide
Licence of First Occupation required?yesyes
Rental tax relief available?yesyes
Tax on rental income to be declared and paid in Spain?yesyes

 

Advantages of a seasonal let

  • No registration necessary: registration of the property for rental purposes is not required.
  • No rental licence required: you do not need to attain a rental licence from the Authorities.
  • No expensive improvements: you don’t need to install in your property WIFI, A/C, hire insurance to comply with the law.
  • No property inspections: your property will not be subject of inspections by the regional Authorities.
  • No fines: unlike holiday homes, seasonal lets are not liable to be fined by inspectors.
  • No time restriction: unlike holiday homes, you can rent out for more than 2 months. You have the flexibility to rent out either short or long term.
  • No intermediaries necessary: you will not be paying any commissions.

 

Disadvantages of a seasonal let

  • You need to build up your own client base: if you are reliant on third parties to provide you with clients (as most landlords are), you cannot benefit from a seasonal let.

 

* With or without VAT?

In principle, as a general rule, VAT is not applied to holiday rental homes. However, if you offer any of the following services below your rental may be regarded as assimilated to offering hotel accommodation in which case you need to invoice everything with VAT which impacts the profit margin of the business increasing its costs:

  • Concierge service.
  • Daily changing of bed linen.
  • Daily changing of bath towels.
  • Daily cleaning of property/room.
  • Room service (food and beverage), catering.
  • Bed & Breakfast.
  • Other ancillary hotel services such as: daily press, laundry cleaning, luggage storage service, accommodation booking (holiday reservation).
  • Other.

What is understood by ‘Touristic Channels’?

It is a bit of a grey area to be honest and may vary from one region to the next. Almost every region in Spain has approved specific regulation on what is understood by private holiday rental homes. Regulations vary from one region to another; you are strongly advised to seek legal expertise on your particular region. More details in my article Holiday Rental Laws in Spain for a full region-by-region list of approved holiday home rentals. Offering a property through a touristic channel automatically tags it as a holiday home subject to strict regional laws.

As a generalization, if a property is offered with any or all the following points it is regarded as being advertised through a touristic channel:

  • It is marketed and offered by intermediaries. It is understood as companies or professionals who mediate between landlord and tenant in exchange of a commission such as: travel agencies, real estate agencies, online property portals (i.e. Airbnb, HomeAway, Tripping, Tripadvisor, Flipkey, VRBO etc.).
  • Online reservation system enabled. Bookings can be viewed and made over internet.

Does this article mean that landlords have carte blanche to simply sidestep stern regional holiday regulation at their whim using seasonal lets instead?

No. It takes a case-by-case approach. Not everyone will qualify for a seasonal let e.g. landlords who market their properties through touristic channels.

Talk to a lawyer, we can confirm if you can benefit from it and draft a contract for you.

Do I need to declare and pay tax on my rental income in Spain in both cases?

Yes.

We have a competitive taxation service that deals with holiday home rentals accounting service (HRAS).

On average, we are able to reduce a landlord’s rental income tax by 30 to 40% using tax relief (also available to non-residents). Ask us.

Conclusion

Most landlords wrongly assume they must rent out their Spanish property to tourists in compliance with all the new batch of regional rental laws featured in the press – which is simply untrue.

For decades, landlords all over Spain have been letting their properties out to tourists using seasonal lets without a problem. Seasonal lets at times are by far a superior option than renting out a property as a holiday home. In some regions in Spain the requirements of the new rental laws are so overzealous (read daft) that you are expected to offer a private home on par with the services offered by a four-star hotel. Seasonal lets cut through the red tape and may save landlords thousands of euros on the long run.

Not all landlords are required to offer their properties as holiday home rentals and comply with the cumbersome (and often expensive) new regional rental regulation. In some instances, landlords would be far better off to simply offer their properties as seasonal lets which do not have associated restrictive requirements i.e. you don’t need to install A/C in every room (Andalusia), you don’t need to attain a rental licence (Balearic Islands), you do not need to hire an insurance cover etc.

Seasonal lets exist since 1994 and you never hear landlords complaining over them – that should tell you something.

On the other hand, regional holiday home laws are fairly new (post 2013) and you hear most landlords moaning bitterly on them; or worse, not being allowed to rent out because they do not meet the stringent requirements set out in these laws!

You may be surprised to learn you can opt for a seasonal let instead saving yourself considerable time, money and hassle. You could avoid home inspections and steep fines altogether!

In some cases, even landlords who are forbidden to rent out their properties under the current regional holiday home regulation may be stunned to find out they can in fact rent them out as a seasonal let without much of a problem!

Don’t be goaded into using new rental contract types that only exist for the benefit of powerful hotel lobby groups. Be smart and make it easy on yourself – speak to professionals!

Be proactive, talk to a lawyer. We can make it happen.

Hecha la ley, hecha la trampa.” – Spanish saying.

Loosely translated as “for every law, there is a loophole.”

Larraín Nesbitt Lawyers is a law firm specialized in conveyancing, taxation, litigation and inheritance. We will be very pleased to discuss your matter with you. Please contact us for a free initial consultation. You can contact us by e-mail at info@larrainnesbittabogados.com, by telephone on 951 894 675 or by completing our contact form.

Article also published at Larrain Nesbitt Lawyers: Seasonal lets: an alternative to holiday rentals.

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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. VOV.

2.017 © Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt. All rights reserved.

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About Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt

After completing his dual law degree in Madrid (ICADE) in 2003 Raymundo went on to work for prestigious Spanish and English law firms in Spain before moving to the UK for several years to work for a British multinational. He is a prolific writer of legal & financial articles in English, with well over 140 articles published and widely used in the Spanish real estate sector. Raymundo now runs his own law practice in Marbella, where he advises local and foreign clients on all legal matters with a focus on conveyancing and non-resident taxation. He is regularly quoted by the international press as a reliable source in his field of expertise.

2 thoughts on “Seasonal lets: an alternative to holiday rentals”

  1. Jockdownsouth

    Great article – thanks Raymundo.
    Reading it in conjunction with your previous article on the New Balearics Holiday Rental Law I have some questions which I hope you don’t mind answering.
    1. This is probably very obvious but “just in case” – Can I assume that it’s perfectly legal to use seasonal lets in Majorca despite the recent Balearic legislation? Your article clearly states “in some instances”.
    2. You state that for a seasonal let there is “no time limit (days, years)”, so presumably the typical holiday rental periods of one or two weeks are OK. I had previously been led to believe that seasonal lets had to be for a minimum of 30 days. Is this just a misunderstanding or is it based on a different interpretation of the law?
    3. For apartment owners like ourselves who have built up a client list over many years and for whom advertising is therefore less essential this seems an ideal solution for the 2018 letting season, pending the issue of holiday letting licences (we hope!). To ensure no breach of Balearics Holiday Rental Law a formal rental agreement is presumably required. Can you provide this at a reasonable cost? Presumably it’s all done online; we are resident in the UK and won’t be back in Majorca till the spring.

    1. Raymundo Larraín Nesbitt Post Author

      Hello Jockdownsouth,

      Thank you for your kind words. Addressing your queries:

      1. Yes.
      2. Yes. I think you are confusing it with holiday rentals which in the region of Balearics are currently capped at 30 days (to the same guest). Other regions in Spain have different time-limits. However, seasonal lets are NOT constrained by time restrictions; they can be for days, weeks, months or years. You will be spoilt for choice!
      3. If you have build up your own client base over the years I find it is indeed the ideal solution. However, if you rely on third parties (property portals, estate agents etc) to provide you with leads and clients, as most landlords do, seasonal lets are not suitable for you. A holiday rental licence is unrequired if you follow a seasonal let. They are both mutually exclusive, it is one or the other.

      Yes, a formal tenancy agreement is required. Our law firm offers the following legal service: Rentals. You will be hard pressed to find a more competitively-priced legal service elsewhere in fluent English. Yes, everything is arranged on-line.

      http://www.larrainnesbittabogados.com/service.php?id=3

      I hope all your queries have been answered.

      Regards
      Raymond

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