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Private holiday rentals could be restricted across Spain under a new law being debated in parliament seen as favouring the hotel industry.
Alarmed at the number of tourists now choosing to rent accommodation privately instead of through hotels and registered tour companies, Spain’s parliament is poised to pass a new law that will restrict the right of home owners to engage in holiday-lettings.
The new legislation has been called a “death blow” to a growing sector that contributes hugely to Spain’s economy and provides many hard-up families with a lifeline at a time of economic hardship.
The move means it will be illegal to rent out property through websites unless it has the correct licence and has been approved by regional tourism authorities.
“This is an attack on civil liberties, limiting the use of private property and the freedom of tourists to choose how they want to spend their holidays,” warned Asotur, the tourist rental management association in Madrid.
Until now Spanish law has enshrined the right of private home owners to rent their property to tourists on a “short-term” seasonal basis as long as they declare revenue.
The provision enshrined in the existing law will be removed however and responsibility will be devolved to Spain’s 17 regional governments, some of which will require licences to be sought by those wanting to rent to tourists.
It will mean home owners will have to ensure their properties conform to the same regulations already imposed on hotels and campsites and provide a minimum standard of quality as well as meet health and safety requirements.
“The passing of this law could deal a death blow to a growing sector that contributes enormously to the economy,” says David Tornos, president of Asotur.
It has been welcomed by hoteliers who have long felt private renters pose unfair competition in the sector.
“Of course tourists are welcome to come and stay in holiday apartments,” said Ramon Estalella, secretary general of the Spanish Confederation of Hotels and Tourist Acommodation (CEHAT). “But what we object to is the huge number staying at places that fall outside regulations and fiscal obligations to the detriment of the regional economy as a whole.”
The move is also widely seen as an attempt to limit the black market in tourist rentals making it easier for authorities to detect tax evaders.
Spain’s Finance Ministry estimated that undeclared revenue from rentals of private homes amounted to some 2.9 billion euros (£2.44 billion) in 2010, a significant proportion of which came from holiday lets.
With more than 6.2 million unemployed in Spain, many families survive by letting out one room of their house to tourists or move in with relatives for short periods during high-season to make extra cash.
According to a recent report by La Caixa, 2012 saw some 1.1 billion overnight stays by tourists in Spain with more than two-thirds estimated to have taken place in unregistered accommodation.
In Catalonia alone there are an estimated one million beds in unregulated accommodation compared to some 600,000 in registered tourist establishments.
One homeowner in Barcelona said she feared the new law would put an end to a business that has kept her afloat after losing her job three years ago.
“I could have rented out a room in my flat in order to meet mortgage repayments but instead I decided to move in with my mother and offer my entire flat for short term stays,” said Mireia who advertises on a number of websites aimed at foreign tourists.
“But with the new law I don’t think I could get the licence because my flat is in an old building and won’t meet the regulations so it will be illegal and I’ll have to stop.”