Major Spanish cities and resorts have declared war on short-term rental sites such as Airbnb and Homeaway, claiming they are encourage the black economy as well as creating problems in residential areas.
Leading the way is Barcelona, which receives nearly 9 million visitors per year, and has struggled to cope with the sharp increase in its number in recent years.
A month ago, Barcelona City Hall introduced a series of € 1.3 million measures to crack down on landlords who rent apartments using sites like Airbnb, but without a license. Authorities set up a website and called on residents to report illegally rented apartments. So far, some 500 complaints have been filed.
The website also invites people staying in the apartments they have rented to check if it is allowed. Gala Pin, a city councilor in Barcelona’s central Ciutat Vella neighborhood, who has been particularly affected by private vacation rental, says it can take up to six months and a year to take action to prevent people from rent apartments without a license.
In Madrid, the city hall tried to pass legislation requiring a minimum stay of five nights in private apartments
In 2014, the regional government of Catalonia Airbnb fined, whose Spanish headquarters are in the city, as well as seven other sites offering similar services. The regional government has threatened to block access to sites like Catalonia’s Airbnb if they break its rules.
Part of the problem in dealing with unlicensed rentals is that there is no comprehensive national legislation: in 2013, the government delegated the decision to regional administrations, allowing landlords to take advantage of many loopholes and avoid to apply for a license.
In the Balearic Islands, for example, it is forbidden to rent apartments to tourists, but not houses. In the Canaries, only apartments located in non-tourist areas can be rented. In Andalusia, any type of property can be rented, but only if the owner lives there. In Catalonia, which has the strictest restrictions, owners must apply for a permit and provide papers proving the apartment is insured and habitable.
In Madrid, the city hall tried to pass legislation requiring a minimum stay of five nights in private apartments.
Spain may decide to follow the lead of cities like London, where the new mayor has said tighter security requirements will be introduced. In New York City, landlords who break the 30-day minimum stay rules and do not live in the property they rent are fined. In Iceland, Airbnb transactions are taxed by the government.
At the same time, Spanish tax agency Now increasingly targeting apartment owners who placed rental ads last year – including those on specialist websites such as Airbnb – as part of a crackdown on unreported income.