British tourists face the nightmare of being turned away from rented holiday apartments in Spain this summer,” announced The Telegraph in August. It wasn’t the only UK newspaper to run the story, and undoubtedly it was echoed across many countries whose citizens choose Spain, and more specifically, Mallorca, as their preferred holiday destination.
After the new holiday rental legislation was approved on 18th July, commercial letting websites such as Airbnb and Homeaway, were given fifteen days to remove unlicensed apartments or face a fine of up to €400,000. Owners, fearing fines of €20-40,000 responded by cancelling bookings. Would-be clients were left fuming and since they were unaware of the reason for the cancellation, blamed the letting sites.
“@Airbnb Spain trip ruined because of your service. Host cancelled stay on 2 occasions in Barcelona and Mallorca,” tweeted a furious Deepanshu Rostagi, visiting from India.
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Other tourists were determined not to let the setback spoil their holiday.
“Booked a room in a XVI century old fabulous house in #Mallorca using an extra credit from @Airbnb after a #host #cancellation. Here I come!” tweeted avid biker, Laur Grozescu. He added that Airbnb was doing a great job answering queries on the social media platform.
For its part, Airbnb described the new legislation as “complex and confusing” and reminded the Balearic government that its activity had contributed €500 million to the Balearic economy.
While tourists searched for alternative temporary accommodation, apartment owners were left contemplating the long term affects of the legislation. Angel Rios, who had been renting out a bedroom in his flat in central Palma, told me he felt the new law demonised property owners, many of whom were just trying to pay off the mortgage or boost a low income. Rising rents had forced him to close his shop and he had turned to renting a room to tourists to overcome the financial crisis.
Elisa, owner of an apartment in Avenida Argentina, felt the legislation had less to do with helping residents and everything to do with pandering to the hotel lobby. “My clients eat and shop locally, the same way as clients of a hotel do,” she argued.
Those with apartments now must rely on having past clients’ phone numbers to promote their apartments since advertising on commercial websites is illegal. “We’ve returned to the 19th century,” Juanjo Mengual of the holiday rental forum, Foro Vaccional, announced on his podcast. In a discussion with property managers, they concluded that property owners who hadn’t collected contact details were going to have a difficult time in the future.
Rachel Surtees, who rented an apartment in Illetes via Airbnb last year, received a Whatsapp message from the owner to communicate the new rules. The message also included six possible properties currently for rent. Those who welcome the legislation would argue that this example of a single individual owning so many properties is at the root of the problem and hindering the possibility of residents finding affordable housing.
What is certain is that the proposed fines are not an empty threat. The first €8,000 fine was confirmed in Ibiza this August. The apartment for rent had been advertised online with a cleaning service. Even steeper is the fine Fabiano Silva faces in Barcelona, where similar legislation was approved. After renting his apartment out for a total of 15 days, he received a letter from the local council, announcing a €30,000 penalty. He is in contact with a lawyer, but so far the council has showed no sympathy. If you are planning to rent your apartment, take care to understand the rules!
More about Holiday Rentals
It’s a controversial topic. While owners feel demonised by the new letting laws, others feel it’s for the greater good. Find out more.
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