Let’s admit it, tourism in Barcelona is an unresolved issue.
Barcelona is a small city of just over 1.6 million inhabitants, but it’s one of the world’s top tourist destinations, receiving more than 12 million tourists every year, and on top of that they are all concentrated in a small area of the city.
If you’ve ever been to Las Ramblas, Sagrada Família or Park Güell, you know what I’m talking about. There’re too many tourists there.
Everybody knows that tourism is an important source of income, but it also has a negative impact.
That’s why Barcelona residents started to demand that this issue should be controlled, and therefore the city council took controversial actions to reduce the number of visitors to the city.
But first, let’s have a look at the history.
In 2007, two friends who shared a flat in San Francisco were struggling to pay the rent, so to get some cash they decided to put an air mattress in an empty room to accommodate visitors to the city. That idea would become a few years later a company called Airbnb.
Many of Barcelona’s homeowners saw that renting to tourists was more lucrative than a normal rental, and allocated large amounts of housing solely for tourist rentals, trying to maximize profit without providing any quality, cramming dozens of low-quality tourists into flats, which caused a lot of disturbance to neighbours.
And I know what you are thinking, what does “poor quality tourists” mean? Well, this is what we mean: tourists, usually young people, who travel somewhere in a group to have fun at night, and above all get drunk and loud.
Let’s be honest, we have all been low-quality tourists at one time or another.
This kind of tourism became a nuisance to the neighbours, so soon these neighbours demonstrated and demanded regulation.
At the same time, rent prices started to rise in Barcelona, and all over the world. Yo Many blamed Airbnb, saying that since so many houses were being used for tourist rentals, it caused a reduction in the supply of housing available for permanent living, hence this increased the price in rental prices.
Initially, the Barcelona city council demanded that to rent a property in Barcelona daily, a special licence was required. Up to 5,000 licences were granted in a short time.
In April 2014, the city council of Barcelona, by surprise, completely suspended the granting of new tourist licences. Since then, it has been practically impossible to obtain a new licence in the most central areas of the city.
The city council drew up a plan in which it defined 3 major areas:
The first area is of “tourist decrease”, which includes the main tourist zones. Here not only new licences not granted, but every licence that is lost, won’t be renewed.
Then there’s a second “maintenance area”, in which a licence is only granted if another licence has previously been cancelled within that area.
And finally, there is a “growth area”, which affects the more peripheral areas, where new licences are granted. Of course, in these areas, tourists are not much interested in staying.
Not only that, but a campaign was launched to detect flats that were being rented to tourists without a licence.
For example, they sent a letter to all the houses in Barcelona, asking neighbours to report if they suspected that someone was renting their house without a licence. And if they caught someone renting out their home without a licence, they were fined €6,000.
So if you own a property in Barcelona, don’t even think about renting it for less than a month. It is considered a vacation rental without a license. The council has a team of inspectors working full-time to detect this, and residents are aware to report offenders.
The decision of not to grant any more licences hurt many people who made a living from tourist rentals.
But on the other hand, it has benefited those who had obtained a licence, as they could continue renting to tourists with less competition.
Initially, the licences could be sold independently, but this was banned. The council decided that the only way to acquire a tourist licence was to obtain a property that already had one. So these properties were worth more money for having such a licence.
However, if you are thinking of buying a property with a tourist licence and renting it out as a tourist rental, you should be aware that this business model has a few advantages and many disadvantages. Among the disadvantages, there’re the following:
Excessive dependence on a few platforms, such as Airbnb and Booking.com. Yo If these platforms decide to remove your listing, for whatever reason, you lose all your business. And that happens more often than you think.
– A lot of wear and tear. It’s not the same that your house is used by one person, than by 50.
– Uncontrolled expenditure on utilities. It’s very difficult to control the tenant’s use of utilities. You don’t know if they are going to use the air conditioning all day, you don’t know if they are going to take one-hour showers, or if they are going to leave the lights on…
– Management costs. You’re going to have to hire a company to manage the rentals. And that’s a cost. Or if you do it yourself, you are going to have to spend a lot of your time managing it.
– Trouble with neighbours. If your tenants cause problems for the neighbours, they can make a complaint to the local council, who will be happy to take away your licence.
– Irregular income. There may be a crisis, a pandemic, bad weather… or any other event that affects tourism in Barcelona. Your business is dependent on factors you can’t control.
– Increased risk of burglary. Unless you install some sophisticated access system, you must take into account that many people will have access to your keys, so they can be lost, copies can be made… and that means more insecurity.
One advantage of renting to tourists is that you earn more money than you would do with a normal rental. Some official reports say that it is around 30% more than regular rent.
Also, you have greater availability of your house. If one day you want to use it yourself, you don’t have to wait for a normal 5-year rental to end.
In general, we can say that nowadays, those who buy licensed homes in Barcelona are usually professionals in this type of business.
I am Oscar Vaello, real estate lawyer at Vaello Legal. If you have any questions, you can write them in the comments, or send me an email.
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Thank you very much for watching my video.
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