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Renting in Spain: how to survive and thrive

Looking for a place to rent in Spain can be a nightmare, but it doesn't have to be that way. In this article, Madrid-based relocation expert Pierre Waters gives us the lowdown on how to avoid some of the more common pitfalls for renters, and fills us in on the implications of Spain's brand new rental laws.

Renting in Spain: how to survive and thrive
Boning up on your rights and responsiblities is the best way to find your way through the Spanish rental maze. Photo: Danny Nicholson/Flickr

Looking for a rental property in Spain is not for the faint of heart.

Scheming landlords, agents on the take and a lack of clear information are all part of the landscape. But by knowing your rights and playing it smart, you can avoid falling foul of the rental trap.

We spoke to relocation expert Pierre Waters to get his advice on how to find a happy home. Here are his tips:

Pay the right price.

Check the rental price advertised actually include all taxes. This includes the new garbage tax in Madrid, for example, and any of the other new taxes many landlords try to charge tenants.

Taxes are usually included in the property bills, but utility bills are not. Nor any bill linked to your individual consumption.

If you want a good estimate of how much you will be paying in bills, ask the landlord if you can take a look at past bills for the property.

Negotiate on price if you have more options than the landlord, and if the price of the place you are looking at is above the going rate in the market.

Negotiate the minimum mandatory rental period for standard contracts down to six months. 

Before June 2013, the minimum rental contract length in Spain was 12 months, but with Spain's new rental laws, this figure has come down to six months.

Most landlords, however, will still aim to lock you in for 12 months.

Remember, too, if you do have to leave before the mandatory period, the law now states the penalty for leaving the flat before the mandatory minimum period is one month rent per mandatory year of the contract not completed.

It is not true that you have to pay until the end of the mandatory period, as many landlords will tell you.

Make sure you can leave after the mandatory period by giving 30 days notice.

Again, the contract can state a longer period. Do negotiate back to 30 days when possible, or leverage this to get better conditions.

Be aware of the rental contract deadlines.

The landlord cannot get his property back within the first three years after signing a rental agreement with you.

The only legally permitted exception is when an emergency forces the landlord to take the property back.

This can happen if landlords gets divorced, for example, or if their children find themselves homeless.

After the first three years, the contract is renewed automatically. After four years, though, the rental contract is terminated automatically. 

Know that realtors working for the landlord charge you up to one month's rent.

This is the case even if real estate agents do nothing for you, and even if most agents do not actually mention this charge in an advert for a rental property.

It's a good idea to avoid all apartments with agency fees (they have some of the best properties in some expensive areas).

Instead, you should benchmark the different apartments by viewing the one-month agent's fee as part of the rental costs. 

Keep the deposit down to a minimum.

The legal minimum deposit is one month for unfurnished apartments and  two months for furnished apartments.

Many landlords ask for more, with some wanting up to six months as a guarantee.

Negotiate this down to 2–3 months at least, or down to the legal minimum.

This is possible as Spain's new rental law now enables landlords to evict people who don't pay after just six weeks, instead of six months as was the case previously.

Be proactive: prepare your contract, tax declaration or pay slips from the start and prove from the outset to the landlord that you are a quality tenant.

Set your landlord's expectations

Make sure the landlord knows that he or she is responsible for any maintenance resulting from normal wear and tear: a old fridge breaking down after years of service for instance.

You are responsible for any small maintenance costs (under €75 or €50), like painting for instance. From the outset, set expectations and state the legal conditions. 

Get a professional (lawyer or real estate expert) to review your contract and set expectations with the landlord if you do not speak Spanish.

Review the inventory of items in the property and make sure you have taken photos and videos. 

Leverage knowledge to negotiate

Landlords are now obliged by law to have an energy certificate.

They should also declare rent to the tax authorities, and many do not.

Depending on your region, too, property owners should transfer your deposit to a public institution (the IVIMA in Madrid for instance).

Use all of this knowledge to your advantage.

Better safe than sorry

Get rental insurance. This should cost around €100 a year, and sometimes includes a set number of free hours for maintenance people coming to your place every year.

Getting this insurance will keep you zen.

When it's time to leave, be proactive

Ask the landlord to check the state of the property two weeks before your exit date, and say your are now ready to pay all the bills.

By doing this, you will be able to talk about any repairs that need to be carried out, and do them as necessary.

Also — and this is key — ask the landlord to give you back the deposit on the day you give back the keys.

Be aware that landlords are legally entitled to keep the deposit for one month. This can be difficult if you are leaving Spain.

Last but not least, property hunting is a full time job.

Finding a place to live will take you a week of full-time work once you factor in everything from searching to viewings and signing the contract.

Either you can invest the time, handle the stress and be ready to read and learn about Spanish rental law, or find a foreign trustworthy relocation professional, who's been through the same issues. Make sure you get the best.

By Pierre Waters

Pierre Waters is the Director of Moving2Madrid, Madrid's property search company for expats, and President of Guiripreneur, the number one community for international entrepreneurs in Madrid.

His Twitter feed can be found at: @pierrewaters

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RENTING IN SPAIN

How to rent a property in Spain without a job contract

When looking to rent in Spain, property owners and estate agents often ask for a 'nómina' and work contract - something that can prove tricky if you're self-employed or not working. Here's how to prove your solvency and secure the rental.

How to rent a property in Spain without a job contract

If you’re looking for a house or apartment to rent in Spain, there can be a multitude of different factors to consider.

The price, the size, the location, the neighbourhood, which floor the flat is, on and whether there’s a lift, whether it’s interior or exterior, how many apartments there are per floor, whether to go private or through an estate agents and, of course, the search itself.

When you’re going on visits, you’ll have to contend not only with owner or agent trying to ‘sell you’ the place, but also explaining the terms and conditions (often referred to as las condiciones or requisitos para entrar).

In Spain, the process can be a little complicated. Often landlords ask for two months deposit upfront, and those that go through an intermediary estate agent tend to ask for two months, plus an extra month (plus VAT, or IVA as it is in Spain) that goes to the agent! It certainly adds up. 

Not only that, but very often in Spain you are expected to prove you will be able to pay your rent every month. And it’s not as simple as you might think. 

Most estate agents or landlords think hat the best way to ascertain this is by you providing proof of an employment contract (contrato laboral) and recent payslips (la nómina) that demonstrate you are paid the same amount every month, and that it’s enough to cover the rent and other expenses.

Here’s where things can start to get tricky for self-employed people (known as autónomos in Spain), who number more than 3 million in Spain.

Regardless of whether your monthly autónomo earnings are high pretty much every month, regardless of how consistent they may be, or even if you have regular clients, the irregular and insecure nature of Spain’s work market have ensured that landlords and realtors take a rigid attitude towards the rules.

This is especially true following the turbulent economic times of recent years as we’ve moved from global pandemic to war in Europe to spiralling inflationary pressures on the global economy.

Landlords want to be sure you can pay the rent. Therefore, they may favour a waiter with a nómina of €1,000 a month over an autónomo who can prove monthly earnings double that for the previous six months. Doesn’t seem fair, right? 

READ MORE: Why you should be raising your rates if you’re self-employed in Spain

Well, that’s often how it can be in Spain. Fortunately, if you find yourself in this situation, there are various ways you can convince potential landlords that you are financially solvent enough to rent their property, with or without a fixed contract

The law

Now, it is not unheard of – in Spain nor anywhere else in the world – for an estate agent or landlord to try and squeeze more money out of you, or to add on some extra charges. In most people’s experience, Spanish estate agents and landlords are no better or worse than anyone else, but it’s worth keeping in mind.

It has been known, however, for some in Spain to try and get an extra month’s deposit by telling potential tenants that they need a nómina by law in order to rent a property in Spain, and that they’re doing you a favour by allowing it.

Simply put, this is not true. According to Spanish law, more specifically, La Ley de Arrendamientos Urbanos (Urban Renting Law), although many landlords require some form of financial insurance, there is absolutely nothing to say a nómina is necessary to rent a property in Spain. A deposit is legally required, but a nómina?

Helpful? Certainly. Legally necessary? Definitely not.

That said, if you explain to the property owner that you’re self-employed, some landlords maybe be willing to make other arrangements to ensure the rent.

Here are some options, and other bits of paperwork that could help:

Aval bancario: Like a bank guarantee, some landlords request tenants without nóminas or work contracts to set up an aval bancario.

You must pay in an agreed amount (often worth the value of two or three months of rent, sometimes more) into a bank account that you’re a customer with.

It’s money that you cannot touch for an agreed period of time and which you pay some interest on, and in the event that you do not pay your rent, the landlord will be able to access said funds.

This is not the cheapest way to rent a property, but it may be one of the more effective ways of convincing a landlord to accept you as a tenant.

If you pay your rent diligently every month and prove that you are reliable, after a year you should speak to your landlord to ask them them to cancel the aval in order to not continue paying interest on it and recover your stored money.

Anuncios de particulares: If you’re using the usual rental search engines like Idealista or Fotocasa, the vast majority of rental adverts are from estate agents (inmobiliarias) who ask for all the proper documentation, including contracts and pay slips, and often the extra month’s rent as a fee.

When you’re making your search, keen an eye out for anuncios particulares , which are private ads direct from landlords.

Sometimes if you deal directly with the owner themselves, they are less strict about rules with regards to nóminas and contracts. Maybe you’ll get really lucky and find a landlord that takes a liking to you and who only asks for one month’s deposit.

Seguro de impago de alquiler: A landlord may be more likely to rent to you even if you don’t have a nómina when they have seguro de impago de alquiler, non-payment rental insurance. It protects the landlord for the duration of the contract and covers the rent and any repairs or legal fees.

IRPF: IRPF is Spain’s personal income tax, and providing your most recent income tax return could help put your potential landlord at ease by proving that what you’ve earned over the last year could cover the cost of the rent.

Seguridad Social: Similarly, providing proof of your social security payment can help prove your financial solvency.

Bank statement: a simple bank statement to show account activity – and that you have enough to pay the rent and deposit, of course – might ease the mind of your landlord as it allows them to see your incomings and any debts you might have.

IVA: Showing your VAT (IVA in Spain) returns could be another tool that, when used in conjunction with other ways of proving your solvency, could convince a landlord to rent to an autónomo.

Pensioner documentation: If you’re retired and you’re looking to rent, any official documents which show how much pension money you receive every month, along with bank statement reflecting savings, should suffice to convince a landlord or estate agent that you’re solvent.

READ ALSO: Renting in Spain: Can my landlord put up my rent due to rising inflation?

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