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PROPERTY

Renting property in Spain: Know your rights as a tenant

Find out what your rights as a tenant are, and how best to enforce them

Renting property in Spain: Know your rights as a tenant
Photo: photography33/Depositphotos

First a little history….

Following the Spanish Civil War, Spain experienced a severe housing crisis. On top of this, most people had very large families. To ameliorate the problem, laws were enacted to give tenants maximum protection. For many years, landlords had very little power. Until recently, it was almost impossible for them to evict tenants, even those that didn’t pay.

Following the recent financial crisis, the laws were rewritten to enable landlords to evict non-paying tenants. This allowed the real estate market to recover. But even today, the laws do favour the tenants.

“You’ll catch more flies with honey than vinegar”

Because of this history, landlords can be very tricky to deal with. Thus, our first word of advice is to tread lightly. Strongly asserting your demands usually causes landlords to dig in and be very “by the book.” If you are polite and respectful (throwing in a little charm can often be very helpful), you will likely enjoy freedoms beyond your substantial legal rights.

Short or long-term contract?

There is a big difference in tenant rights for short vs long term rentals. Short term rentals (anything less than a year) do not give tenants nearly as many rights as long term rentals. In fact, in the past landlords used to try and get tenants to sign eleven-month contracts to give themselves maximum protection. However, those days are over. Even if you have signed an eleven-month contract, the courts will consider that as a long-term contract if you have been living in the place daily, you have engaged WiFi/telephone services, etc.


Photo: photography33/Depositphotos

READ ALSO: Why rising rents across Spain are causing a new crisis

What happens after the first year?

Long-term rental contracts are typically for a year. After that, landlords are legally compelled to renew the lease for annual periods for the next three years. The only exception to this is if the landlord wants the property to live in as their primary residence, or if a first degree relative needs to live in it due to separation, divorce or marriage annulment. This must be established in a court of law. In this case, the tenant must be compensated by the landlord.

Tenants, however, can choose not to renew their leases each year. This is one of tenants’ greatest powers. Moreover, they can choose to opt out of their contract after the first six months, provided they furnish the landlord with written notice thirty days in advance.

What happens if you get divorced?

If you get divorced, you are legally entitled to continue living in the apartment even if your ex was the person that signed the lease.

How much of a security deposit to a have to pay?

One month for unfurnished places, two months for furnished. The deposit is payable in cash or via direct bank deposit and held in an escrow account. If you pay via cash, make sure you get a receipt.


Photo: AFP

Can I use my security deposit as the last month’s rent?

No. This is because the tenant is responsible for regular wear and tear (see below for more about this). If you don’t maintain the property adequately, repairs will come out of your deposit.

Can the landlord increase my rent?

After the first year, yes. This is based on the Spanish Consumer Price Index, unless otherwise specified in the lease. Landlords can also increase the rent if they make positive, material changes to the property (eg: installing a Jacuzzi).

Conversely, if the landlord renovates the apartment during the course of the lease, and part of the property is uninhabitable for more than twenty days, the rent can be reduced during this time. For example, if 25 percent of the apartment is uninhabitable for more than twenty days, you can reduce your rent by 25 percent during this time.

You have the right to live in a habitable space

The landlord is obligated, at all times, to maintain the property in a habitable condition.

However, the tenant is responsible for repairing any damage they cause to the apartment. This includes regular wear and tear. If the tenant doesn’t make these repairs, the landlord can do so at the tenant’s expense.

Likely, you will have to pay your own utility bills

This is where things can get a bit tricky. Often, the utility bills are in the landlord’s name. Legally they can be put in the tenant’s name, although the utility companies will often charge you to make the change. This, combined with the fact that companies like Iberdrola and Telefonica aren’t exactly known for providing positive customer service experiences, is the reason utility bills are often kept in the landlord’s name, and the monthly costs passed to the tenants.

Community fees and local taxes are typically paid by the landlord

However, make sure to read your lease carefully. Sometimes it is written into the contract that the tenant is responsible for a portion of these fees. If that is the case, make sure to negotiate them before you sign.

Can I have pets?

Unless it is expressly written into the rental contract that pets are forbidden, you may have them.


Photo: allaserebrina/Depositphotos

Sadly, you don’t have a 100 percent right to spruce up your place 

If you want to modify your space, you need written permission from your landlord, which can be denied. The exception is if you have a disability, in which case the landlord is obligated to agree to your request.

You have the right to privacy

The landlord is not allowed to enter a tenant’s property without prior consent.

What if I don’t pay my rent?

If you do not pay rent for two months, the landlord has the right to begin formal eviction procedures. Typically, they will give you the chance to pay your arrears, or workout a payment plan, before taking legal action.


Photo: podsolnukh/Depositphotos

What if my landlord doesn’t pay their mortgage, or the property is affected by a similar court order?

If the property is repossessed, the tenant has the right to live in the property for five years, from the day the lease was signed.

Right to buy the apartment

If the landlord wishes to see the property, they must notify the tenant in writing of the intent to sale, the sale price and other key conditions. The tenant is first in line to buy the property at the stated price and can even “jump the queue” if the landlord has lined up other buyers. If the tenant wishes to exercise this right, they must do so, in writing, within thirty days of being notified that the landlord intends to sell.  

You can sublet part of your apartment

If you wish to sublet a portion of your apartment, you may do so but you must obtain written permission from your landlord. Legally you can only sublet a portion of your apartment. Moreover, you legally cannot charge more for the sublet than you pay in rent for the entire property.

If you want to sublet your entire apartment, you must have the lease reassigned to the new tenant. Obviously, this requires the landlord’s approval.

A final caveat

Remember, there is often more flexibility in the Spanish system than is initially apparent. A number of expats in Spain have the saying, “rules are for people that they [Spaniards] don’t like.” This is often the case. If you are respectful to your landlord, and mindful of the fact that for years they were at the whims of tenants (and still are if the tenant doesn’t want to vacate the property for three years) and thus feel vulnerable, your rights will likely be extended beyond those listed above.

Disclaimer: This information is valid as of October 9, 2018

This guide has been produced with legal advice from Moving2Madrid, a property agent that works for buyers and renters and focuses exclusively on the Madrid market.  

READ MORE: The survivor's guide to renting in Madrid 

For members

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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