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Ten things to expect when renting an apartment in Spain

There are some common matters involved in renting a place in Spain that many foreigners find suprising. Here are ten important factors you need to keep in mind when looking for and securing your dream apartment in Spain.

Ten things to expect when renting an apartment in Spain
Photo: Jocelyn Erskine-Kellie/Flickr

Depending on where you are in Spain, the difficulty of finding an apartment to rent can vary, but wherever you choose to live, there are some things that you might find surprising when renting, especially as things are done differently here than in other countries.  So, here’s a heads up on ten important things you need to keep in mind when looking for and securing your dream apartment in Spain.

Prices are based on total square meters

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If you are not used to the metric system, it can be daunting to try and figure out how big an apartment is- particularly if you start by looking online. If you are accustomed  to square feet, you can convert an apartment from square meters to square feet by multiplying the size by 10.764. 

But that’s just the beginning! The most important thing to keep in mind is that prices are based on metros construidos (total square meters). This includes:

  • All the space within the perimeter of the property

  • Your share of the total square meters of the common areas.

For example, suppose you find an apartment online that is listed as 90 square meters, but the listing includes a 10 square meter share of a common area. If you don’t realize this, you might be in for a shock when you see the apartment and it is over a hundred square feet smaller than you expected because the published size included those 10 square meters of common space.

It’s also important to note that apartment sizes in Spain often appear overstated because the total square meter measure includes unusable space such as the walls, ventilation spaces and ceilings. 

A simple rule of thumb is that there is a 10-15 percent difference between total and usable square meters.Read more about how to measure and compare Spanish apartment sizes

Photo: AFP

Utilities are typically not included in the rent- this includes water

You should expect to pay for your power, gas, water, phone and internet. You might even have to pay for trash removal. On average, you should budget for the following:

  • Studio or 1 bedroom apartment: 100€ on average

  • 2 bedroom apartment: 150€ on average

  • 3+ bedroom apartment or house: 200€ on average, leaning towards 300€ for houses

Prices can be higher if you opt for fast fiber optic internet (often packaged with lots of premium TV channels) and frequently use air conditioning.

READ MORE: Tenant or landlord: Who pays which costs in Spain?

Utility bills are often left in the landlord’s name

This comes as a surprise to many expats. Some unscrupulous landlords might even take advantage and charge you extra, but this is usually smaller players. Because it is illegal, landlords that own multiple properties are typically better versed in the law and are more scrupulous in this respect.

Regardless, it is still common practice for landlords to keep the accounts in their name and send you a bill for your share. If you wish, you can get companies like Iberdrola to put contracts in your name but it takes some perseverance and you will often have to pay a fee to get them changed.

Read more about utility bills and the extras and surprises to avoid.

The good news is rent is usually exempt from IVA (VAT)

Photo: Fiona Govan /The Local Spain

Usually, rents are not taxed. This is a relief as Spanish IVA (the equivalent of VAT in the UK or sales tax in the US) is 21 percent.

The exception to this is if you are planning on using part of your apartment as a home office and you have clients in Spain that you bill more than 4,000€ per year.

If this is the case, landlords are supposed to charge you 21 percent IVA. Although this is technically true, it is rarely done as most landlords don’t want to deal with the administrative hassle and the Spanish tax office usually can’t track it unless you are audited.

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 tried to get tenants to sign eleven month contracts to give themselves maximum protection. Fortunately, those days are over. Even if you have signed an eleven month contract, the courts will consider it a long-term contract if you have been living in the place daily, you have engaged wifi/telephone services, etc.

Tenants are responsible for regular wear and tear on the apartment and basic upkeep

Photo by Julian Dik on Unsplash

This can come as a shock for people accustomed to renting in other countries. Some landlords are more generous than others about making basic repairs, but legally you are responsible for things like adding a fresh coat of paint, fixing broken door knobs and electrical outlets. 

Negotiation can be a delicate matter

People often lump Spain and Italy into the same group. Negotiating for an apartment in Italy is common and expected. Spain is different. You can do so, but you need to be very sensitive when you negotiate. Landlords can become very emotional if you negotiate abruptly or ask for too big of a discount. We recommend asking for a 10% discount but accepting 5%. In cities such as Madrid where rental apartments are in high demand, you might not get a discount at all.


Security deposits may vary

Legally, landlords can only charge you the equivalent of one month’s rent for an unfurnished apartment and two month’s rent for a furnished apartment. However, many ask for more- some up to six months. On average, for top quality apartments, expect to pay a security deposit equivalent to three months rent.

Think about the noise level at night

Photo: punki/flickr


Spain has a reputation as a party country and it is well deserved. Many people are attracted to the country for this reason, but end up regretting their decision the first Thursday they sleep in their new apartment. Before you rent a property, we recommend you check out the street at night. It is also a good idea to ask your future neighbors about noise at night. Madrid has after hours clubs (even in otherwise quiet neighborhoods) that open at 5 or 6 am. So even if your street seems quiet during your late night check, you could be in for a surprise.

Old buildings can be quirky

Photo by M. R. on Unsplash

Part of the appeal of renting an apartment in Spain is living in a beautiful, historic property. However, the reality often doesn’t live up to the fantasy. Even well maintained old buildings (and many of them aren’t) can have poor water pressure, few electrical outlets, plaster that frequently cracks, archaic plumbing and even leak when it rains.

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

Mary Clare Bland is a relocation expert with Moving2Madrid, a buyer’s agent that focuses exclusively on the Madrid market.   “We help international buyers locate, negotiate and close the deal on apartments in Madrid. We work with renters, buyers and investors. We focus exclusively on an international clientele and speak multiple languages.”

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EXPLAINED: What you need to know about locksmiths in Spain

If you get locked out, have a break-in or need to change or fix the door lock at your home in Spain, here are the rates and advice you need before calling a Spanish locksmith (cerrajero).

EXPLAINED: What you need to know about locksmiths in Spain

Like anywhere, locksmiths are generally expensive and the price can vary greatly depending on the service you need and where you are.

It also depends on when you need them, as it’ll cost much more to call them out on a Saturday night than a Monday morning, for example.

Nor would it cost the same to open your front door as it would a reinforced security door.

But locksmiths don’t just make copies of keys and bail you out when you’re stuck outside your flat.

They also offer a whole host of different services including, but not limited to, opening safes, creating master keys, installing security doors, anti-drill doors, cutting specialist locks that reject copied keys, and even unlocking the boot of your car.

How much does a locksmith cost in Spain?

Given all these variables, the price can range massively.

According to Cronoshare, the average price for a nationwide call out in Spain can start from €80 anywhere up to €400.

On average, for a basic service, you can expect to pay anywhere between €40-€70 an hour for the labour, with the price of changing or installing a basic lock anywhere between €80-€200. 

For basic door openings, it depends on the situation you find yourself in: for doors locked with a key, which is a more complex task, prices average around €200, and for doors that are jammed or slammed shut, slightly cheaper in the €80-€100 range.

For an armoured or security door, prices can start at around €300.

In short, a general rule is that the more complex the task is, the higher the prices.

And as always, prices can vary depending on where you are in Spain, the quality of the locksmith, the time of the day and week you need his or her services, and if its a public holiday or not. 

So, as always, compare prices to try and find the most economical solution without skimping on quality.

As such, the following rates are estimations taken from average prices from locksmith.

Weekend/holiday rates

Where prices can really start to add up, however, is when you have an emergency situation requiring a locksmith’s assistance at the weekend, on a public holiday, or outside of normal working hours.

And if you live in Spain, you probably know there’s quite a few of those days throughout the year.

If you really need a cerrajero on a public holiday or during non-working hours (usually defined as anything between 8pm-8am) prices can reach €300 or €500 due to the fact you’ll have to cover the cost of travel, which starts from around €40 plus the increased rate.

Then you must also include the price of labour to the flat rate, which is usually somewhere between €40 and €70 an hour regardless of when you call them out.

Key vocabulary 

We’ve put together some of the basic vocabulary you might need if you find yourself needing a locksmith while in Spain.

el cerrajero – locksmith

la llave – the key

la llave de repuesto – the spare key

la puerta – the door

la cerradura – the lock

la bisagra – the hinge

día festivo – public holiday

cambio de bombín – change of cylinder lock

puerta blindada – armoured door

coste de mano de obra – labour costs

quedarse afuera – get locked out 

puerta cerrada de un portazo – door slammed shut

puerta cerrada con llave – locked door

Tips relating to choosing a good locksmith in Spain 

If you’ve just started renting a new place or have bought a property, it’s advisable to change the lock as you don’t know who has keys to your front door. If you’re a tenant, try to negotiate this with your landlord as it’s in both of your interests that only you two have keys to the property.

If there has been a burglary in your property while you’re living in it and there’s no sign of forced entry, then there’s a very big chance that the burglars had a copy of your keys, and you should definitely change the locks. 

If you’ve lost your keys and you think it happened close to your home, again it’s advisable for you to change the locks.

One of the best ways to avoid being locked out and having to cough up a hefty sum is to give a spare set to someone that you trust that lives in your town or city in Spain. 

When it comes to choosing a locksmith in Spain, you should make sure he or she is a reputable one. Asking friends and family first can be your first port of call.

If not, make sure you read reviews online if available to get any insight beforehand.

In order to avoid any nasty surprises, ask them on the phone for a budget (presupuesto) for all the costs attached to their services before accepting.

Be wary of cerrajeros that automatically want to change the whole lock when a simpler and less costly option is possible. 

Usually they should offer you a contract for you to read carefully before signing. It should include a three-month guarantee for the potential new lock or at least a breakdown of the costs.

Make sure that they are not charging you an excessively high price if it’s an emergency, as this is not actually legal.

There’s also asking them to prove their accreditation with the Unión Cerrajeros de Seguridad (UCES).

Weekend and holiday rates can be higher nonetheless, so consider your options and if it’s worth staying with a friend or family member for a night to save some money. A trustworthy and honest cerrajero will let you know about the money you could save if you choose to wait as well.