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What you should know about renting an apartment in Barcelona

Renting in Barcelona can be a tricky and difficult process which is fraught with traps, scams and other things that could catch you out, so it's a good idea to read up all about it first, writes Esme Fox.

What you should know about renting an apartment in Barcelona
Image: AFP

While the rental market in Barcelona can be difficult to navigate, the good news is that since the Covid crisis, landlords no longer have the upper hand and it's a renters’ market once again.

Before the Covid-19 crisis, rental prices were getting ridiculous in Barcelona and many people were being priced out of the market. The regional government approved a new law to cap rental prices that was brought into force on September 22nd which means that rental prices in Barcelona should be a lot more affordable.

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City centre properties that were once Airbnbs for tourists, have now been put on the market and there is a lot more availability, which has driven prices down.

The golden rule

Never ever rent a property in Barcelona without seeing it for yourself. Never hand over any money, until you’ve seen the rental property in person and know that it’s genuine. Even then, if the property looks too good to be true for the price, it probably is.

Real Estate agent Pia Hankö from Avenida Barcelona says: “The rental market in Barcelona has some dark spaces. You have to be careful who you're dealing with, because there are 'agencies' that charge fees and give you a list of available apartments, and it's all fake. Those properties don't actually exist”. 

To help you not fall for these scams, Hankö says: “Make sure that the contract is correct, and that what is promised, is in the apartment. Ensure your payments go to the right person and that the name of the owner in the contract is the real owner of the property”.

Image: Jean van der Meulen/Pixabay 

To go with an agency or rent privately?

This is a hot topic in Barcelona, mainly because agency fees in the city are high, both for the landlord and the tenant. In the UK for example, it’s only the landlord who pays the agent to find them a tenant, but in Spain and Barcelona, both of them have to pay the agency. For the tenant, the agency fee typically costs one month’s rent.

The other issue is that many agencies don’t really help much, once they’ve found you the property and received their money, they tend to wash their hands of you. If any problems arise, you’ll have to work it out with the landlord.

Many people in Barcelona prefer to rent privately, directly from the landlord, in order to avoid this agency fee. Unfortunately, renting privately comes with its own problems. You need to be able to trust your landlord and it’s always a good idea to meet them in person several times before signing a contract with them. You can however get lucky, as there are some great private landlords in the city too. 

Private real estate agent Hankö says: “Personally I find agencies charging one month’s rent a little bit excessive. I charge a small commission from the owner and from tenant, somewhere between 200-400 Euros. My relationship with the tenants is also different as I take care of them throughout the rental contract”.

Image: Juan Ospina/Pixabay 

What the landlord is responsible for:

Buildings insurance: The landlord should have building's insurance, in case anything goes wrong with the structure or fittings of the apartment, however it's the tenant's responsibility to get contents insurance.

Paying the IBI tax: This is a kind of property or council tax that is paid on the property once a year.

Community fee: This is paid per month or per quarter for the upkeep of common areas in the building and cleaning of communal spaces. It's usually paid but the landlord, but sometimes it may be stipulated in the contract that the tenant must pay this instead.

What the tenant is responsible for:

Maintenance of household goods: Unlike in the UK, it's the tenant who is responsible for the maintenance of things in the apartment such as boiler, air conditioning unit, washing machine and dishwasher. If the appliances are very old however, and break soon after your arrival, (through no fault of your own) you can ask the landlord to fix or replace these items. As there isn’t a specific rule or law about this, it’s really up to the landlord if they will agree to do this or not.

Payment of utility bills: The tenant is responsible for paying all the utility bills such as electricity, gas, water and internet. 

Contents insurance: It’s really important to get household contents insurance when you rent an apartment in Barcelona. This is because, in Spain, this insurance doesn't only protect your personal things from theft, but can also cover things like the dishwasher, washing machine and air conditioning etc, so that if something does happen to them and the landlord won’t cover it, it’s likely that the insurance company will.

Apartments in BarcelonaImage: Izhak Agency/Unsplash

Common rules

  • Tenants cannot sublet their apartment, unless specifically agreed in the contract with the landlord.
  • Tenants cannot redecorate the property, unless agreed upon with the landlord.
  • Landlords cannot raise the price of the rent within the date of the contract.

The deposit

It's usual to have to pay one month’s deposit, plus one month’s rent in advance, however some landlords may require two month’s rent or more, which is also common. The problem is that Barcelona landlords are notorious for not returning your deposit when you vacate the property, even if there are no significant damages.

Even if you’ve gone with an agency, rather than renting privately, this is still a common practice. Many tenants get around this problem by not paying the last month’s rent and telling the landlord to use the deposit instead. This can be problematic however as the landlord is not obliged to agree to this, particularly if it’s a furnished apartment. Most landlords will need some kind of guarantee against the damage of furniture, fixtures and fittings.

Independent real estate developer Andrey Palchevskiy Voronov from BO1985 says: “This is an unfortunate and common practise. I would recommend that you look at your contract carefully and inspect your lease with a fine-tooth comb. Paying a small fee for a legal professional to review your contract could save you a lot of money in the long run”.  

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PROPERTY

Home insurance in Spain: How does it work and what does it cover?

Home insurance in Spain has policies which may differ from what you're used to in your home country. Here's why Spanish home insurance may surprise you in terms of what it covers, what it costs, key info and whether it's worth getting.

Home insurance in Spain: How does it work and what does it cover?

If you’re moving to Spain and purchasing a property or even renting, one of the first and most important factors to consider is purchasing home insurance.

According to the latest data available, approximately 23 percent of households in Spain are uninsured. That percentage corresponds to around 6 million homes.

But with low prices and the wide range of situations Spanish home insurance covers, there’s little reason not to get it.

Contracting home insurance is only essential in Spain when you acquire a mortgage. The current Mortgage Law requires you to take out this insurance if you are going to buy a house with a loan and is an essential requirement for banks to grant you the money.

If you’re renting in Spain, you’re not obliged to contract home insurance, but it still may be a good idea.

Your landlord may have buildings insurance, but you may still want to take out some type of insurance to protect your own belongings or the contents of the property. 

In the UK, home contents insurance covers your personal possessions against theft, fire or other damage, while buildings insurance covers the structure of your property if the tiles on your roof are broken in a storm for example, the outside is damaged by fire or a tree falls on part of your property.

In Spain, home insurance works slightly differently. Like in the UK and other countries there are different types of insurance. 

READ ALSO: Is getting rental default insurance worth it for landlords in Spain?

What types of home insurance are there in Spain?

The most basic is seguros de daños or damage insurance which is similar to buildings insurance in the UK. This will only protect the structure of your property. This would be damage caused by major events such as fires, explosions, flooding, acts of vandalism or subsidence and you should still check the smallprint to be sure of the conditions. With flooding for example, most insurers cover flooding damage caused by rainfall greater than 40 litres per square metre per hour.

The second tier is seguros multiriesgo or multi-risk insurance. This covers both your building and its contents and is one of the most comprehensive types of home insurance in Spain.

This type of insurance not only covers big incidents like fire or theft, but it also covers a whole range of minor issues, which is very different from the type of contents insurance in the UK.

Home insurance is only essential in Spain when you acquire a mortgage. Photo: Louis Hansel / Unsplash

It can cover for everything from a blocked sink to a burst pipe in the wall or a broken radiator. Sometimes it may even cover the breakdown of your white goods such as washing machine and fridge, depending on how old they are and what your specific policy says.

It’s also especially useful for flat owners as it covers against damage to your neighbours’ property if something inside your apartment is at fault.

For example, if your shower or toilet breaks and starts leaking into the flat downstairs, your insurance should cover the damage to your neighbour’s ceiling so that you won’t have to fork out a fortune for fixing someone else’s property.

Many major cities in Spain have historic quarters and some of its nicest-looking apartment buildings are some of the oldest too, so it’s particularly useful if your property is old and prone to needing fixing regularly. 

The third and highest type of home insurance coverage in Spain is all-risk home insurance, which has extended coverage that includes robbery on the street, damage to extra storage rooms outside the main property or coverage for cosmetic damage.

What you need to know

Keep in mind that when you do claim or after you have claimed a couple of times, it’s normal that the insurance company won’t want you to be their client anymore and will terminate your contract.

This shouldn’t be a problem, however, you will simply contract a new home insurance policy with a different company. It helps to go with a broker so that they can present you with different options to choose from, so you know what’s the best.

Be aware that every insurance company will have a slightly different policy so just because a certain item may have been covered on your old policy, it doesn’t mean that will be on the new one or be covered to the same amount of money.

What are some of the most popular home insurance companies in Spain?

There are many different companies that offer multi-risk insurance policies in Spain, both international and national companies. Some of the most popular are:

  • AXA Home Insurance
  • Generali
  • Zurich
  • Mapfre
  • Caser
  • El Corte Inglés 

How much does home insurance cost in Spain?

As the multi-risk policies cover so many different aspects, you would imagine that they’re very expensive. Surprisingly though, these are quite affordable at under €200 per year according to the Organisation of Consumers and Users (OCU).

The price isn’t too different from what you’d pay in the UK. Money Supermarket says that a combined home and contents insurance policy in the UK costs around £140 per year, but usually it will cover a lot less. 

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