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What you should know about renting an apartment in Barcelona

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

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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