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PROPERTY

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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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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