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Mould at home in Spain: What are tenants’ rights?

One common problem that tenants have in Spain is mould and damp in their apartments, with some landlords claiming it's not their problem. So what are your rights if the property you rent has a mould issue? Who is responsible for fixing it and can you break your contract because of it?

What can I do about mould in Spain?
What can you if the place you rent in Spain has mould? Photo: Infrogmation / WikiCommons

Unfortunately, as many older Spanish apartment buildings and houses aren’t insulated properly and many don’t have central heating, mould and dampness can be an ongoing problem.

Mould is not only horrible to look at and creates a bad smell around the house, but it can also be harmful to your health, especially for people who suffer from respiratory illnesses such as asthma.

READ ALSO: Why are Spanish homes so cold? 

So, what happens if you discover that the apartment you’re renting has mould? Whose responsibility is it to sort it out – is it you or the landlord? What are your rights and can you break your lease because of it?

In Spain, it can sometimes be tricky to work out who is responsible for repairs and issues with the property and many times it will depend on the type of landlord you have.

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

According to the Urban Lease Law or Ley de Arrendamientos Urbanos (LAU), the landlord is obliged to carry out all the repairs that are necessary to preserve the dwelling and keep it in a habitable condition, except when the deterioration of the apartment is attributed to the tenant.

Therefore, you first have to assess where the mould is coming from and why it’s there, to find out if it’s your responsibility to pay for it to be removed or not.

Mould on the ceiling

If for example, the mould is primarily on your ceiling or in one patch on the ceiling, it’s likely that it’s due to an issue in the apartment above, such as a leaky shower or sink. If this is the case, it will be up to your neighbour to carry out the repairs and pay for any damage done to the ceiling. This will usually be paid for through their housing insurance.

Bathroom mould

If the mould is in the bathroom around the shower and there is just a small amount, it is likely that it is due to poor ventilation. In this case, your landlord could argue that it’s due to the fact that you’re not airing the bathroom out after showering and it’s likely you would have to pay someone to remove it yourself. 

According to the LAU: “Small repairs required by wear and tear due to ordinary use of the dwelling will be borne by the tenant”.  

If it’s not just a case of opening a window, you could suggest to your landlord that they install an extractor fan in the bathroom or something similar to avoid further mould damage. Whether they will do this or not however, will probably be down to the individual landlord.  

If however, the mould is not only in the bathroom or on the ceiling, you may have a bigger problem with dampness, and as long as it cannot be attributed to you, then it will be down to the landlord to pay for the repairs and get it removed.  

What if the mould is definitely not due to anything I did or from a neighbour?

Whatever the case is, you must inform your landlord of the damp problem as soon as possible.

The LAU states “The tenant must inform the landlord, in the shortest possible time, of the need for the repairs”.  

It also states that you must provide the landlord with verification. This could be by taking pictures of the mould for example. However, you will be in a better position if you get a professional out to assess the situation and prove the cause of the mould, so that the landlord can’t say it’s your fault for not opening the windows enough. 

According to the LAU if at any time, and after notifying the landlord, you carry out repairs that are urgent to avoid imminent damage or serious inconvenience, you can immediately demand the landlord pays you back.  

Can I ask for a rent reduction while the works or mould removal is taking place?

This will depend on the severity of the problem and how long it takes to fix.

According to the LAU “When the execution of work cannot reasonably be deferred until the conclusion of the lease, the tenant will be obliged to bear it, even if it is very annoying or is deprived of a part of the house. If the work lasts more than twenty days, the rent will have to be reduced in proportion to the part of the dwelling that the tenant is deprived of”.

In other words, if the repairs take more than 20 days, then you are able to get a reduction. 

Can I break my lease?

Under normal circumstances, you may withdraw from your lease only after six months, provided that he notifies the landlord at least thirty days in advance. However, you may be able to break your lease earlier, if your landlord ignores the mould problem and won’t do anything about it. 

What if my landlord wont do anything about the mould?

If after having notified your landlord of the problem and a reasonable period of time has elapsed and they still won’t do anything about it, you have the right to end your contract because the landlord has failed to comply with their obligations. In addition, you may also be able to request compensation for the damages caused according to article 1124 of the civil code.  

Unfortunately several cases due to mould in Spain, end up in the courts and it will be up to a judge to decide who must pay for the repairs and if you are owed any compenstation. 

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For members


How to turn a bar, office or shop into a residential property in Spain

Commercial properties in Spain can be a lot cheaper than residential ones, but it’s not as straightforward as buying a former restaurant, office or shop and moving in. Here are the steps to follow and what you need to be aware of.

How to turn a bar, office or shop into a residential property in Spain

One of the tricks budget property hunters in Spain have been using in recent years is buying a local (commercial property), oficina (office) or nave (industrial unit) and transforming it into a vivienda (residential property) to live in or let out. 

It’s a trend that’s roughly doubled in big cities such as Madrid and Barcelona in the last five years. 

Buying a commercial property can work out to be 50 percent cheaper than a flat or house in Spain and there can be other advantages such as it being more open plan than Spain’s typical corridor-themed apartments as well having more money to invest in the renovation. 

Is it possible to turn a commercial property into a residential property in Spain?

Yes, in theory it is, but it’s not always possible. The rules relating to a change of property’s usage from commercial to residential or vice versa are determined by each municipality in Spain, so before you rush to buy un local, you have to do your homework first and be aware of some of the most common pitfalls.

It could be that the limit of residential properties per hectare has been surpassed already, or that without some major changes the property doesn’t meet the standards of size, rooms, space, height, layout, ventilation, air extraction or light of the town or city hall. 

It isn’t the most straightforward process and depending on the property and the individual municipal rules in place, it might just not be possible to live in the property or rent it out to others.

Living in a commercial property is illegal and may cause you problems such as not being able to activate water and electricity or register your padrón at the town hall.

Despite all the paperwork needed, flipping a bar or office and turning it into a home usually works out cheaper than buying a residential property in Spain. (Photo by ANDER GILLENEA / AFP)

Don’t be discouraged however, as in many cases it is possible to change the use of a property from commercial to residential and in regions such as Galicia authorities are currently facilitating the process to address the matter of empty abandoned stores and the lack of well-priced accommodation for young homeowners.

What are the steps to follow in Spain to change a property from commercial to residential?

Check the statutes of the community of owners: In order to make any changes within the community of neighbours, permission must be requested in advance. Beforehand, you can ask the comunidad president for a copy of the community statutes to see if the change of use from commercial to residential is mentioned.

READ ALSO: ‘La comunidad’ -What property owners in Spain need to know about homeowners’ associations

Request permission from the town hall: After getting the green light from la comunidad, you have to go to the ayuntamiento (town hall) of the town where the property is to find out if it’s possible to add another residential property to the finca (building). 

Even if this is confirmed, it doesn’t certify that the change of usage from commercial to residential is allowed, for which the town hall will ask you to provide an architect’s proyecto técnico or feasibility report based on municipal urban laws. You will only be allowed to swap from commercial to residential if the project meets the safety and habitability requirements of the Technical Building Code (Código Técnico de la Edificación).

Get the Building Licence: Known as licencia urbanística or permiso de construcción in Spanish, this is an official document required by the town hall for you to carry out a construction or renovation project. In other words, you’ll need this municipal authorisation to begin work on your future residential property, whether it’s major work or minor . 

Get the Certificate of Habitability: Once the renovation work is complete, you’ll need the cédula de habitabilidad to be able to move in or let the property out . The conditions for this are regulated by each regional government and again it’s an architect who must prepare a technical report in order for a town council technician to issue the certificate of habitability.

The certificate we need for the change of use is that of primera ocupación (first residential occupation), which has to include the usable surface area of ​​the home, rooms, address, location, maximum inhabitants etc.

How much does it cost to transform a commercial property into a residential one in Spain?

If for example it’s a 80m2 property with two rooms, the total would be about €50,000, according to property websites Idealista and Habitissimo, with the bulk covering renovation costs (€500/m2= €40,000) and the rest going to cover permits, architecture costs and taxes.