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Which cities in Spain have new restrictions on tourist rentals?

The Local Spain
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Which cities in Spain have new restrictions on tourist rentals?
Which cities in Spain have introduced restrictions on tourist apartments. Photo: PAU BARRENA / AFP

The resurgence of tourism in Spain has resulted in a boom in profitable short-term holiday lets, with the knock-on effect of pricing out locals. Regional governments and town halls are reacting by rolling out limits on tourist accommodation.


One of the most problematic issues in larger Spanish cities currently is the spiralling cost of renting a home.

For landlords, short-term lets are far more lucrative than long-term rental deals, leading to the proliferation of tourist apartments rented out on platforms such as Airbnb and Booking.

This in turn is contributing to property price speculation, meaning that residents who rent are priced out of central areas. Those who can afford to stay feel like they’re living in a hotel, with the coming and going of tourists from their buildings.  

Recent data shows that in the old town of Seville, 61.2 percent of residential homes are used for tourism. In the area of ​​Madrid's Puerta del Sol, 28.3 percent are tourist apartments, while the figure stands at 18.3  percent in the centre of Valencia.  

Given the lack of a nationwide law on holiday lets that can be harnessed to address the issue, regional governments and town halls have been cracking down recently on these types of tourist accommodations and have introduced new limitations, as well as fighting against illegal accommodation.


In early February 2023, Valencia announced it would introduce plans to ban housing for occasional tourist use in its historic centre. The plan was initially overthrown by the courts, but Valencia Town Hall has said that it will continue to fight against this type of accommodation. In December, the regional government approved a new tourist tax that applies to all tourist establishments, including homes, however, town halls will be in charge of applying it voluntarily. This tax will range between €1.50 for superior category tourist apartments and €1 for standard ones. 

Palma de Mallorca
In mid-February 2023, the Spanish Supreme Court upheld Palma city council's policy of banning tourist rentals in apartment buildings in the popular Mallorcan capital. The High Court of Justice of the Balearic Islands (TSJIB) had previously ruled against the policy in September 2021, but the superior court has now overruled it and endorsed the council's efforts to limit the tourist rental market and protect locals from being priced out of the area. According to the ruling, tourists can only rent single-family homes, not multi-home apartment buildings. These must be detached isolated houses or villas, except those located on protected land, close to the airport or in non-residential areas such as industrial estates.


In mid-February 2023, the regional government of Andalusia modified a decree to enable Andalusian municipalities to control the growth of tourist apartments in the region, as long as they argue reasons of "general interest". Neighbourhood communities may also prevent this activity in certain properties. It is an issue that has "distorted the tourist model of Andalusia", the Minister of Tourism, Arturo Bernal, has said. The Seville City Council has also recently modified its plan, which came into force in June 2022, to include all tourist properties, saying that they have to meet the same requirements as a hotel. It was originally challenged by the Association of Tourist Housing and Apartment Professionals of Andalusia (AVVAPro), who argued that it discriminated against the sector.


After the ruling of the regional government of Andalusia, the town councils of Tarifa and San Roque said they will pay special interest to the new legal order that will allow them to regulate the presence of tourist flats and apartments in their municipalities. Currently, 3,590 tourist apartments are registered in the area. The majority are concentrated in Tarifa, with 2,428, and San Roque, with 752. In total 20.2 percent of the tourist apartments in the province are concentrated in those areas.

The Castilla-La Mancha city of Toledo recently announced that tourist apartments cannot exceed 20 percent in its historic center. In addition, they can only be located on the first floor or on the ground floor. The City Council has also stopped the processing of applications for new tourist apartments.  

According to the latest data available as of January 20th 2023, Madrid City Council has received 10 applications for the implementation of tourist housing for 25 new tourist buildings, which would be equivalent to opening more than one tourist flat per day in the city. The data also confirms that this is not only limited to the centre, but is beginning to spread to less touristy and cheaper neighbourhoods such as Tetuán, Usera, Ciudad Lineal and Carabanchel too. Back in December 2022, the coalition of PP and Ciudadanos in Madrid suggested modifying the urban regulations to control the number of tourist apartments through the Special Lodging Plan. It received endorsement from the courts, but was ultimately knocked down by the opposition, made up of the left-wing parties and Vox. They argued that the regulations did not make these apartments compatible with those for residential use.


As the Spanish city with the most tourists, Barcelona has been fighting against illegal tourist rentals for a while now. The city cracked down on apartments without an official tourist licence and hasn’t been issuing any new licences for some time now. Its Special Urban Plan for Tourist Accommodation came into force in 2017 to ensure that this type of accommodation was distributed throughout the city and not concentrated in certain points through the control of tourist of licences.

More recently, in June 2022, Barcelona mayor Ada Colau announced that they had been tracking more than 21,000 tourist rentals across the city and that on their first inspection, they found 360 illegal ones. Colau has even demanded that Brussels introduce EU-wide rules to regulate tourist apartments in all large European cities. In February 2023, she went one step further suggesting that Barcelona should not only limit tourist accommodation but limit the number of tourists who can visit the city too. 

San Sebastián
San Sebastián first introduced restrictions on tourist apartments back in 2018. Currently, neither tourist flats nor hotels can be opened in the Old Town, which the town hall claim is saturated with tourists. In other neighbourhoods, considered to be in high demand (Centro, Gros and parts of Amara, Egia and El Antiguo) tourist apartments are allowed on the first floor, as well as one more for every six floors the building has. The fines for opening a tourist apartment without a license range between €600 and €50,000. At the end of 2022, the city said that it had closed a total of 30 illegal tourist apartments that year.


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