Property in Spain For Members

How you can refurbish someone's flat in Spain and live there rent-free

The Local Spain
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How you can refurbish someone's flat in Spain and live there rent-free
Photo: Laura Shaw/Pixabay.

A 'refurbishment in return for rent' arrangement isn't widely known in Spain but it's a legal and often mutually beneficial way of saving money for both tenants and landlords at a time of high living costs and rents.

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Doing improvement or refurbishment works on properties in exchange for rent is something that some Spaniards do to save on costs.

La rehabilitación por renta (refurbishment for rent in English) is not hugely common in Spain yet but is growing as the cost of living crisis continues and rental prices continue to soar.

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The idea is that the arrangement benefits both parties. The renter saves money on rent, paying instead with his or her physical labour, while the property owner saves on building and refurbishment costs.

How does it work?

Refurb for rent is not a right of a pre-existing tenant, but rather an agreement made between two parties who agree on the value of refurbishment works and the value of the monthly rent in order to calculate for how long they will compensate rent with the works.

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Let's use an example.

Imagine a rented apartment in Valencia that has a monthly rent of €800. It's a little shabby and could do with some work. The owner advertises that he or she is looking for a 'refurb for rent' arrangement, and finds a prospective tenant who agrees to carry out refurbishment works that they calculate will cost €8,000.

Under a refurb for rent agreement, this tenant will not have to pay rent for 10 months.


The landlord of the property does not get the works for free, per say, but rather is paying for them by waiving the rent. The sort of living arrangement is not particularly popular in Spain although you can find a few adverts from interested landlords and tenants looking to save money.

According to Spanish newspaper El País, the most common sort of agreement is not for an entire property refurbishment, something that would take a long time for a single tenant, but an agreement on partial renovations such as painting, redoing the kitchen or bathroom or installing new windows.

Fátima Galisteo, head of the Galisteo Abogados firm, told El País that these refurb for rent arrangements can be made for rent reductions or for the entire value: “the rent is freely agreed upon by the parties, who must establish whether a lower rent or a grace period in payment is set in exchange for the work."

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Is refurbishment for rent regulated in Spain?

Though it's not a hugely popular form of paying rent yet, refurb for rent arrangements are actually covered by Spanish law.

It is covered by reforms made in 2013 to La Ley de Arrendamientos Urbanos (LAU, though this sort of living arrangement was actually covered by Spain's Civil Code and other regional legal systems before then.

Now, with the reforms of a decade ago, tenants who pay rent with refurbishment work have the same rights as any other tenant, such as the minimum duration of the rental contract or the possibility of terminating the contract after six months.

Article 17.5 of the LAU states:

"In rental contracts it may be freely agreed by the parties that, during a specific period, the obligation to pay rent may be totally or partially waived by the lessee's commitment to reform or rehabilitate the property under the agreed terms and conditions. At the end of the lease, the lessee may in no case request additional compensation for the cost of the work carried out on the property. Failure on the part of the lessee to carry out the works under the agreed terms and conditions may be cause for termination of the lease."


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