“Flat for rent (maximum duration 11 months)”

Las Ramblas, Barcelona

The post-pandemic landscape is getting clear, and the picture is not promising. Today we will write about a recent phenomenon (las 2-3 months) in Barcelona and other cities. It existed before in coastal areas – we have seen it a lot in Ibiza – where the owners want to rent only from autumn to spring, to have the house available for tourists in the summer season. But now this is notorious in Barcelona.

We are going to talk about the civil law sphere of the subject, which is very interesting. Another day we will talk about the administrative sphere (tourist housing license), which is equally relevant.

The profile is always the same on real estate websites. Impeccable housing, professional photos and with a clear hotel “look & feel” (impeccably open beds with towel at the foot of the bed), perfect locations, prices within the reach of few pockets…. and always the same notice after the whole message: maximum 11-month duration, 2-month deposit, 1 month agency (when I see it I really wonder if someone has thought twice about asking for the same fee for a rental of 11 months than for one of 7 years …). You don’t have to be a genius to see what’s behind that. They are homeowners with a tourist license, who, given the fact that there are no tourists or congresspersons, want to earn an income while the storm clears. Perfectly legitimate. But in legal terms, that’s blowing and sipping at the same time. And as anyone knows, it is impossible.

The Law of Urban Leases (“Ley de Arrendamientos Urbanos” – “LAU”) does not speak anywhere of 11 (or 12) months as a limit of anything. It only talks about rent for “permanent dwelling”, or for use “other than permanent dwelling”. The LAU is applied to the former, which has precepts that are mandatory and cannot be waived (because they protect the tenant), including the minimum duration. In seconds, almost everything can be freely agreed upon.

People have constructed the idea, a pure myth that, if the contract is less than one year old, it is no longer a permanent dwelling. That idea – fetish is behind all those adverts. And I have bad news: this is not at all the case. It may well be the case, if the tenant is on a temporary job assignment, an academic year, has another home owned, etc. But in most other cases, the landlord will find it very difficult to escape the minimum duration if the tenant does not want to leave, and says he want to stay there. Especially if, as it happens, the rental contract has been drawn up by the landlord in the form of a “quasi-adhesion”, and contains all possible penalties for the tenant to guarantee that he leaves in the 11th month. On such cases, not only the LAU will apply, but also the regulations for the protection of consumers and users, which are even more tenant / consumer protective.

The minimum duration of the contract (today 5 or 7 years) is part of the motherboard of the legal hardware of the permanent dwelling rental. It’s hard to uninstall that without the OS crashing. Faced with conditions imposed by the owner, the individual tenant-consumer has, with an expert legal advice, many possibilities to continue living in that apartment if he wants to exercise his right to the minimum duration. Tourist apartments owners should be aware of this.

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