Is AirBnB legal in Spain? The battle for Barcelona continues

If you’re working freelance in Spain, you might have thought about renting out a room (as opposed to your whole flat) on an electronic platform like AirBnB in order to pick up some extra earnings. Lots of people do so, but is this actually legal?

In Catalonia, this issue is particularly important. As a response, the Catalan Department of Tourism recently put forwards a draft version of new regulation for renting rooms to tourists. This regulation aims to recognise new technology and allow extra earnings, but avoid upsetting the delicate ecosystem of a city that already experiences mass tourism.

The new model would give legal status to rooms rented out to tourists using AirBnB and similar.

AirBnB in Catalonia: conditions for legal rentals

The new classification is called “vivienda de uso turístico cedido por habitaciones” (tourist dwelling rented by rooms). There would be various business conditions property owners in this category would have to fulfill.

  • Live in the property on a permanent basis
  • Not let rooms out for more than 4 months per year, or for more than 31 days at a time.
  • Rent a maximum of 2 rooms per flat, with 5 people in each.
  • Register with local government/in the Tourist Register of Catalonia.
    • Local authorities could say “no” if they feel there are already too many tourist dwellings in the area.
  • Also, remember that the majority of rental contracts won’t allow subletting.

When I called the local town council, they couldn’t provide me with exact information on how this business model would be taxed. However, I’d assume it would be similar to other tourism business models. In tourist apartments, for example, you pay VAT at a reduced rate of 10% and declare IRPF (income tax) in the annual Declaración de la Renta. Finally, you pay a small (less than 1€ for 7 days) tourist tax per guest.

Current: renting out rooms by AirBnB is “not legal”

In the meantime, I was told by the local town council that renting out rooms via online tourism platforms is “not legal”. Despite this, a quick search for “Barrio Gótico Barcelona” on AirBnB shows over 300 people renting out their spare rooms.

I do not dispute local government’s intentions. Complaints that the area is over-saturated by tourism are common, so it seems that some way of regulating AirBnB was in high demand. Delegating the decision to the most local level possible makes sense, as tourism penetration levels change from town to town.

Local government is up against a bigger issue

However, local government is up against a bigger issue. Forcing citizens to declare activity with official bodies brings them up against the bureaucracy of the likes of the Hacienda. This is likely to either push people to act illegally or not take advantage of opportunities to create business in Spain.

I also hope they’ll make their minds up soon – limbo is not good for the local business climate. Currently, the end of 2016/beginning of 2017 seems to be the earliest possible date for making the new regulation official. You can follow the Catalan government’s official newspaper for more information.

2 Replies to “Is AirBnB legal in Spain? The battle for Barcelona continues”

  1. Since when did Spain become just Barcelona?? Is airb&b legal in Spain is the title. But then i only read a lot of blabla on the tourism issue in Barcelona again. Spain is bigger than that i thought. But hey, could be wrong of course.

    1. Hey Gabriela,

      Of course, Barcelona is not Spain 🙂 The laws for each of Spain’s 17 autonomous regions are actually different for AirBnB, so given that this is just something I run in my limited free time I thought it was better to stick to my area of expertise (Catalonia, the region I’ve lived in for 7 years). I had thought this was clear, but apologies if you felt this was not the case. If you (or anyone else reading this who’s interested) would like to research and contribute some materials about AirBnB in any other areas of Spain, I’d be delighted to publish them and credit you as the author.

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