Renting a property in Spain
If you're looking to rent a Spanish property, find out where and how to rent a property in Spain and what quirks to expect from the Spanish property market.
Although property sale prices in Spain have fallen 30 percent overall, with many individual properties losing half their value, the effect has not been seen as strongly in Spain's rental market. However, it's clear that less attractive Spanish properties are dropping in price, and even in Barcelona or Madrid it is possible to get a small apartment for EUR 300 per month. Double that will get you a nice Spanish home in a better area, and EUR 1000+ per month can get you a house outside town or a nice central apartment in Spain's main cities, such as Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia.
Should you rent or buy in Spain?
Renting a property in Spain is a good way to get to know the country and to decide which area you would like to live in. Just 17 percent of Spanish residents rent their home, and the market may seem more geared towards sales than rentals. However, the Spanish property market has suffered severely since the 2008 crisis and house prices are predicted to continue to fall in 2014.
Renting for a few years before buying is generally a sound course, particularly in the current market. On the plus side, there are no restrictions on foreigners (resident or non-resident) buying property in Spain. The costs of buying a home are around 15 percent of property sale price, and are primarily paid by the buyer. You can find more information in Expatica's guide to buying property in Spain.
Find a property in Spain
As with other countries, the most common way to find a house or apartment to rent in Spain is through an estate agent (inmobiliarias), online property portals, newspaper adverts or word of mouth. In addition to the Spanish property portals listed below, you may find Spanish properties listed on real estate websites based in other countries, particularly the UK and Germany. However, these will often be targeted at tourists and may therefore be more expensive.
Many foreign nationals choose to live in Spain, either for extended holidays, retirement or work; many estate agents cater to multiple languages as a result. They are often primarily focused on sales, although if you don't speak Spanish well, you may find that it's worth enquiring about rentals as well. Estate agents are usually paid by the landlord. However, if you ask an agent to find you a property, you can expect to pay for this service, either a fixed fee or a percentage of the monthly rent. This will typically be between EUR 250 up to a month's rent.
Online property portals
While holiday and short-term lets require a licence, long-term lets don't. As a result, properties vary in quality and the descriptions vary in accuracy. Property portals that offer languages other than Spanish sometimes use automatic computer translations, so be sure to confirm that the key features exist when you view the property.
As in many European countries, Spanish properties are typically advertised with a monthly rent and a living space in square metres. The advert should also indicate whether the property is furnished or not. However, as there are no clear standards for this, unfurnished properties may be completely bare, have no kitchen appliances, or include a few pieces of furniture left by the landlord. Likewise, furnished properties can be either comprehensive, including kitchen items, or very basic – so if you view the property while the previous tenant is still in residence, make sure you're very clear about which pieces of furniture are staying. One option is to email the estate agent to confirm this, getting the answer in writing.
Since 1 June 2013, all properties for long-term lets (rather than holiday lets) are required to have an energy efficiency certificate. This will often help you spot houses that will be expensive to heat or which are older, as new properties will typically have a good energy rating.
Applying for a property in Spain
Expect to apply to an estate agent for a property and to put down the equivalent of one month's rent when you do. This is usually rolled into your deposit when the contract and moving in are complete.
You will typically be asked to provide:
- Evidence of employment or ability to pay the rent;
- tax identification number (if you are working);
- passport or ID;
- personal references.
In Spain, a tenancy agreement (contrato de arrendamiento) is valid whether verbal or written. Verbal contracts are generally a bad idea, particularly if you don't speak the language fluently. Insist on having everything in writing so you ensure you fully understand what you're signing. To break a contract, the lessee must give at least 30 days' notice before the end date.
As standard, a tenant with a long-term contract (more than one year) has the right to renew annually for three years, unless the landlord states after one year that they intend to occupy the property personally on a given date – two months' notice must be given to the lessee. The landlord is permitted to increase the rent if improvements are made, as long as the increase meets certain standards and is less than 20 percent overall.
Typically, a contract will be for 12 months, renewed annually, and if you give notice to quit during this period, you will have to pay rent until the end of the contract. However, as of June 2013 this is no longer legally required – rental periods can be as little as six months followed by a rolling one month contract. Still, if you expect to have to leave suddenly and in a way that is out of your control – for example being recalled by your company – you should budget for this or have an escape clause written into the contract.
The full details of rental law in Spain are provided on the government website (in Spanish).
Cost of renting a home in Spain
The deposit is equivalent to a minimum of one, typically two, months of rent and cannot be used to pay your rent. It should be held by a third party. The landlord cannot ask to be paid more than one month's rent in advance, and payment is usually at the beginning of the month. The landlord may ask for a bank guarantee. This means that if the tenant fails to pay the rent, the landlord can apply directly to the tenant's bank for the funds.
In addition to the rent, the tenant will be expected to pay for utilities and minor repairs due to wear and tear. This should be made clear in the contract. Utilities for a two bedroom apartment in Spain are typically around EUR 50–150 per month, depending on energy efficiency, usage and type of utilities. On top of this, there may be annual or monthly fees for maintenance of communal areas and local charges, such as garbage collection.
Short-term (under 12 months) and holiday lets (under 3 months) are regulated in Spain and landlords must be licenced. Spain is a popular holiday destination, which means that there are many properties available at all prices. However, you may find that affordable short-term accommodation is in short supply in popular areas or during the high season (typically summer, school holidays and Christmas). You must vacate the property when your short-term contract (contrato de arrendamiento de temporada) ends.
Moving in and out
Tenants must maintain the property to a reasonable standard so it's important to ensure that an inventory is done at the start of your tenancy and is accurate. In addition, it's advisable to request an inspection two to four weeks before you actually leave, to give you time to put any quibbles right and thus regain as much of your deposit as possible. If you do this, you may be able to get the landlord to give you your deposit back when you return the keys. Otherwise, they have the right to keep it for one month. Any longer and they must pay interest on the funds.
Spanish law is strongly pro-tenant. It is difficult for a landlord to evict a tenant, even if they stop paying rent, as court proceedings are slow and rent must remain unpaid for an extended period before the landlord can arrange an eviction. In 2013, the period was reduced from six months to six weeks, making it easier for landlords to start the eviction process, although court cases tend to still be drawn out over several months.
Shutting off utilities, changing the locks or otherwise restricting the tenant's use of the property is likely to be considered harassment, and landlords who do so may face a fine or a jail sentence. Landlords may even be charged with trespassing if they enter their own property without the permission of the tenant.
One concern for tenants in the current market is that the landlord may go bankrupt and the property be repossessed by the bank. In this case, the tenant continues to have the right to occupy the property as though it had been sold in the usual way. In practice, you will often be asked to leave by the former or new owner. You do not have to agree. If you are offered a financial settlement to encourage you to leave, you may accept it but you don't have to.
Find a property in Spain using Expatica's housing search.
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Photo credit: Alan Cleaver (photo 1).
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