Where to look
If you are already in Spain then it would be a good idea to start scouring the newspapers; just go to any newspaper stand (quiosco) and ask the person working there what papers have local classified ads (anuncios clasificados) in them. Keep an eye out for 'For Rent' (Se Alquila) signs and consider using an estate agent, although they may charge a fee and there will probably be a more stringent vetting process.
The Internet is obviously a great place to look, particularly if you aren't yet in Spain. There are plenty of letting websites out there, many of them free to use. These are all worth checking out:
If you don't speak Spanish it may be a good idea to use a web browser that automatically translates foreign text, such as Google Chrome. The translations aren't always perfect and some of the sites will have English-language options anyway (look for the flag), but when they don't the auto-translate feature can be extremely useful. Have a look around for some English-language forums where you can speak directly to people with experience of living in Spain. They will often be happy to help and provide plenty of insight into the particular area you are looking to live in and may have experience of situations similar to your own. They may even be able to help you find a property.
It's worth considering placing an ad yourself, stating that you are looking for somewhere to live. You can do this for free on some of the listed websites and lots of landlords will check these ads when they have properties to fill. If you're looking to share a flat, potential flatmates are often pro-active when trying to fill an empty room and the Internet is often the first place they will look, after contacting friends and acquaintances. Make sure you include what kind of property you're looking for and where, but also write something about your interests – sell yourself well and you may find that rather than finding a new place, your new place finds you.
So you've found somewhere you think might be right – what now? First, it is essential to arrange a viewing. Don't agree to rent anywhere before you see it and if you don't speak Spanish then I would strongly advise taking someone along who does, just to be on the safe side. You should never sign a contract if you don't understand what you're signing, even if you've found the place of your dreams.
Be aware that some unscrupulous people target house-hunters with scams. If it's a great price and looks too good to be true then it probably is. Be wary of landlords who ask for a deposit before you even view the flat or some other proof that you are serious as they are most likely trying to take you for a ride. As long as you're sensible and aware that people may try to exploit you, you shouldn't have any problems.
Contracts and costs
You’ll find that almost all places require a deposit (fianza) so make sure you check how much you can expect to recover when you leave. The landlord is only entitled to ask for a month’s rent as a deposit and this should be paid to an independent agent, such as the local housing department. Not all apartments will require a contract (contrato) but it is strongly advised that you insist on one, or else look for somewhere else. A contract provides security for both you and your landlord so make sure you have one. The contract should include the identity of both owner and tenant, an agreed duration of lease, identification of the particular property, the rental cost and any other terms you have agreed with the landlord. You should also find out if utilities (gastos) are included in the rent. In Spain, in addition to the normal utilities like gas, water, and electric, people also pay what they call comunidad, which tends to cover communal expenses like paying for doormen and the maintenance of stairwells. Thus, you should check to see not only if utilities are included but also if comunidad is included in the rent.
Unlike most properties in the UK, you may find that your landlord is willing to negotiate on the cost of rent if you are willing to stay long-term. It may not work but it's certainly worth asking about. Bear in mind that in sought-after areas the rent will be higher, particularly if you're looking for a place to yourself.
Most properties, particularly in built-up areas, will be equipped for the Internet. Some companies even offer line rentals from BT. If your building isn’t already wired and you want Internet access, you can always sort out a dongle from one of the phone and Internet providers. Ask the landlord things such as ¿Hay Internet? or ¿Podría contratar Internet?
If you’re planning on sharing a house or apartment with others you may want to ask the landlord if each bedroom has its own lock (¿tiene cerradura propia?). You may also want to ask things like whether or not flatmates take turns keeping up with the cleaning of the property and whether or not you have the right to use all the common areas of the apartment.
Your landlord may ask for some form of guarantee that you are able to pay the rent, such as proof of employment or an aval bancario guarantee from the bank. This is standard practice if you are renting a flat on your own so if you don't have a job you may find that you have to take a room in a shared property.
Rental properties are regulated by the Tenancies Act (LAU) of 24 November 1994 and it would be worth familiarising yourself with the Act if you are going to be renting in Spain. The act states that your landlord is required to undertake any repairs that are necessary to keep the home in liveable condition without raising the rent, unless the damage is directly attributable to the tenant. However, your contract may stipulate that the tenant is responsible for the proper maintenance of the property, including services, taxes, charges and liabilities.
During the first five years of the contract, rent can be updated on a yearly basis but only according to the variations of the Consumer Price Index (Indice de Precios al Consumo, IPC) and the landlord should provide written notification of any intention to increase the rent. After this five-year spell the rent can increase by up to 20%. The rent can also be increased, based on the legal interest rate and total invested, if your landlord makes improvements to the property. Even in this case, the rent cannot increase by over 20%. Your landlord cannot ask for more than a one month payment in advance and generally you can expect to have to pay within the first seven days at the start of each month.
Unless stated specifically in your contract, at the end of each year the contract is automatically extended by another year unless the tenant provides notice of their intention to leave thirty days before an end-of-year renewal. Holiday rentals, even long-term ones, are exempt from laws applicable to urban leasing.
If the owner decides to sell the property the tenant may have the right of first refusal, unless this has been waived in the tenancy agreement or the sale involves a number of buildings in the area.
As of 1 July 2013, all properties for rent must present an Energy Performance Certificate (EPC). For more information on how EPC affects buying, renting and selling a property in Spain, please read 'Understanding EPC housing regulations in Spain'.
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Expatica's Getting Started section will provide practical information on how you can open a bank account, exchange your driving licence, improve your Spanish, and more.
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A brief introduction to our Tax section for Spain, from help with inheritance tax to accounting advice.
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