You’ve finally decided to take the plunge and move to Spain: congratulations! The next thing you need to decide is whether you will rent a property or buy a property. Whilst there are many obvious benefits of buying a property in Spain, renting is a great way to temporarily dip your toes into living overseas without the long-term commitment. But what are you rights as a tenant when renting in Spain? And are there tenancy laws to protect you from unscrupulous landlords?
A tenancy agreement is a legal contract, so it’s important to know what the terms of your agreement are before you enter into it. Here’s everything you need to know:
Inspecting the Property
You wouldn’t buy a car without taking it out for a test drive, and you shouldn’t rent a property without inspecting it thoroughly. Make not of the condition of the property itself, as well as any furniture and white goods. Check for damp and mould, and make a list of any work that needs doing, or that you would like to be completed before you move in. It is important that the property is fully inspected before the contracts are drawn up, as anything that isn’t included in this won’t be covered if it is reported as damaged at a later stage.
Evidence is a key word here: take photos, ensure any damage is noted in writing, and get written clarification of who will be responsible for any maintenance that is needed too. Some landlords or their agents will take pictures of everything within the property before you move in, and will also ask you to sign this as proof of the condition of the property at the point you moved in. If they don’t do this, you may want to put together this document and organise it yourself.
Rent Your Property from the Right Person
In order to prevent property scams and ensure that you are renting the property from the rightful owner (and not a third party posing as the owner) trying to sublet it to make a profit, you should ask to see proof of ownership before you sign your tenancy agreement. This is easy to do: visit the official Property Registration Website, and simply enter the address of the property you intend to rent.
Understanding Your Contract
You cannot legally begin a tenancy without a formalised, written contract. The duration of your tenancy agreement can be agreed between the tenant and the landlord, but the tenant has the right to rent a property for a duration of no less than five years, with the contract (Contrato de Arrendamiento) being renewed annually. (this increased to seven years if the landlord is a legal entity).
If the landlord decides, after the first year of the tenancy is completed, that they want to live in the property themselves (or give it to a spouse in the case of a divorce or separation) then they should give the tenant at least two months notice. This possibility should also have been outlined in the initial contract. If these circumstances apply to you, but the property has not been used by the landlord within three months of you using it, then you have the right to reoccupy it and recommence the terms of your initial contract, if you wish.
Changed your mind about the property, the neighbourhood, or even living in Spain? You can terminate your contract early, after six months, provided you give your landlord at least 30 days notice. Your contract may also stipulate that you compensate a landlord with a months rend for each year remaining on the contract. Finally, your landlord may choose to terminate your contract if you don’t fulfill the obligations laid out in it. These include:
- Failing to pay the monthly rent
- Failing to pay the deposit for the property
- Subletting the property
- Causing any malicious damage to the property
- Making excessive noise or undertaking illegal, unhealthy or dangerous activities at the property
As the tenant, you have the right to terminate the contract if:-
- The landlord does not carry out any essential repairs or maintenance to the property
- The landlord causes unnecessary disturbance to the tenant.
Paying Your Deposit
Before the tenancy begins, your landlord (or an agency acting on their behalf) has the right to ask for a security deposit that is valued at up to a maximum of one month’s rent. The value of your security deposit cannot be increased during the first five years of the tenancy (seven years if the landlord is a legal entity), but if you stay in the property for longer than five years then the landlord can increase the deposit value at that stage.
That doesn’t mean that your landlord can start to double your deposit after a five year period has passed though: new legislation put in place by the Spanish government means that any rent increases can’t exceed the Consumer Price Index (CPI) or the measure of inflation. This also means that any contract with an annual rent increase included in it is no longer permitted.
Worried about whether you will get your deposit money back at the end of your tenancy? The good news is that, just like in the UK, landlords and agencies have an obligation to register the deposit with an admin institution within the relevant Autonomous Community so that it can be protected. This is detailed in Spain’s tenancy act (Ley de Arrendamientos Urbanos or LAU) under article 36.1. Unfortunately, the bad news is that the vast majority of landlords in Spain are unaware of this law, and many don’t follow it. If you’re landlord doesn’t mention the scheme, then you have the right to insist they use it. You should receive your deposit back without one month of moving out of the rented property.
Understanding Your Rights as a Tenant
So, you’ve found the right property to rent, completed an extensive home inspection and your contracts have been signed, sealed and delivered; What next? Now it’s important to ensure you understand what your legal rights as a tenant are:
- You have a right to live your life undisturbed by your landlord. This means that if your landlord needs to enter the property for any reason, they should give you prior notice, seek your permission, and enter at your convenience.
- You have the right to make small improvements to the property, such as painting, putting up shelves, or changing minor fixtures and fittings. However, your contract may require that you inform your landlord prior to undertaking these improvements.
- If you make any changes to the property without discussing these with your landlord, you will have to return the property to its former state when your tenancy ends.
- An owner cannot sell a property when they have a tenant living in it. This means that regardless as to whether it has been sold or not, the buyer cannot legally make you leave the property until the whole duration of the tenancy has been completed: you cannot be asked to leave your home.
- A tenant aged over 70 or with a disability can perform accessibility work to a property to make it easier for them to use and enjoy the property.
Are you thinking of moving to Spain? Would you rather buy your dream property, instead of renting a property when you arrive? Then why not get in touch with our local property experts, who are perfectly placed to help you find the home of your dreams.