February 5th, 2024

Changes in regulation of tourist rental licences on the Costa Brava

On November 7, 2023, the Catalan parliament introduced a decree law that should better regulate the tourist rental of houses or apartments. In this post we discuss the announced changes and its short-term consequences.

Present Situation

In order to rent out a house in Catalonia to tourists for a specified period via f.e. Booking, Airbnb or other specialist websites, you need a so-called HUTG number. This number, together with the tourist rental permit, was obtained for an indefinite period by submitting a so-called habitability declaration which, among other things, indicates how many people the house is suitable for.

Many homes currently have this HUTG number and a certain percentage of these are actively rented out to tourists for a couple of months per year.

According to the local government, this is starting to become a problem in some areas because many houses are only rented for some months (or not at all)  and therefore do not come onto the market for long-term rental; this would have created a shortage of rental houses, meaning that local home seekers could no longer rent a house at reasonable prices.

The decree law

A decree law is generally issued if, according to the government, it is of an urgent nature (a normal law has a much longer approval period), but on the other hand it also has a limited size and scope. Besides this the law still has to be validated ( expected in March this year)

The most important proposals in the decree are:

  • In a municipality there may not be more than 10 houses per 100 inhabitants that have a tourist rental licence.

  • The municipalities must include in their zoning plan the requirements that houses must meet to qualify for a tourist rental permit

  • The municipalities become responsible for issueing such a permit (until now this was done through the local government, the Generalitat) and this permit will then be valid for 5 years.

Facade of a new and modern house with swimming pool and maintenance-free garden in Calonge.
Villa in Calonge with rental license and high occupancy rate

Which municipalities fall outside the guideline?

In Catalonia there are a total of 262 municipalities, which currently have more than 10 properties with licence per 100 inhabitants.

The current situation in a number of municipalities at the Costa Brava is as follows: Calonge has 20 houses with a HUTG number per 100 inhabitants and should therefore over time withdraw half of the permits based on the legislator's proposal; Platja d'Aro currently has 25 houses per 100 inhabitants.

The number of houses that may no longer be eligible for tourist rental will vary per municipality and is not yet known. A large number of municipalities are currently even negotiating with the legislature to increase the number of 10 houses to 15 or 20 per 100 inhabitants.

It is therefore very likely that the currently announced plans will be adjusted after an initial reconsideration and discussions with the various municipalities. There will of course be a sensible trade-off between maintaining sufficient high-quality accommodation options for tourists (essential for a healthy local economy) while ensuring sufficient rental options for local people. According to many stakeholders, there are of course several and more options (other than limiting rental permits) to balance these two requirements.

Medieval center with buildings with painted facades in Calonge.
The center of Calonge

Expected criteria for granting a rental permit

First of all, it could be that within the new zoning plan there will exist areas where tourist rental is possible and where it is no. Besides this it is expected, that properties will need to comply with some minimum requirements like a certain level of energy classification. This will be decided per municipality.

It is also likely that houses that currently have a rental permit, but are not actively rented, will lose their HUTG number during the next 5 years.

The law will probably include a paragraph that indicates that an existing tourist rental permit cannot be taken away if the owners can demonstrate that this tourist rental constitutes a for them essential source of income.

Short-term consequences

It is important to know that, pending the final extent of the law, no new rental permits will be issued in municipalities that do not meet the maximum requirement.

An example of a municipality that falls outside this limits is Caldes de Malavella, which includes the Can Carbonell district where Porfinca is active and has sold many houses.

Single-storey bungalow with covered terrace, sun terrace and swimming pool on the Costa Brava.
Villa for sale with rental permit in Can Carbonell

Please feel free to contact us if you are planning to sell your house or purchase a property on the Costa Brava so that we can assist you professionally.