What is happening with Airbnb in Spain?

You may have heard the rumours about Airbnb in Spain and problems with short-term apartment rental. A big influx in tourist apartments being made available online has meant booking companies like Airbnb being blamed for over tourism. There has been some press coverage and lots of opinions on social media but to be honest it left me feeling pretty confused. I don’t know about you but I just couldn’t make sense of what was happening with Airbnb in Spain.

I have used short-term rental websites like Airbnb and Booking.com many times. I think it’s a great way for travellers to find affordable accommodation and for landlords to advertise their rental property. I also hope to buy a property in Spain in the near future and have considered the possibility of renting it out as a side income. So, I thought I should look into things a little further and find out exactly what’s happening with this so called “crack down” on holiday rentals through Airbnb in Spain.

Airbnb in Spain - the current situation explained

Short-term property rental in Spain

Ok, so the first thing I’ve found is that because of the way Spain is governed, as 17 Autonomous Communities,  regulations, restrictions, laws and fines will differ from region to region. Some regions already have quite strict rules in place but were not really governing them, while others have waited for this to really escalate before they addressed the issue.

For example, Andalusia set a holiday rental decree back in in 2016. This attempted to take control of the increasing number of holiday rentals, which are sometimes called tourist apartments in Spain. For more in-depth info on what that involves click here.

Long-term tenancy agreements in Spain tend favour the tenants over landlords. It’s not a bad thing if short-term rentals are also required to meet certain standards and face tough fines if they don’t. I personally welcome a registration and licencing process for holiday rental properties in Spain.

Why is Airbnb being targeted?

I don’t think this a vendetta against Airbnb. They are just the most well-known of all the short-term rental platforms. Airbnb very quickly made a success of this style of online booking platform. They have become the most famous company but they are certainly not the only businesses involved in the current problems. Other companies that offer the same kind of holiday rental service in Spain are: HomeAway, HolidayLettings, Booking.com, Tripping, Flipkey.

While Airbnb take certain steps to make sure their platform is secure and listings are correct, there are some holes in the way it’s regulated. Airbnb feel the responsibility lies with local governments to govern any regulations and they do what they can to encourage responsible hosting.

What is happening with holiday rentals in Spain

What are locals unhappy about?

The local councils and governing offices in Spain obviously want to get things under control but what about all the angry protests we keep hearing about. What is it that the locals are unhappy about regarding Airbnb rentals?

Residents feel that…

  • Short-term rentals to tourists increase the rental prices
  • Local residents can no longer afford to live in those areas
  • They are being pushed out of prime location or city centres
  • The rise in short-term rentals brings an influx of tourists at peak times
  • It’s very disruptive to the local environment and disturbs residents

Hotels feel that…

  • Short-term rentals are undercutting the hotels
  • Business is being taken away from the hotels
  • Un-regulated short-term rentals to not pay taxes like hotels
  • And they are not subject to the same strict rules and scrutiny as hotels

What is being done?

At the moment each Autonomous Region of Spain is setting their own individual rules for their region. They aim to tackle some of the above issues and find long term solutions. There has been talk of a country wide ruling but so far that has not been confirmed. It may appear in the media as though Spain has banned all holiday rentals but that really is not the case. So far, these regions have made the following steps:


Barcelona was one of the first regions to start strictly monitoring fining un-licensed listings. The Catalonia government are reported to have collected over €4 million in fines since 2012. They have shut down thousands of illegal rentals which Airbnb assisted with by removing from their website. However, Catalan officials quite publicly argued with Airbnb that they are not doing enough to stop un-licensed listings.


Madrid is considering setting a rule that restricts apartments in the city centre using a zoning system. They propose to restrict landlords renting to tourists for a maximum of 90 days per year. Short-term tourist rentals in the city centre will also need a separate entrance, so cannot be in a block of flats with local permanent residents.

Balearic Islands

Mallorca and Ibiza have heavily fined both hosts and Airbnb for un-licensed listings and put a cap on the number of beds available to be rented. Starting from July 2018 Palma, the capital of Mallorca has set a ban on holiday rentals in the city centre.


The city of Valencia recently announced that they will block any applications for new rentals in the historic centre. They are also considering limiting holiday rentals to the ground and first floor apartments, in a bid to ensure that permanent residents enjoy the best views.

Holiday apartment sin Spain

How does this affect tourists?

Tourists are in no way liable or held accountable for booking un-licenced holiday rentals via Airbnb in Spain. But why take the risk of booking accommodation through a greedy or dodgy host/landlord. You risk either staying in a sub-standard apartment. Or facing a last-minute cancelation if your apartment gets fined and removed from the website.

As a tourist using Airbnb (or a similar website) in Spain I would recommend that you follow these tips:

  • Check if the destination you are interested in visiting has any specific rules about tourist apartment rentals
  • Look for properties located outside of the city centre
  • Make sure the landlord/host provides a licence number if that’s a requirement
  • Check the property meets any local rules (location, city zone, floor level etc)
  • Read the reviews of the landlord/host and only book if they have good feedback, beware of anyone reporting them for not meeting requirements
  • Make sure the photos are of all rooms, look genuine and meet the requirements (e.g furnished, air-con, clean, safe)
  • Ask the landlord/host for the building or community rules (recycling, public areas, noise levels etc)

What else can we do?

As a tourist using a short-term holiday rental, we should always:

  • Be respectful of our neighbours
  • Keep noise levels down after 11pm and before 8am
  • Be aware of any community rules and adhere to them
  • Leave the property and surrounding area exactly as we found it

*RELATED article: For my thoughts of how we can all be better tourists read – Ways that we can reduce negative tourism

What is happening with Airbnb in Spain?

In conclusion

Changes in the short-term rental laws across Spain are being made. While this will create more paperwork for landlords it should not have to much of an affect on tourists. It will result in a drop in rental apartments available on websites like Airbnb but if regulated correctly, those hosts will be filing all the correct paperwork, paying their taxes and meeting all rental requirements. Which in the long term will be a good thing.

If you follow the tips mentioned above and choose a host/landlord that is playing by the rules, you have done everything you can.  I personally will still be using Airbnb and have a holiday villa by the beach in Mojacar all booked for later this month. If we all travel a little more consciously and actively try to be better tourists I think we can ensure that both tourists and locals still benefit from tourism in Spain.

So that in a nutshell is what’s currently happening with Airbnb in Spain, as things develop I will keep this article updated. I’m sure that everyone has an opinion on whether these rental restrictions are a good or bad thing. Let’s discuss it, leave your comments in the reply box below ↓↓

Other travel guides for Spain by Seeking the Spanish Sun that you may enjoy reading…

8 Surprising sights to see in Spain

Useful Spanish phrases for traveling in Spain

The 10 most beautiful beaches in Spain

Traveling by car in Spain

More thoughts and advice articles…

How to keep your valuables safe when traveling

How to survive a low cost airline flight

The reality of adjusting to Spanish life

Airbnb discount

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  1. 20th July 2018 / 3:27 pm

    This is such a helpful post. I know Airbnb and similar rental are causing issues in Spain but also elsewhere and it does get confusing as a tourist! This really has provided some useful background on it but obviously with all the different regions we certainly all need to do our research when traveling around in Spain!

    • SeekingTheSpanishSun
      22nd July 2018 / 9:23 am

      Thanks Kirstin 🙂 It is quite confusing at the moment. You’re right, I think it’s best to check what the rules are in the area of Spain that you plan to visit, just to be on the safe side.

  2. 19th July 2018 / 10:32 pm

    It’s good to have some regulation, I know different countries are making their own rules. I wasn’t aware of these regulations in Spain, thank you for the information, very useful.

    • SeekingTheSpanishSun
      22nd July 2018 / 9:25 am

      I agree, hopefully the regulations will help to protect tourists and locals in the long run. I’m sure that we will hear about more and more countries adopting new rules. Thanks for reading Vanessa, glad you found the post useful.

  3. 19th July 2018 / 10:17 am

    Something like AirBnB and other companies were going to come along in the future once the internet got its mojo on and Spain wasn’t prepared. Compared to other cities like London and Paris, AirBnB are sometimes the same price as hotel rooms and are not really undercutting them but where’s in Spain the landlords rent is a lot cheaper than other countries, they are able to offer cheaper prices which are more appealing to the traveler.

    I think it will get resolved in the near future but I think a lot of locals in Spain are really throwing a hizzy fit as they didn’t see AirBnB coming and what it will do to them. I call it competition. 😛 But I think the government there are doing it the wrong way. Look at other solutions guys…a peaceful agreement will come.

    • SeekingTheSpanishSun
      19th July 2018 / 10:50 am

      Of course, Airbnb was started as a way to introduce more affordable short-term rental options. Similar to Uber this kind of on-line competition in a healthy economy was bound to happen. The big hotels had control of holidays in Spain for so long and the shift to smaller, cheaper, more modern apartments has certainly meant that hotels have had to re-vamp and modernise their facilities.

      The local authorities are trying to regain control of things much too late but it’s not just Spain, many locations across the World are now starting to restrict tourist rentals. I’m not so confident that a solution will happen in the near future but it’s certainly one to watch. I hope a happy balance will be found because I worry that pushing tourists away will have a very detrimental affect.

  4. 18th July 2018 / 11:48 pm

    I think many European countries are starting to enforce stricter rules on Airbnb. In London, there’s now a cap of 90 nights a year, just for some of the reasons you listed. I remember reading about Barcelona, and I believe Berlin is now the same. I love Airbnb, but there are many downsides too.

    • SeekingTheSpanishSun
      19th July 2018 / 10:38 am

      Yes, it seems to be happening all over Europe. Tourist apartment rental became so popular so quickly in the major cities and popular holiday locations. I love using Airbnb and booking.com but I don’t see how the new rules will make it viable for landlords to keep renting to tourists.

  5. 18th July 2018 / 8:24 pm

    We’ve been thinking about Spain for next summer so this is very helpful. Thanks!

    • SeekingTheSpanishSun
      19th July 2018 / 10:15 am

      Great, I hope this info is helpful and you have a wonderful time when you visit Spain!

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