The parliamentary bill to change the rules governing rented accommodation (full name: Ley de Medidas de Flexibilización y Fomento del Mercado de Alquiler de Viviendas) has sparked controversy within the country’s all-important tourism industry.
The law will oblige private owners who rent out their properties for short periods of time to meet a series of requirements as well as to comply with the special tourism apartment regulations still to be established by the Junta de Andalucía.
While waiting for the regional authority to draw up this law, and for the central government to define exactly what it considers to be a holiday property, thousands of individual owners have been left wondering what regulations will apply to them.
The potential changes do not just affect a handful of people, but an important sector of the tourism industry. According to the annual financial report produced by La Caixa in 2012, the number of tourists staying in non-official holiday apartments on the Costa del Sol was three times greater than those choosing hotel accommodation. The report states that last year tourists spent 43.1 million nights in properties that are not registered as tourist accommodation, mainly because until now the urban letting law (LAU) has not made this compulsory.
It comes as a shock, therefore, that the government has introduced changes to limit this practice in response to calls from hoteliers to curb what they consider to be unfair competition, when demand for rented accommodation is in fact far greater than for hotel rooms. On the Costa del Sol last year tourists reserved 15.2 million nights in hotels, a third of the total for private apartments. These proportions remain the same on regional and national levels.
Experts have been quick to point out that visitors who stay in privately rented accommodation would not necessarily have booked a hotel if their preferred option had not been available.
In terms of the tourist head count rather than overnight stays, last year, according to the Costa del Sol Tourism Observatory, of a total of 9.1 million visitors, 4.3 reserved hotel rooms and 4.8 used other accommodation.
The growing trend towards self-catering accommodation has even been reflected within the sector of the market that is considered official. Registered tourist apartments (that is, buildings on the coast that are operated as tourist complexes with services similar to those offered by hotels) were used by 640,000 tourists last year, staying for 4.1 million nights, an increase of six per cent according to the Tourism Observatory.