Another turn of the screw in the regulation of vacation houses

On the date of 18 April 2015, going into effect the following day, the Decree 20/2015, of 17 April, was published, on general principles and coordination directives on tourism subjects; on the regulation of advisory bodies, of coordination and of cooperation of the Government of the Balearic Islands, and on the regulation and classification of companies and tourist establishments, in the implementation of the Law 8/2012, of 19 July, on Tourism of the Balearic Islands.

This Decree implements the Tourism Law, clarifying concepts and completing the previously existing regulations on, among other subjects, the renting of houses for tourist stays.

On the one hand, it clarifies and completes the definition of the type of houses in which the tourist stay is permitted.

The Tourism Law of the Balearic Islands allows the marketing of tourist stays in isolated single-family house. That is, one single house on the plot. The regulation clarifies that in this concept adjoining housing units are not included.

On the other hand, it establishes the procedure and necessary documentation, a procedure called by analogous application, to assess whether it is possible to accept that two or more houses may exist on the same plot. The Law only established this possibility with no further mention.

For this case, the regulation indicates that a process should be initiated before the insular tourism administration competent in subjects of tourism organisation, and the following documentation must be presented:

  • Copy of the certificate of habitability.
  • Copy of the deed of ownership.
  • Cadastral plan of the set of houses.

Furthermore, within this procedure by analogy, in the case that horizontal property exists on the plot, it should include in the documentation an affidavit of commencement of business declaring that the bylaws that regulate the horizontal property do not impede the tourist rental.

If in the future the bylaws are modified and impede tourist rentals, the procedure of cancellation of the registration of the tourist registers and the suspension of the business will be initiated.

This bylaw modification does not seem very feasible insofar as it would require unanimity. With one person who markets his house voting against it, this unanimity is avoided.

What is more, they do not include what criteria must be taken into account for the authorisation.

Within the isolated single-family type, in spite of seeming contradictory, it expressly includes that the marketing of tourist stays in single-family dwellings with party walls is permitted, as long as it is the only one on the plot.

It follows that, for example, the typical houses within a town forming a row of houses could be rented for tourist stays.

The wording of the law was confusing in this regard and its inclusion was not clear.

The definition of single-family semi-detached houses has not been modified. They are the ones on the same plot, subject to horizontal ownership regime or when on different plots there are single-family houses joined to the party walls that separate them.

However, it concludes that when it deals with semi-detached houses that are on the same plot subject to horizontal ownership, a declaration must be presented with the affidavit of commencement of business, with respect to the fact that the bylaws that regulate the horizontal property do not impede tourist rentals.

In case that the bylaws are modified and impede tourist rentals, the cancellation procedure of the registration in the tourist registers and the suspension of the activity will commence.

Apart from this, the regulation modifies the calculation of minimum bathrooms due to the difficulty of numerous houses to comply with this parameter. While in the law it was established that the minimum allocation of bathrooms must be one for every three occupants, currently it would be the following:

  • Between 1 and 5 occupants: 1 bathroom
  • Between 6 and 8 occupants: 2 bathrooms
  • Between 9 and 11 occupants: 3 bathrooms
  • 12 occupants: 4 bathrooms

With respect to calculating the occupants, the regulation adds that for the effects of the maximum number of occupants, children up to 12 years of age are not counted, neither are the surveillance, cleaning or domestic personnel that may spend the night in the dwelling.

No distinction is made in the law in this regard for which reason it should be considered that all persons are considered occupants.

Another novelty included in the regulation on which nothing had been indicated in the Law is that the insular tourist administration competent in subject of tourism organisation shall have published in its website an updated list of the channels that are considered for tourist marketing, without it being considered a closed list, in the sense that it will not imply that a channel that is not included in this list cannot be considered, for justified reasons, also a tourism marketing channel.

This list will be a guide, a sensu contrario, for those that rent their houses through the Urban Rental Law with seasonal rentals since they will know in which websites they cannot offer the rental of their houses.

Lastly, it establishes a series of requirements that must be fulfilled by houses subject of tourist stay marketing that plan to be registered in the tourism registries with the aim of exercising their activity. These requirements are included in Annex 6 of the regulation.

Annex 6 contains two lists of requirements: some essential and, therefore, of mandatory compliance, and others for evaluation.

The essential requirements include, in addition to the legal ones and that the house has electricity and hot water, that is, that it is habitable, the need for the house to have a washing machine, iron and ironing board, first aid kit, user’s manual, candles and/or lanterns, etc.

With respect to the list for evaluation, the interested person has to grant the score that he considers appropriate to each of the aspects, with the maximum points indicated. The total of points obtained cannot be less than 70.

The evaluable aspects are in terms of whether the house has a swimming pool, garden, barbeque, Internet, music player, etc.

In conclusion, a further step has been taken in the regulation of the vacation houses, giving greater legal security to this type of activities.

By Daniel Olabarria, lawyer of Bufete Buades.