Spanish law governing residential rental contracts changed in 2013, but many people don’t know about the new rules. Here’s a quick guide to the current Ley de Arrendamientos Urbanos or LAU for anyone renting a Las Palmas property.
The standard rental contract
The standard residential rental contract in Las Palmas and all over Gran Canaria (and Spain) runs for a minimum of a year and automatically extends anually to three years unless either party desires otherwise.
As a tenant, you can’t be evicted without compensation by the landlord within the first 12 months for any reason other than non-payment of the rent or antisocial behavior (and even this requires a court order).
If you are moving to Las Palmas for a defined period of time for a work contract or other purpose that isn’t tourism, you can sign a ‘Contrato de Alquiler por Temporada’. This is similar to a residential rental contract but is for a defined period of time (say six months or one year). Technically you are meant to give two months deposit.
Your rights after renting for 12 months
After the first year, your contract extends automatically for a further 12 months unless either party gives legal notice. It then extends for a further 12 months up to three years.
As the tenant, you can provide the landlord with 30 days notice after 11 months of the first year and leave without any restrictions.
However, the landlord must provide two months notice and have a good reason to break the contract and ask you to leave. The law allows landlords to break a rental contract after a year only if they need the property as a residence for themselves or their immediate family due to divorce, separation, etc.
Notice, for both landlords and tenants, must be given in writing.
The law also states that if a landlord evicts a tenant and then doesn’t move into the property within three months, they have to pay the tenant’s moving costs and a month’s rent per year of contract remaining up to a maximum of three years, or allow the tenant to move back in.
Can you leave before a year is up?
The law allows tenants to leave without any financial penalty after six months if they provide 30 days of notice.
However, it also allows the landlord to put a compensation clause in the contract. This can be up to a month’s rent per remaining year of the contract up to three years (with the remaining months of the first year compensated as a proportion).
For a landlord to ask for compensation after six months, the compensation clause must be in the original contract you signed.
If you leave a rented property before the first six months, you have to pay the landlord compensation of one month’s rent per remaining year, plus a proportional part of the first year.
Your rights after three years
After a residential contract has run for three years, it automatically extends for a further 12 months unless either party wants to break the contract. The landlord can ask a tenant to leave after three years for any reason, provided that they give two months notice.
When each year after the first three years is up, the landlord can ask a tenant to leave by providing a month’s notice.
Tenant rights in case of separation
If you rent an apartment in Las Palmas as a couple and one of you leaves, the other party has the right to remain in the property for the remainder of the contract (provided that the couple had been living together for two years prior to the start of the rental contract).
Residential rental deposits
The standard deposit for a residential rental contract is one month’s rent. While not technically legal, landlords often ask for two month’s deposit if the tenant has a pet or the property has expensive furniture (make sure the total is in the contract). After three years the deposit can be negotiated up or down but cannot exceed two month’s rent.
The landlord should return the deposit as soon as a rental contract ends unless there is a good reason otherwise.
As a tenant, it’s a good idea to tour the property with the landlord just before you leave so that you can discuss any problems with the deposit.
Bear in mind that if you find a rental property via an estate or rental agent, you will also have to pay them a month’s rent.
Who pays the communidad, light, water, etc?
The landlord is responsible for paying the annual IBI tax and monthly communidad payments unless otherwise stated in the rental contract.
Water, electricity and other costs can either be paid by the landlord or the tenant, depending on what is agreed and put into the rental contract.
Can the landlord raise the rent?
Landlords can now include an annual rise in the rent in the initial contract. The amount is no longer governed by the law and can be negotiated.
Subletting a rental property
As a tenant, you need to ask the landlord for written permission to sublet a room or the entire property. The landlord is free to refuse to allow subletting.
What if a landlord sells a property with a sitting tenant?
If your rental contract is registered with the local Property Registry by the landlord, you can remain in the property until the initial three year period is up. However, if it is not registered, the landlord can sell the property and give the tenant three month’s notice.
As a sitting tenant, you have first right to buy a property at the asking price. If the landlord refuses the tenant’s offer and subsequently sells the property for less, the tenant has the right to get the sale annulled and then buy it for the sale price.
Landlords can include a clause in the rental contract that annuls the tenant’s first right to buy.
Eviction from a rental property
If a landlord registers a rental contract with the Property Registry, they can register a tenant as a debtor if the rent is more than a month late.
The tenant then has ten days to pay after being notified with a legal or notarial document. If the tenant doesn’t pay, the rental contract is canceled. However, the landlord can’t evict the tenant without going to court for an eviction order. This is still a complex procedure and can take several months.
Landlords are not allowed to cut off water and electricity, or to change the locks while a tenant is in residence (even if they haven’t paid the rent).
Landlords are not allowed to enter a rental property without the tenant’s permission, even if the contract contains a clause that allows it.
Check the inventory carefully before you sign it as you can lose your deposit if you leave a residential rental property unless everything is still in the property and in good condition.
It’s a good idea to photography your rental property thoroughly when you move in, or to ask for the inventory to include photographs.
Repairs and refurbishments
The landlord is responsible for maintaining the property in a fit and habitable condition but is not responsible for minor wear and tear or for repairing damage caused by the tenant.
Emergency repairs (for example to leaking pipes or a broken boiler) can be carried out by the tenant but they should make every effort to inform the landlord first. The landlord must return any money spent by the tenant on emergency repairs.
If a landlord wishes to refurbish a property they must inform the tenant three months in advance. The tenant can give a month’s notice and leave if they don’t want to live in the property during the work.
The tenant can also negotiate a reduction in rent for the period of the work to compensate for the inconvenience.
If a landlord significantly improves a property, they can ask the sitting tenant to pay more rent.
Notes on rental contracts and Spanish law
Nothing in a contract in Spain is valid if it removes any of your constitutional rights; you can’t sign away your rights in Spain.
For example, the maximum compensation a landlord can ask for if you leave early is one month’s rent per remaining year of the contract. If you sign a contract that includes more than the maximum, it is illegal.
Also, an eleven-month contract, used by some landlords to get around having to allow tenants to remain for three years, is meaningless. You always have the right to remain in a residential rental property for three years unless the landlord needs it for personal use.
I’m Laura Leyshon and I’m Las Palmas’ resident British estate agent. I specialise in top floor and luxury property all over the city and the island of Gran Canaria.
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