Thursday, 11 August 2016

Barcelona cracks down on illegal subletting for tourists and closes 256 apartments


Barcelona (CNA).- Barcelona has detected 256 apartments oriented toward hosting tourists in the city which didn’t have the appropriate licences to do so. This figure corresponds to July alone and is higher than that registered for the whole of 2014 and more than half the number of illegal accommodations detected in 2015, which was 533. “This is not a summer campaign but an action plan which has come to stay” warned Barcelona’s deputy mayor for Ecology, Urbanism and Mobility, Janet Sanz and emphasised that tourism in Barcelona “is not related to seasons”. The operation has been possible mainly due to the efforts of so-called ‘flat scouts’, a figure recently created by Barcelona’s city hall, who have found 234 illegal accommodations, while the official inspectors in charge of this only detected 22. Sanz praised the task of the ‘flat checkers’ and defined them as “a very useful resource”.  

The team of 20 ‘flat scouts’ in the Catalan capital found 738 suspicious accommodations through websites such as Airbnb and Homeaway. From the 509 apartments they visited ‘in situ’, 234 have proved to be hosting tourists illegally. Those flats will not only receive an order to cease activity but a fine of 30,000 euros for not having the appropriate licences. Moreover, 126 fines have been issued to the owners of those apartments who did have the licence but not at the property, as the law requires, and are now subject to a fine of 3,000 euros. The team of inspectors have identified another 22 flats out of the 512 they examined.

Two other accommodations are in Barcelona city hall’s spotlight: two student dormitories which were actually used as hotels will also have to regularise their situation, otherwise they’ll face a fine which could be up to 600,000 euros.

30,000-euro fine for Airbnb and Homeaway

Barcelona’s city hall’s action plan against illegal tourist accommodation also puts platforms such as Airbnb and Homeaway under the looking glass. The local government fined the websites 30,000 euros each for offering illegal tourist home rentals. Moreover, city hall has accused both platforms of failing to give the accommodations’ details to the local authorities. Indeed, the fines could climb to 600,000 euros.

553 illegal apartments detected in 2015

Barcelona’s deputy mayor for Ecology, Urbanism and Mobility, Janet Sanz, praised the local government’s action plan to fight against illegal accommodation for tourists in the Catalan capital, which has proved to be a growing option for many visitors. While in 2014 city hall issued 242 cease activity orders to flats which didn’t have the appropriate licences, this figure increased to 553 in 2015.

Even more illustrative is the fact that in the first seven months of 2016, 368 orders have been issued and there are still 5 month to go. Although the ‘flat scouts’ have been key figures in bringing this problem to light, Sanz insists that these squads need to be “reinforced” and extended, since there are only 20 ‘scouts’ for a city which has 1.6 million inhabitants. 

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  • Two 'flat scouts' in Barcelona, checking whether the apartments have the required licences to legally host tourists (by ACN)