Renting in Spain: Tips for Living the Dream
For the experienced expats here in Marbella, one common piece of advice they usually relay to new arrivals is "Don't leave your brain on the plane". Marbella in all of its beauty and glamour is very alluring to new residents; and living the lifestyle that most can only dream about is very exciting. For those well prepared, you will no doubt secure a short term rental for when you arrive in Marbella, and then begin the process of looking for the perfect place to live long term. For the spontaneous in nature, simply landing in Malaga, with one suitcase and looking for suitable living arrangements, will quickly become a tedious adventure.
If you want to succeed on the Costa del Sol, you will need the following:
- A bit of common sense
- An uncanny intuition when meeting new people
- A friend or relative who already lives in Marbella or surrounding Costa del Sol
- Emergency money just in case
- The directions and phone number to your embassy
Number one is easy enough; however, number two might be touch and go for a while. The fact of the matter is you want to avoid shady people, which includes scheming landlords, fly by night real estate agents who just care about commission and lack of clear information designed to help you. The good news is Spanish law for renters/tenants plays in your favour, so understand the law can help you avoid a horrible Costa del Sol experience.
Rules to live by for Renters on the Costa del Sol
Pay the Right Price
You get what you pay for out here, and landlords must pay specific taxes as well as maintenance fees if they are part of an urbanisation. Urbanisation living is usually much safer than simply renting a flat in the city. Within urbanisations, there are security features in place that help protect you including locked gates and 24 hour security guards on duty.
Location will determine the costs of rent. For example, if you want to live by the sea as many do, in most cases you will pay more in rent for beach front property. The closer inland you live, the less the rent will be. However, and considering that most landlords just want to cover at least their mortgage or community fee payments, rent can be very cheap no matter where you want live here in Marbella. It's just a matter of taking your time and looking.
Stay Alert Tips
- Check the rental price advertised
- Negotiate on price - play hardball with the landlord
- Make sure your new landlord is up to date on maintenance fee and taxes owed
- Get an estimate of how much you will be paying in bills from the landlord and ask to see the bills
- If you do decide to move in, don't pay one bill until its presented to you on paper
Minimum Rental Contracts in Spain
In June of 2013, the laws regarding rentals in Spain went through some changes. Before 2013, the length of a rental contract was 12 months; however today, the figure has come down to six months. Most landlords however, and some agents will try to lock you into a 12 month contract...they might even go as far as saying "it's the law". Whether they simply are not aware of the new law or they are just trying to hamstring you, you must remind them that you know your stuff and you know Spanish law.
The new regulations are also designed to protect the landlord, so you must remember that if you leave before the mandatory contract period, you must pay one month's rent per mandatory year of the contract not completed.
Stay Alert Tips
- It is not true that you have to pay until the end of the mandatory period, as many landlords will tell you
- Read the contract carefully
- Make sure you can leave after the mandatory period by giving 30 days notice.
- Even though the contract can state a longer period, negotiate back to 30 days when possible
Understand Rental Contract Deadlines
You must pay close attention to rental contract deadlines, the landlord cannot get his or her property back within the first three years after signing the rental agreement with you. Only under emergency situations can the landlord take the property back. For example, if the landlord gets divorced and the children involved find themselves homeless. Another important law to remember is after the first three years, the contract is renewed automatically, but after four years, the contract expires automatically.
When it comes to the fee on deposits, the legal minimum is one month for unfurnished apartments and two months for furnished apartments. But many landlords are now taking advantage of the new laws, where as they can now evict people just after six weeks of receiving no rent. Before the duration they needed to wait was six months. Therefore, some landlords ask for six months deposit; avoid this at all costs, and if they don't sway, move on and find somewhere else.
Stay Alert Tips
- Realtors working with the landlord can charge one month's rent for commission
- Keep the deposit down to a minimum if at all possible
- Many landlords will try asking for 6 months deposit upfront, negotiate down to the legal minimum
It's the same in Spain as it is around the globe, there will always be a slum lord who just takes the rental income and could care less about doing anything else. This is where you need to remind them of their duties, and if they don't comply you have the right to take matters into your own hands.
Landlords are responsible for any maintenance or repairs resulting from normal wear and tear in and around the property. So if the fridge or stove breaks down, the landlord must replace it. On the other hand, you are responsible for smaller maintenance costs usually under €75 or €50, like painting for example. The point is you must set the expectations right from the start before entering the property or even signing on the dotted line. If you don't speak any Spanish, it is advisable that you get a professional real estate expert or solicitor to review the contract, and helps you set those particular expectations.
Stay Alert Tips
- Take videos and photos of your furnished apartment or house, this way you have a record of inventory
- Get rental insurance
- Ask the landlord to check the state of the property at least two weeks before you leave (remember your photos and video)
- Ask the landlord to give you back the deposit on the day you give back the keys
Extra Rental Advice
Landlords are legally entitled to keep the deposit for one month, so if you are leaving Spain it may be difficult to get that money back. Property hunting in Marbella or surrounding Costa del Sol can be a full time job, but you want to be safer than sorry. Avoid the slum lords, set your expectations, and stay one step ahead of them by knowing the law and your rights.