The latest official statistics from the “INE” (Instituto Nacional de Estatísticas) may prove to be flawed since their records only take into account 1,831 official “AL” offerings. In contrast, the National Registry of Local Lodging (RNAL) tallies almost 50,000 enrolled “AL” establishments. Beyond these “aboveboard” businesses, there are still thousands of “underground” units in operation.
Over the past 12 months, the city of Barcelona has ordered the closure of 2,332 apartments operating illegally as local lodging establishments. Authorities also fined another 3,473 operators in amounts ranging from €3,000 to €60,000 as part of their “zero tolerance” policy.
In the first month of data-crossing via digital platforms, ASAE (Autoridade de Segurança Alimenta e Económica) examined 142 “AL” operators. Inspectors instituted 30 misconduct proceedings and suspended the activity of one establishment. Since July 2017, legislation requires Local Lodging operators to display their registration numbers in online advertising, facing fines of up to €32,500 for non-compliance.
Between May and July of this year, there were 8650 new official Local Lodging registrations (“AL”), representing twice the amount over the same period of 2016. The phenomenon is explained not by a large-scale entry of offerings into the holiday letting market, but rather by the legalisation of existing units.
Some local lodging operators have been detected listing fraudulent registration numbers over the internet. Since 01 July, online platforms are required to display this code when promoting an “AL” property. The absence of a license draws fines of €3,740.98 for individuals and €35,000 for companies. Fraud is punishable by imprisonment.
ASAE inspectors are now searching ads of existing listings on online platforms such as Booking.com, Airbnb or Home Away to verify their Local Lodging registrations. As of 01 July, those advertising holiday lets on online platforms are required to display their “AL” registration licence number. It is currently estimated that approximately 20% of offerings are illegal. Failure to comply can lead to heavy fines for internet platforms and unlisted local lodging operators.
When considering Local Lodging – homeowners letting to holidaymakers – the “peer-to-peer” model springs to mind. However, there is a parallel “Local Lodging” economy, one that mimics the traditional tourist mould far more closely that one might expect. From the Algarve to Aveiro, there are seven major hotel groups that, in addition to their conventional hotel resorts, are engaged in “Local Lodging”, taking advantage of the simplified rules available under Local Lodging. In all, these major economic groups have more than 350 “AL” apartments in the tourist market. (more…)