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…)
Based on the number of overnight stays last year (6.8 million) to be charged at 2 euros per night per person, the total anticipated revenue for the municipality is expected to reach 13 million euros. The city is preparing the process of applying the new tourist tax and anticipates implementing the new levy in January next year.
The consumer group, “Deco”, and the “PSP” warn of potential dangers with vacation rentals, especially when using the internet. Every year Deco receives dozens of complaints related to scams associated with holiday home lets. While the internet can be the dominant means of publicizing and reserving holidays, it is essential to use care, especially when making online payments.
The centrist party has presented a draft resolution to the legislature, recommending that the Government distinguish between occasional vs permanent provision of AL services. This suggested distinction preserves the notion of periodic operation of one’s principal residence and / or secondary residence. Under the proposal, the total number of properties under management should not exceed two.
Beginning 01 July 2017, any website advertising local accommodations in Portugal must display the corresponding AL registration number. Failure to do so will lead to fines from a minimum of €125 to maximum of €32,500 as mandated in Decree-law nº80/2017.