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The new regulatory restrictions implemented since October of last year have failed to slow demand for central Lisbon properties. While new Local Lodging applications dropped by 60%, foreign investors continue to seek out and buy property in historical districts as real estate sales soared by 38% over the period. While the “AL” sector is still significant, there are clearly other factors driving the market as well.
The Vila Nova de Gaia Municipal Council has passed regulations to limit Local Lodging establishments and prevent the dislocation of long-term residents from historic neighbourhoods. The city centre and the entrance to the bridge D. Luís I are two of the target areas for the new restrictions. These measures follow on the heels of similar actions taken in Lisbon and other municipalities around the country.
Insurance providing civil liability coverage guaranteeing the property against damages caused by guests and third parties is required of all operators responsible for “AL” services. The minimum capital per claim is €75,000. Entities operating “AL” units that are part of a condominium must also have coverage guaranteeing property damage caused by fire in or from the “AL” unit. These insurances are mandatory for all Local Lodging establishments registered after 21 October 2018. Their absence is grounds for cancellation of “AL” registrations. Units registered before this date have up to two years to meet the requirements.
If you are a Local Lodging operator, you can deduct online platform commissions from your “AL” income. Keep in mind that this deduction is only applicable if you opt for the taxation rules of Category F (rent), not under Category B (sole trader).
The distraction of holidaymakers and the lack of security at some “AL” flats have led to a rise in thefts at Local Lodging establishments, mainly those located in the “Baixa” district of downtown Lisbon. In response, law enforcement (“PSP”) has started a prevention program with the owners called “Blue Lock”.
The water regulator advocates that establishments used for local housing should pay for water as “non-household” users. The increase is already in place in several councils. However, there are other centres, such as Lisbon, where the municipality has reimbursed the extra charge.
Local Lodging operators who opt to be assessed under the tax rules of Category F (long-term rentals) may deduct commissions from this income paid to online reservation platforms. However, those carrying out their tourist business under Category B as Sole Traders do not deduct specific expenses but rather are automatically allotted 65% from their gross “AL” income to cover operating expenses.
An increasing number of accommodations under Local Lodging (“AL”) are in the hands of third-party administration. In Lisbon and Porto, only 4 out of every 10 units registered in this tourist activity are handled directly by the owner.
The ink is barely dry on changes to the Local Lodging regime and the ruling Socialist Party is moving forward with proposed amendments in the next year’s State Budget. According to the contemplated update, Local Lodging units should have a minimum coverage of €75,000 a year per claim. The recently approved legislation is vague concerning the amount of liability insurance required.
In Portugal, there are ±1.1 million second residences, according to National Statistics Institute data, comprising 80% of “AL” offerings. These dwellings have a low utilisation rate: less than 30 days a year. When engaged in Local Lodging, the average yield per owner is €11,000 euros. Lisbon and Porto tell a different story. In these two urban areas, “AL” is driven primarily by investment properties, not second residences, and foreign buyers.