Madrid confirms the illegality of thousands of holiday apartments but is lacking enforcement

by Lorraine Williamson
illegal holiday rentals

MADRID – With the adoption of new urban planning rules amending the 1997 General Plan for Urban Development, Madrid confirms the illegality of thousands of holiday apartments in the city. 

Among other things, it confirms what has already been applied with regard to a holiday apartment. Properties intended for holiday rentals that do not have separate access from the public road are still illegal, which is the case for the vast majority of these apartments. 

‘Rule will not be applied’ 

Adolfo Meras of Madrid Aloja explains in Infobae: “More than 98% of these apartments do not have such access, which makes them illegal. What was approved on Monday is absurd and the PP has had to pass it in order to pass other legislation related to different matters But it was not applied before and will not be applied now. It simply cannot be applied. New regulations must be developed, otherwise, this will be like ‘prohibition'”. Madrid Aloja is the largest association in the residential sector in the capital. 

What exactly is going on? In 2019, the city council, led by Manuela Carmena at the time, approved the Special Plan for Accommodation. These regulations were intended to restrict the conversion of homes into holiday apartments. 

According to this plan, it is only allowed to convert an apartment into a holiday apartment if it has direct access to the street. That pretty much limits activity to ground floors or commercial spaces converted into homes. In addition, holiday apartments must obtain a responsible statement and a municipal permit. 

Also read: Tourist accommodations shoots up in Spain 

However, all this turned out to be mainly a symbolic measure. City council data showed there were nearly 13,000 holiday apartments in the capital at the end of 2022, “and only about 300 can meet these rules,” says Meras. He also emphasises that “the pressure from the hotel sector and the lack of communication from their own sector” have contributed to the demonisation of the tourist apartments, “while we are only trying to facilitate coexistence and meet the existing demand for tourism”. 

Cogesa Expats

An estimated 13,000 to 15,000 holiday apartments 

According to the Alliance for Tourism Excellence (Exceltur), there were 19,406 advertisements for holiday apartments in Madrid as of March 31, 2023, an increase of 30% over the previous year. Although the figures vary, all estimates speak of 13,000 to 15,000 holiday apartments in the capital. 

‘There is no problem with holiday apartments’ 

Madrid Aloja gives an example. In the last three months of 2022, there were 140,000 overnight stays in holiday apartments in the capital, of which only 14 caused nuisance to neighbours and the police only intervened in two cases. “There is no problem with holiday apartments. However, this legislation leads to continued illegality. We need to talk,” concludes Adolfo Meras. 

Pointless changes 

Pedro Barrero, councillor for the Social Democrats in the Madrid City Council, said the changes to the urban planning rules regarding holiday apartments approved on Monday are nonsensical. “The accommodation plan was not applied during the first term of the coalition government of the PP and Ciudadanos. There is no urban planning control. We have gone from 22 to 11 inspectors, so it is impossible to control anything. 

According to our data, only 75 fines have been issued for illegal holiday apartments, while there are more than 13,000 units on the market. Moreover, there is no political will. Madrid has become an administrative office to promote private initiative,” he says. 

The new rules were approved at an extraordinary meeting of the city council, with votes against from the Social Democrats and Más Madrid, and abstention from Vox. The changes will come into effect once the Comunidad de Madrid gives its approval, which must be done within four months. 

Also see: Seville wants to stop tourist apartments in the most emblematic district 

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