MADRID – On Thursday, April 27, the Spanish Council of Ministers approved the new housing law. It also established, among other things, that owners of vacant homes will be faced with new tax rates.
The new housing law still has to be discussed in parliament before it is published in the State Bulletin BOE. However, the government expects it to come into force before the elections on May 28.
Since powers in the field of housing largely lie with autonomous communities, the regional governments will be responsible for whether or not to implement certain points of the new housing law. The state, so to speak, lays the foundation and each region decides on its application.
Increasing the upper limit for the rent
Compared to the original project from 2022, the law contains some changes and new measures, including an increase in the upper limits for rent. For 2023, the rent may be increased by a maximum of 2%, but this will increase to 3% in 2024. The consumer price index (CPI) will be removed as a reference for the annual update of the rent of the contracts throughout Spain.
In addition, homeowners are not allowed to charge more than two months’ deposit when signing the rental contract. Furthermore, they may only demand payment of one month’s rent in advance.
The new regulations also contain measures concerning vacant homes. Municipalities will be allowed to impose economic sanctions on owners who leave their homes empty. The aim is to promote the outflow of homes to the market. However, the decision on this lies with the municipalities themselves.
These sanctions may include a surcharge on the property tax (IBI) of up to 150%. A property is considered vacant when it has been vacant continuously for a period of more than two years, except in certain justified cases, and always if the lessor owns four or more properties.
The municipalities will explain this vacancy situation through an administrative procedure with a hearing of the taxpayer. Municipalities can therefore apply a 50% surcharge to homes that have been vacant for two years, and it can rise to 100% if they have been vacant for more than three years. In the case of owners who have two or more residential properties in the same municipality, this percentage can be as high as 150%.
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As of 2025, an area can be classified as “stressed” if it meets one of these two conditions: that the payment of the mortgage or rent (including fees) exceeds 30% of the average household income in the area; or that prices have risen more than 3 percentage points above the CPI in five years. According to Atlas Real Estate, more than 61% of Spanish households are in tense areas according to these criteria.
Criticism of the Housing Act
The newspaper El Mundo discusses the impact of rent control measures designed to increase the availability of affordable housing. However, according to EsadeEcPol, these measures have had little effect on the overall price of housing and have harmed the market for expensive apartments.
While Spain’s new housing law has positive goals, such as increasing the public housing stock from 20% to 30%, it may be difficult to achieve this given the current pace of construction.
The Sareb housing program is also not a significant solution, according to the newspaper, because it is concentrated in coastal provinces and smaller provinces. Renting homes and tenancy laws are also ineffective in solving the housing shortage.
It is noted that there are fewer vacant homes in provinces with lower demand, while provinces with higher demand have a significant housing shortage.
Fear of closing real estate offices
There are now fears in the real estate sector that the new housing law will lead to closures. The law requires property owners to pay brokerage fees. This would end the imposition of unfair fees that deter many people from accessing a home due to the high initial outlay involved.
Nora García, vice president of the National Federation of Real Estate Agencies, says in El Economista that this will lead to a drop in income for some real estate agents. She does believe that the sector is resilient and can adapt to offer new services.
García suggests that rental agencies provide customers with a personalised service, including contract signing assistance, mediation and other related services. She argues that the biggest disadvantage of this new law will be for the tenants themselves. The Vice-President also calls for mandatory registration of agents throughout Spain to professionalise the sector.