Barcelona Town Hall slaps online rental companies with large fines

Barcelona Town Hall hits Airbnb and Homeaway with €60,000 fines for advertising unregistered properties

LAST UPDATED: 27 Dec, 2015 @ 08:59

SPANISH authorities have hit two accommodation rental giants with heavy fines for ‘publicising illegal properties’.

Barcelona Town Hall slapped €60,000 fines on Airbnb and Homeaway for advertising accommodation that wasn’t authorised by the Registry of Catalan Tourism.

FINED: Rental firms punished by Barcelona Town Hall
FINED: Rental firms punished by Barcelona Town Hall

The fines included a €30,000 charge for not responding to the administration’s requirements.

They are the first fines levied since the summer when the Town Hall announced plans to ‘reduce the negative impact of tourism on the city’.

Airbnnb have said they will appeal the decision.

The town hall used a new software tool, known as araña web, to locate the unlicensed flats online.

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  1. The Spanish government should offer a similar scheme to allow foreign purchasers (and natives) to find all the irregular and illegal properties to stop people from accidentally purchasing them. But of course not. Spain won’t do that because illegal and irregular property is a massive income earner to Spain, and they could not give a sh*t if you purchase a illegal home. They want you to purchase an irregular property so that there is council tax to pay and more money for the town hall with higher empadronamiento numbers. Meanwhile you are stuck with a property that can never be legalised or sold. They are more interested in fining holidaymakers than sorting out their broken property planning system. It’s a total system of entrapment. Spain in a nutshell.

  2. Urged on by the hotel mafia, this is another paragraph in the long, drawn-out suicide note that the Spanish tourist industry is writing for itself.

  3. Fred,
    a concise and factual statement – sad is’nt it but that’s the way they want it, so be it. I wonder if I bought a cave house in Guadix with escritura, would I have problems?

    We may visit there next year. Just for the craic, I may make enquiries. I will not let on that I once lived there and know how the Spanish work. Could be good for a laugh.

  4. How will they enforce and collect the fine from AirBNB Ireland? After deducting management fees, all income is transferred to AirBNB Ireland so no tax is paid in Spain by AirBNB.

    • It would not surprise me if the punishments were levied on the CUSTOMERS of AirBnb, if their money is out of reach. That way, no one would chance using the service. Some sort of deal/agreement needs to be reached in order to foil the hotel lobbying mob.

  5. AirBNB,
    this form of tax evasion has to be stopped permanently. Already Ireland is making money at the expense of other European countries by charging a ludicrously small rate of corporation tax, as is Luxembourg. All companies using this form of tax evasion should simply be stopped from doing business anywhere in the EU. Then you Irish would have to find other ways to make money or face a drop in your living standards.

    If the EU was any good there would be the same rate of Corporation tax charged in all countries. Your making your profit in Spain ergo you pay tax in Spain or they should shut down your operation.

  6. Spain has transfer pricing regulations as does every other EU country. This means they can ignore any management fees not legitimately charged to the Spanish branch by the Irish parent. Competition however is important and charging the same rate of tax would adversely affect smaller jurisdictions and favour the large. There is enough redress available to Spain if it chooses to legally enforce the rules. Trouble is Spain want quick money off everyone and won’t spend the time arguing their case they just fine companies/people and then those fined have to wait an eternity to get their day in court and hopefully their money back. By which time it’s spent and the government has changed…..all slowly making sPAIN the last place many businesses/people want to settle in. All because of the corruption from before. Sad!

  7. AirBNB Host is quite correct. This is an ecommerce transaction and as such the funds don’t even “hit” Spain. Seen this time and time again with similar companies and practices – Spain has no way to fine the entity in this instance as no actual business is conducted within Spain. If AirBNB have a physical presence in Spain then that is a different issue.

    • Absolutely right. But the owners of advertised properties are completely vulnerable. That is where the feral state will sink it’s teeth. It is already happening, owners I know are withdrawing their places from public offer and ticking over with tried and trusted tenants.
      Far from satisfactory, this legislation is designed to wipe out self-catering holiday-lets. A deal is required. .

  8. Bluemoon your argument is completely irrational and has no basis in reality. Countries are not wealthy or poor because of their size. Those countries that make a point of ensuring high standards in their education systems win out because it naturally creates innovative a profitable businesses.

    Luxembourg was a pathetic little farming country where most of the working population had to work in surrounding countries. Then their finance minister, Juncker created totally corrupt laws that sucked money away from other EU countries.

    E-commerce must be regulated or countries will go bust, just look at Amazon,Google, investment banks. Ultimately this will all end in bloodshed.

    Fred – business is conducted in Spain – 3 dimensional properties are let to 3 dimensional bipeds, this actually happens in Spain, it’s only the digital contract that happens in cyberspace.

  9. Yes, the owners will doubtless be fined too, however proving that the owner actually advertised their property to begin with will be very tricky to establish. Thing is, as with all the mad Spanish laws, the onus is on you to prove you did NOT advertise it, so it may not matter. However, the practicality of scanning potentially hundreds of thousands of properties and tracing the owners may be too large a task. Spain could lose out big time with this heavy-handed approach. To penalise holiday lets means that those people will in turn not be using local shops and restaurants etc. This may wipe out many local businesses who rely on the lettings.

    It really is amazing to see Spain spending time and money on this issue when they cannot properly sort out the legality of so many properties. Many rental properties are of course illegal too, I know of many locally for example, but that does not seem to concern the authorities. Spain in a nutshell – they take the easy route rather than properly fixing the problem.

  10. Stuart, it’s very tricky to define just exactly where cyber-business takes place. A German renting a house from an English owner of a Spanish property may never need to visit Spain, either physically or electronically, in order to complete the transaction. It could all take place in other countries. Keeping tabs on such transactions is almost impossible. If bitcoins are used, even more so.

  11. Fred,
    by big companies using tax regulations that are deliberately made by the political whores they buy so cheaply there is a loss of between £60-70 billion each year to the British treasury. This is being repeated across the western world.

    Amazon is blatantly guilty of fraud when it adds TVA.VAT charges to products bought online. It charges UK buyers 20% but actually only pays 15% and I’m not sure it has’nt secretly agreed a much lower rate in Luxembourg. It of course sets up companies in other tax domains and charges outrageous sums for it’s ‘services’ which then shows that it makes no profits – this is of course in the real world a fraudulent scam.

    This whole tax evasion thing is gathering pace across the world. I, like so many others can see the endgame and it’s not a pretty one. The blatant tax evasion in this article is just a very small example of what is happening worldwide. Essential services are being cut back everywhere because of the dwindling tax take – The ‘new Romans’ are doing well bringing the ‘circus’ directly into consumer serfs homes via multi-media, it’s when they have problems supplying the ‘bread’ that the endgame comes into play – interesting times.

  12. Stuart, nothing wrong with your points on blatant tax evasion, but this article concerns non-registration of holiday lets. The whole thing got up by the hotel “industry” who see their lousy, rip-off dumps being marginalised by independent property owners giving holiday makers the type of accommodation they prefer. There will certainly be those among them on some sort of fiddle, but I’m betting that’s also true of the tax-dodging, illegal employment, hotel owners.
    It’s also worth noting that, even if owners and agents can’t be got at, their properties are a physical reality and could simply be sequestrated by the state if they don’t comply with it’s demands.

  13. stefanjo,
    the world and it’s mother knows the reality of taxation in Spain and your point about the established hotel industry is entirely valid but it still comes down to tax evasion.

    Fred, I already mentioned the political whores. The EU could not have been more blatant in it’s corruption than to overwhelmingly vote that Junker creep in as president.

    The Americans are getting really heavy with American companies avoiding tax in their homeland but could’nt give a damn what they do abroad. You have to give them credit for realising that commercial domination is better than the military version – TTIP is their Tiger tank division – without tracking problems.