Barcelona launches 32 disciplinary proceedings for not complying with rent control law
The implicated property-showing platforms and real estate agents may have to pay up to €100,000 in fines
Barcelona city council has opened disciplinary proceedings against real estate companies and the portals which advertise such properties for not complying with the rent control law.
The law passed on September 9 and in force from September 22, 2020, was introduced to put rent caps on properties across Catalonia in areas which were deemed to have “tense housing markets”, such as in major cities Barcelona, Girona, Tarragona and Lledia.
In these areas where affordable housing is scarce, rents are determined by the Catalan Housing Agency’s Average Price Index. It is also the law that if a place has been rented out over the last 5 years, and it is under market value according to the Index, landlords cannot increase the price.
Through a series of random searches, the Discipline and Anti-Harassment Unit of the Barcelona city council detected 16 property adverts that omit the data provided by the Idex: 10 on the portal Idealista, 5 on Fotocasa and 1 on Habitaclia.
The councilor for housing, Lucía Martín, said that for each of these offences, two parties face disciplinary charges, hence why 32 cases have been opened - the real estate company and the online platform on which it was advertised. For all of these offences, the total amount in fines could add up to €96,000.
So far, only three real estate companies have paid a fine of €3,000. Every other implicated party is yet to acknowledge the proceedings.
The portals Fotocasa and Habitaclia have responded to the council’s action, saying that they have already established systems to ensure that the real estate agent is informed of their duty to include the Average Price Index. This is not the case for Idealista.
Indeed, Martín has highlighted that these 16 adverts are just the tip of the iceberg for the amount failing to comply with the law by including a benchmark price estimation and has encouraged an “attitude change” from the reluctant companies.
The tenant’s rights association, Sindicat de Llogateres, announced that they have processed 200 complaints over failures to comply with the rent control law, and that there are many more left un-reported.
Spokesperson Jaime Palomera lamented that after a “historic law”, there have been “many breaches”. He highlighted that “following the law is not optional, and we will continue complaining”.
On top of these 32 proceedings, the council has also begun to work on infringements regarding rental prices, and has already opened a case against a “serious” violation for a rental contract demanding much more money than what is allowed. The fines for such “serious” infringements start at €9,000.
The Barcelona Council urges citizens to send any possible violations to municipal housing offices, located all around Barcelona, so that the Catalan Government can follow through with appropriate disciplinary proceedings.