First Barcelona landlord sanctioned for charging illegally high rent
City Council fines owner €9,000 for not complying with Catalan rent cap law
Barcelona City Council has imposed the first sanction on a landlord for violating Catalonia's rent cap law.
Local authorities have issued a €9,000 fine against a property owner who charged higher rent than is permitted under rules that came into force in September 2020 – rules that are being challenged in Spain's constitutional court by both the Spanish government and the conservative People's Party.
The Spanish government announced its own new housing bill on Tuesday, which the Catalan government fears will supersede the 2020 legislation.
According to the Tenants' Union (Sindicat de Llogateres), the new tenants moving into the Barcelona apartment discovered two issues with their contract that led them to overpaying.
First, the landlord had put the contract in his own name, rather than in the name of the legal entity the flat was registered with. This meant the tenants were entitled to a refund of a €1,600 fee, which landlords have to pay in cases where the property is registered separately.
Second, the tenants realized that there was no reference to the previous rent charged for the property, something which must be included according to the rent cap law. They were able to check with Incasòl (a Catalan government agency responsible for urban planning) that the previous tenants had been charged €950 per month, while their contract was set at €1,200.
They, therefore, made a complaint via Barcelona City Council, which resulted in the landlord receiving a fine, and they are now demanding a €250 reduction in their monthly rent, something the property owner is refusing to do, according to the Tenant's Union.
The grassroots group said it was "worrying" that the council had taken more than one year to issue its first fine and believe it is even more worrying that the Catalan government hasn't issued any at all.
Spain's new housing law
Spain's cabinet passed a new housing bill on Tuesday that attempts to tackle soaring prices with measures including a cap on rents and tax benefits for landlords who lower them.
Yet, it faces an uphill battle to be greenlighted by Congress – the Catalan government says it is "disappointing" because it does not offer anti-eviction measures and clashes with a similar law in Catalonia.
The Catalan governing parties, pro-independence Esquerra and Junts, may be needed for the bill to get through Spain's lower chamber. Meanwhile, the People's Party, which leads the opposition in Congress, has said they will not enforce the bill in the regions and local councils under their control.
Check out our podcast, published in June, on soaring rents in Barcelona for an in-depth report on the underlying crisis: