A BARCELONA property owner has been given a record fine for renting out unlicensed tourist apartments ‘for years’ in the Old City area.
The man has been hit with a €420,000 penalty for accepting bookings to his 14 flats on Calle Ample which he advertised online through internationally famous holiday accommodation portals.
Once tourists arrived, they were handed over the keys by an elderly tenant who lived in the block and acted as an ‘accomplice’ for her landlord.
Barcelona’s security councillor who is also the representative for the Old City, Albert Batlle, said the big fine handed down by the City Council would serve as a warning that illegal rentals would not be tolerated.
Batlle added that the punishment came after a long process of investigation by the police and inspection services.
The property owner alleged for years that he rented the flats legally to tenants but kept altering contracts or changing owner names every time the possibility of legal action appeared.
The 14 flats were advertised on tourist rental portals such ‘Booking’ or ‘Airbnb’ which agreed with Barcelona City Council in 2018 that they would not advertise tourist accommodation in the area if they did not have a license number.
Inspectors have been busy over the last six years opening files on the property owner and asking online platforms to remove adverts which appeared under different names in order to trick authorities.
After months of accumulating evidence, the police and district inspectors visited the flats and found them all illegally occupied by tourists, with the exception of the elderly lady who acted as the key-holder.
Barcelona City Council said that the repeated desire to circumvent the law and ‘the incorporation of the tenant in the tourist management of the property’ were considered as a ‘very serious’ breach that led to the huge fine.
The €420,000 sum equates to an estimate of profits made and ‘other aggravating circumstances regulated by the Tourism Law of Catalunya’, such as advertising unlicensed properties as tourist accommodation.
The council also said that it will provide the Treasury with the information collected during its probe, in case the landlord owes money to the Tax Agency.