Renting in Spain: Everything you need to know

11.07.17
9 minute read
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Spain offers something for every expat lifestyle. It’s not just about the climate. You also have buzzing tourist towns, cosmopolitan and sophisticated cities, quiet rural villages and all the sun, sea and sangria you like. With relatively reasonable prices and a high standard of living, Spain has long been a popular retirement destination for Europeans looking for a good life in warmer climes. But it’s also a great place for professionals looking to advance their careers in one of the major cities.

If you’re thinking of a move to Spain, for business or pleasure, your first priority will be finding a place to live. Prices can vary hugely depending on the location, as well as the type of home you need. Unsurprisingly, the major cities of Madrid and Barcelona come in at the upper end of the price range. In the south of Spain, you can find some much more attractively priced options as seen in the table below.

City in Spain City centre apartment (One bedroom, monthly rent) Out of the city apartment (One bedroom, monthly rent)
Madrid €781 €579
Barcelona €798 €594
Alicante €421 €328
Almeria €340 €272

Look outside of the city entirely, in one of the smaller towns or a rural location, and you’ll find still cheaper options.

The Spanish rental market might feel a little alien, especially if there’s a language barrier. If you’re thinking of moving to Spain for work or study, then it’s worth doing your homework in advance.

How does the rental process work?

Once you’ve decided where in Spain you want to live, you can find a place by visiting a local estate agent ( inmobiliaria )

Are flats generally furnished or unfurnished?

There’s a huge variation in the rental property market in Spain, with some properties let fully equipped and ready for you to move in, and others completely unfurnished. The way a property is described in a rental ad might not give specifics of what furnishings are in the property, so it’s worth checking. By emailing your agent or the landlord, you also have written confirmation of the state you expect to find the place in.

Be aware that unfurnished might even mean there are no carpets or even basic electrical appliances - and getting the property ready to live in can be costly.

What do I need to know about renting in Spain?

The rental market in Spain might not be quite the same as in your home country. Avoid any nasty surprises by doing a little research before you make your move.

Tenant laws and rights

As a tenant in Spain you have rights which are legally protected. However, the extent to which you have protection depends on the type of contract you agree to, and the specifics it contains.

Short term contracts ( contrato de arrendamiento de temporada ), which can run up to a year, have less legal protection than a longer term contract ( arriendo de vivienda )

A landlord is also not allowed to enter a rented property without the express written permission of the tenant. More on the types of rental contracts later.

You can find details of your tenants rights, in this helpful legal guide.

General rental property rules and regulations

Before you choose a new home in Spain, you should make sure you know exactly what state the property will be in when you move in (and in what condition it must be returned). The quality of properties for rent varies enormously.

Contracts and deposits

Rental agreements in Spain don’t legally have to be covered by a written contract, but it’s advisable to get one. Usually contracts will be made for 12 months and, if you wish to leave early, you may have to pay continue paying rent until the contract ends.

It’s legally possible to rent for six months and then have a rolling contract thereafter with shorter notice, so you can always ask your landlord or agent for amendments to this effect. Having a shorter notice period can help if you suddenly need to move out because of a work change. There’s no compulsion for a landlord to accept changes to the standard terms, but it’s not uncommon in cities with large expat communities that frequently relocate.

Usually as a long term tenant expecting to stay for over a year, you’ll be given the right to renew the contract for up to three years. The landlord can increase the rent during this time, or take the property back with due notice - but only in certain circumstances, like if he intends to live in it himself.

Deposits are generally one or two months of rent and will be held by the landlord or agent in a separate account so they’re not incorporated into their business or personal cash flow. It’s also important to note that you should never hand over cash as a deposit - use a bank transfer. If you’re making an international money transfer that includes currency conversion, it’s worth finding the best possible deal with a company like TransferWise so you don’t get slapped with poor exchange rates.

Utilities and bills the renter is responsible for

Before you finalise a rental agreement, make sure you’re clear on the terms. In most cases, phone, electricity and water bills are paid by the tenant - although your landlord can give you an idea of the average costs. All homes available for long term rental - as opposed to short term vacation lets - must have an energy efficiency certificate. This can also give you an idea of heating and air conditioning costs.

Waste collection won’t always be included in your rental costs. This is charged to the owner of the property but he might pass them on to the tenants. This means you might have to pay for this separately to your rent. However, your landlord should be able to tell you the costs in advance.

Bills to be paid by the tenant are likely to include some maintenance costs. If you have a garden then you’re obliged to look after it, and you might need to pay for the upkeep of communal areas if you're in a flat.

Can I negotiate the rent with the landlord?

It’s okay to negotiate on the rental cost. In many places in Spain it’s a renters market, so landlords and agents are often willing to accept a slightly lower rent, especially if you’re planning on staying put for a while.

It’s also worth asking what fees are required for maintenance if you’re in an apartment block and what the usual utilities are. That way, you should get a better view of the cost of the property.

Can I get an apartment without a job?

There’s no legal reason why you can’t get a flat without a job. Landlords will, however, want to check that you’re able to pay the rent for the duration of the lease. If you don’t have a job yet, you might need to offer additional proof in order to rent.

What are the documents or requirements for renting?

To finalise a rental agreement you’ll have to prove your residency status, identity (usually with your NIE number), and that you’ll be earning enough to cover your costs and any outstanding debt. You might need to show your tax identification number if you're working, and in some cases personal references could be taken.

You can often prove you’re capable of paying the rent by providing paperwork showing you have adequate savings. Otherwise, your employer may be able to help by providing proof of your earnings or acting as a guarantor.

What types of rental agreements are there?

Spanish short term contracts, which run up to one year, have different terms to longer term contracts. There’s also additional legal protection given to longer term tenants.

If you intend to be in the country for over a year, then you should be looking for the longer term contract if possible. It’s not unheard of for unethical landlords to offer a short term contract, possibly with the verbally agreed option to renew, even to tenants looking to stay for the long term. This means they can take back the property at short notice in future.

If your contract specifies that it’s a short term contract ( contrato de arrendamiento de temporada ) then you have to move out at the end of it. However, if you have a longer term contract ( arriendo de vivienda )

To help you get an idea of what to expect, there's an example of a Spanish long term tenancy agreement.

Monthly rentals can be arranged through specialist short term agencies, but come at a premium.

Can I pay my bills from abroad?

Many expats travel back home frequently, and there will be times when you need to pay your rent or bills but might be out of the country. You might even find that you have to pay a deposit or fees to secure your rental before you’ve opened a local bank account or moved to Spain. If you’re making an international money transfer to cover your costs, then it’s worth remembering that your bank might not offer you the best deal.

Banks tend to include carefully hidden fees and hide their cut in a poor exchange rate when transferring your money across borders. A specialist provider like TransferWise moves your money using the real exchange rate you find on Google. Not to mention, their fees are clearly laid out. Leaving you with a fairer, cheaper and, likely, faster option.

What are the best sites to find a place to live?

The best way to find a place to rent in Spain is to look online. Because of the large number of foreigners who choose to settle in Spain, many websites which primarily serve other markets, like the UK and Germany, also feature Spanish homes. While these can be simple to navigate, they might not offer the best deals as they’re priced for tourists. Great local websites to find a house or apartment to rent include:

  • Idealista has ads in English, French, German and several other major languages, as well as a handy search function which allows you to select the features of a home that are important to you
  • Compracasa has English speaking agents who can help you with your search
  • Servihabitat has an English language website with a map function allowing you to easily choose where you want to look

To find a shared home, you might be best asking around your office or group of friends for recommendations. Otherwise, the best websites to find a flatshare, room rental or roommate, include:

  • Craigslist for your city of choice is a good start - but exercise caution.
  • Airbnb offers single rooms direct from the owner, many of which can be taken for a relatively long term rent.
  • Facebook has a huge number of rooms advertised across dozens of different groups based on location. Search for the area you want to move and find yourself a new roommate.

All of these resources will be specific to the area of Spain you want to live in, so do a bit of research to find the group or site which covers your region.

Finally, how can I make sure I'm not being scammed?

Like anywhere else in the world, you might encounter issues when renting a place in Spain. One common issue is how to get your deposit back when you leave. It’s a good idea to keep on reasonable terms with your landlord during your tenancy, and ask for an inspection a few weeks before you leave, to sort out any issues.

Keep a record of any work you do or pay for during your tenancy. If your landlord wishes to withhold some or all of your deposit when you leave, you can use this record of time and cash invested in the property to make your case. Your landlord is only legally allowed to keep the portion of your deposit that has to be returned for a single month. After that, he must pay interest on the money when he gives it back to you.

Your landlord can increase your rent if they make improvements to the property. However, this increase is subject to a cap, and the improvements have to meet a good standard. If you have any issues, the law covering tenancy rights in Spain is detailed on the Spanish government website.

Good luck, and enjoy your new life in Spain!

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