Canarian government’s new (2013) tourism legislation review sees law finally approved

Update 22 April: As anticipated in my post on 30 March below the new 2013 tourism law was approved in full yesterday by the Canarian parliament following its end-of-first-year review.

Update 30 March 2015:  The first-year review of 2013’s new tourism law has resulted in some modifications widening the categories permitted for hotel construction, but none involving change to the original provisions for rental of privately-owned property.

Tourism minister Ricardo Fernandez de la Puente replied to strident criticisms from the lobbying association Ascav about the government’s refusal to allow Bed and Breakfast tourism by saying that he wasn’t tourism minister to pander to the whims of a minority, but to try to get a consensus for all views of tourism. He said that Turismo had taken on board some of Ascav’s points but the demands of finding a consensus could not result in such rentals from family homes being allowed, apart from any questions concerning the difficulty of adequate quality standardisations and inspections.

The pressure which Alotca brought concerning villas, however, did have some success, with the possibility of letting privately owned villas being let being incorporated into the law, albeit in a partial and convoluted manner.

The final text of the law is expected to proceed to the Consejo de Gobierno this week and get its full verification shortly. The Canarian tourism law is now, therefore, on the verge of being fully approved in the Canaries, and it has also already received formal approval by ruling of Spain’s top administrative body, the Constitutional Court (link).

All that now remains for the privately-owned holiday letting situation to be fully clarified is the final version of the new tourism regulation for private rentals required by urban letting legislation. That regulatory decree is already drafted and is going through final formalities before being presented to the regional Parliament (link). For the 2013 law itself, see my post HERE and the BOE HERE for the full text (of the original 2013 law, not the amended text).

Original post 28 May 2014: The Canarian government has said that its promised review of last year’s new tourism legislation will start within the next couple of days. President Rivero made the announcement in parliament, where he said that the review will be “internal and external” but that the data so far show a “very satisfactory evolution” of the legislation in its first year. The president said that in this year some 35,000 tourist places have been renovated, with almost complete upgrade of renovated accommodation to 4*. The government is also, he said, mobilizing more than half the €1,825 million credit approved by argeement between banks and government, and that the potential of the new law is most evident so far in south Gran Canaria , Fuerteventura and Lanzarote.


  1. Author

    The person responsible is always the owner … and any agent involved would be fined as well, though a UK based agent might be harder for the authorities here to identify, and possibly harder to fine. But the owners are the ones who’ll bear the brunt, and when fined, would have to prove in a Spanish court that they had legitimately let it to a foreign company who then did illegal things with it. Meanwhile their fine would need to be lodged in a Spanish court, lawyers’ fees paid … and even then, I suspect a court here would decide that since the long-term let was in favour of a holiday rental company, the outcome was hardly ever going to be in doubt … so the fine would stand …

  2. That has inspired a bit of curiosity Janet. There was a situation I came across, albeit quite a number of years ago so I’m not sure if the practice continues, whereby an independent villa was let out long term to a well established UK based holiday company. I assume that let was all above board. The company then let it out week by week to holiday makers. The property did not have a tourist licence. Who would be held responsible if the holiday let was deemed to be illegal, which presumably it was?

  3. Author

    Hi Bob, I’ve just edited the company name out of your post … because the answer is general and applies to any company, agency or business. I’ve often been told that people feel safe letting out their property “illegally” because they’re “with an agency which has a licence that makes it legal”, and where assurances have been given that said licence guarantees that any property let by the agency is covered for tourist lets. This is not correct, and in fact is a legal impossibility.

    Just to be absolutely clear, though: one agency I spoke to was convinced this was the case! They had employed an “expert” who got them their licence, and they genuinely believed that the residential properties they were letting could be rented out for holidays because they had a licence for it …

    It transpires that the licence their expert had got them was for being a travel agent, without which they couldn’t have operated legally in the first place anyway! But businesses here are still required to operate within the law, and even as a legal travel agent (known here as “intermediaries”) they cannot let out property illegally – and residential property may not be let out by anyone, owner or agent, for holidays (unless now as a vivienda vacacional), and touristic property may only be let out for holidays by the sole agent on site.

    So sometimes, the agents themselves believe what they’re saying, and this is why I’ve edited out the name because it might not be deliberate fraud, and I have personal experience of one occasion where it was not … and on that occasion the guilty party was the “expert”, who knowingly charged €500 for a “global licence” which doesn’t exist, and which he claimed was going to allow the agency to do anything they liked with any property at all. Because they couldn’t read Spanish, they didn’t know that the “intermediary” licence they ended up with allowed them to do nothing of the sort.

    To be explicit: there is no such licence which allows an individual or business to let out property that cannot be let out legally in any other way, or which converts a residential property into one in which holiday lets are permitted, or which bypasses the sole agency system for touristic complexes.

  4. Hi Janet

    Hope you are keeping well and enjoying life on the reef – I envy you on that.

    We were on the reef at the end of April and picked up a copy of the TPG Magazine.

    In it, there is an AD for a company offering an open invitation to all Villa and Apartment owners to advertise their property for holiday lettings free of charge and claiming that they are registered with the Tourist Board.

    In view of the changes to the laws, surely they can’t be operating legally.

    Would welcome your thoughts.

    I’m posting it out of curiosity as people have enough problems with this legislation without businesses being set up to play on their worries.


  5. Hi Janet, forgive me if you’ve already answered this question but all your posts seem to be slanted towards the property owners. We were thinking of renting a villa in Lanzarote next year and are a little concerned that we may pay rental in advance only to find the owner gets stuck with a large fine and ceases renting. Is there any way we can check that the property we decide upon is within the regulations?

    1. Author

      This is indeed your main risk, and yes, you can ask to see their licence and their complaints book. If they can’t show either, I would say it is almost certain that they’re not legal. Scroll about halfway down THIS page to the question “We have booked a villa for a 2 week holiday in August in Lanzarote at a cost of over 4,000 pounds. I’ve just heard about this fining for holiday villas and am worried that we will lose our holiday. What should we do?”. I’ve answered in a bit more detail there. As should be clear, a genuine owner, even if letting illegally, will understand your concerns and maybe there will be some agreement or arrangement you can come to for your mutual protection.

  6. OK. That’s what I meant by “meet all the criteria for letting”.

  7. Author

    Articles 31 and 32 of the 2013 law – HERE. Basically, at least 200 metres from the coast (100m in some cases), of a density of between 10 and 40 units per hectare depending on overall plot size, and with 40% and 20% limits as far as land use is concerned – 40% of the plot being developed and 20% of tourist land in the municipality.

  8. Hello Janet

    You answer is much better than mine.
    Can you please point me at the ‘criteria for villas’ bit please?

    Thank you

  9. Hello Interested party.

    Answer: Between amendment and publishing the 2013 Act, 2 paragraphs, which would (could) have allowed that, changed.

  10. Peter/Janet, I’m a bit confused as to why it would be necessary to form a community in order to short term let. If the individual properties are not in a community and meet all the criteria for letting why do you need to form a community – why can’t you just let individually.

    1. Author

      It is my understanding that individual properties are unlikely to be given tourist licences unless they are villas complying with the criteria for villas – but again, this is legal interpretation beyond my own expertise. Qualified administrators and lawyers need to be answering this.

  11. Thank you. That’s very interesting.

    As the ancient Romans used to say, “Dum spiro, spero.” (Bit of Latin from my friend Cicero)

    I might look into this, it could be worth the cost.

  12. Author

    Whether you would be able to set up a community is something that a qualified administrator would need to answer, Peter, sorry, but if it were, and assuming it is not in a touristic or mixed area as far as the local authority is concerned, and providing all paperwork for the properties was legal and in place, and declarations made, and all other criteria in the decree complied with, including fixtures and fittings, required documentation in bilingual form, insurance in place, etc., … then I would think the properties within such a community should be able to be let under the VV decree.

    Given the extent of the fines which can now be imposed, however, for VV decree infractions (minimum €30,000), I would recommend in the strongest possible terms getting advice from not only a qualified administrator about a community, but also a qualified lawyer who knows these tourism and urban letting laws about how to initiate and subsequently carry out VV rentals. I think such qualified professional advice is essential given that this is something that could result in a fine of a life-changing amount.

  13. Hello Janet
    Now that the dust is settling, one more (last?) question, please.
    Could 2 or 3 detached houses, not on any community or gated complex, with no shared facilities, save a boundary wall, declare themselves a “community”, appoint one of the owners sole agent, and then offer short-term holiday lets?

  14. That settles my question on another page of this website, as with you Pat and stuart i would have to attend with my family ie sister and mum, as much as it would break my heart ;0) to have to go to fuert every time my family went out to accompany them lol.
    Janet thanks for this website / page. You have put my mind at rest on a lot of issues ….

  15. Thank you for your response, very reassuring I am very grateful to you for putting my mind at rest. It would be a strange state of affairs if I had been unable to visit alone.

  16. Author

    Not according to the lawyers. They say that private use of owner, or long term tenant, includes own use and personal guests. As I’ve said several times, private use includes personal guests, and the view of qualified lawyers who know this law very well is that owners do NOT need to be present when their guests are there. But as I’ve also said several times, this implies that the guests are there under conditions which would exist if the owner were present, including not paying.

  17. Hi Janet,
    Like Stuart I have received the identical e mail. My property is used occasionally by members of my family and friends. If the interpretation of the law is as Stuart and I have been informed that would then exclude me from coming to the property on my own as I am not listed on the deeds, but my husband is We do not charge our guests for staying neither do we expect them to pay anything, on some occasions we visit with them on others we do not. Would appreciate your views on this and whether your previous response re Family and Friends still applies? The property has never been advertised for rent or holiday lets

  18. I wanted to know if my children could use the property .The administrator of our duplex house in fuereventura email me saying
    Unfortunately, unless the person staying in the property is the owner or a tenant on a long term rental contract, then it is deemed to be a holiday rental regardless of who the person is related to or how much they have paid.
    Can this be true

  19. Do you have to have a licence when family and friends are staying in our properties even if we are not there?

    1. Author

      As I’ve said many times, the law does not define “friends and family” because private use is allowed in law and under the Spanish constitution, and having personal guests is private use. Legal opinion is that an owner does not need to be present to have a personal guest in a property. But they would be staying there under the same conditions as if the owner were present – e.g. not having “booked”, not paying …

  20. Author

    yes, private use is perfectly permitted in all senses, how could it not be? and legal opinion is that an owner doesn’t have to be present in order to have a personal guest.

  21. Sorry if you are repeating yourself with this one, but just to clarify can we still allow ‘personal guests’ i.e. family and friends to stay in our properties even if we are not there?
    Thanks for your help.

  22. sorry janet just read Neils reply, can i just clarify one thing. if the complex i have an apartment on is not classed as tourist (ours doesnt have a tourist licence) does that mean we can let so long as the land its built on isnt tourist land. how do we find that out? sorry if i sound daft im a bit grey in these matters.

    1. Author

      You need to clarify with your local ayuntamiento how your land is classified. both in terms of the specific plot your complex is built on, and the zone generally. There are some areas of Tenerife where land is mixed tourist-residential (normally coastal towns) and even these are excluded. A conservative assessment is that 90% of those properties which could have been brought into legality have now been confirmed as illegal. You can let long-term wherever you are, but it is likely that anything else will be illegal in terms of being let privately.

  23. Author

    But nothing has changed! This is how things have been since 1995 in principle, and in practice since it started to be enforced a few years ago. All that’s really changed is that those who forecast the Canarian government would have to backtrack and concede to free-for-all demands will now have to revise their own stances because what’s actually happened is that everything has actually been tightened up and coordinated.

    Yes, the situation hits some who needed to have holiday rental income in residential properties and that is a great shame because often they were misadvised and misinformed when buying in the propery peak times a decade ago – but in general terms, tourism is booming here and the upmarket trend continues and brings dividends with top-rank conferences coming here like Starmus, the golf tourism conference, the Mediterranean cruise lines conference … and there are new air routes all the time, most recently the Norwegian airline. The thing that’s hit the Canaries most has been the economic crisis and that was a European, or even global, crisis where nowhere was exempt.

  24. I think this is all wrong and people are going to start suffering because of this. The local people ,business and tourism. It will be hard for all to make a living.
    will suffer big time. The people who paid good money for property will be hit hard. Ok it god for some like the AI hotel and people who can rent. A lot of places will be going up for sale or keys just handed back to the banks. We see if the airlines do a rethink also now.

  25. Thanks for that Janet,

    So the only possible saving grace for anyone with a Residential class property within a tourist resort would be if the actual land the community is built on is not classified as tourist.
    I suspect there will be a blitz on inspections now they have clearer legislation to work with.

  26. Hi Janet,
    Am I correct in assuming that the ‘Tourist’ rental issue has run it’s course and what we have is final, IE if you are on a Touristic Complex and use the ‘Sole Agent’ system, it is OK?
    So we are now looking at changes to the Urban letting and I see mention of ‘non Turistic areas’. Are these actually parts of the island, IE Las Americas, or are we talking about Touristic or Residential Complexes here?
    If it is an area,then unless you have property outside a Tourist area you still cannot rent out. Do I have this right?

    1. Author

      Yes, I would say that what we have now is final. So, trying to cover all the bases:

      *If you have a residential property you can let it out long term under urban letting legislation wherever it is, with a long-term residential contract.

      *If you have a residential property you can let it out short term under urban letting legislation with a short-term specific purpose contract – the specific purpose not being a holiday let (because that breaches tourism legislation) – provided that the property is in a non-touristic area (see below) and that urban letting regulation prerequisites have been complied with (registration, declaration etc, as detailed HERE.

      *If you have a touristic property, you cannot let it out privately for short-term lets. This is banned first by the new urban letting regulation which says that short-term lets must not be in touristic areas, and secondly by tourism legislation which says that short-term lets (at least under 3 months) are deemed to be touristic (unless coming under the terms of urban letting regulation) and so must be done through the sole agency system.

      To clarify touristic and non-touristic areas, yes they mean “areas” not complexes. This will be officially clarified in due course, but I fully expect it to be a definition based on the land classification in an ayuntamiento’s PGO (general planning arrangements).

      A final personal thought from me. Some are seeing this as providing more freedom in some way. I see the opposite because the regulation means that things have been tightened up since short term lets are now “regulated”. As such, short term lets will now only be legal if the owner has registered the intent to let out short term, complied with the requirements, furnishings, paperwork etc., and given a short-term contract. This means, effectively, that the days of genuine 3- or so month “informal” rental contracts are over!

  27. Author

    Yes, now you have it right! I agree it is totally confusing. Yes, you do need to resolve this in Fuerteventura because although the tourism law is a regional government one applicable throughout all the Canary Islands, each island’s Cabildo sets its own tourism policy within that framework. Moreover, each ayuntamiento then sets its own local tourism policy within the framework provided by the Cabildo. I tried to explain the general nature of all this HERE.
    Moreover, the regulation that we’re all now waiting for isn’t concerned with tourism law at all, but urbal letting law, as you say. This could have repercussions for private owners being able to let but until we see the law we can’t know. Something I’m working on right now will seek to offer a mechanism for clarification, at least at regional (Canarian government) level, legally backed and guaranteed, but for the moment, don’t put yourself at risk and do get independent legal advice.

  28. Thanks again Janet.
    I’ve just realised that the ‘supplement’ posted last December was not to change to the Rental (2013) law, but to the Urban letting law, which covers quite different areas. I think I’ve got this right at last.
    Feel a bit stupid now, as I’ve been waiting to see those changes in the wrong bit of legislation.
    It puts a whole new perspective on it all for me.
    Correct me if I’m wrong, please.
    I will get legal advice before I do anything rash, particularly as I didn’t realise that different islands could put their own slant on the regulations.

    Thank you again.

  29. Hello Janet
    Been reading all this interesting info for some time. Excellent , thank you.
    I could just use a little clarification please.
    Does the 2013 law now carry both the additions last December for villas and the changes that came out in April? Is this available in it’s full form somewhere?
    Can a detached house now rent legally and get the paperwork necessary? If so, where from?
    I ask because I have a detached house in the west of Fuerteventura that I would like to rent short term. It is close to the sea, and my family is urging me to get an income from it.
    Thank you in anticipation.


    1. Author

      This is something you’ll need qualified legal advice about. As far as I’m aware, these details are in the “reglamento” which I’ve mentioned previously and which give the legal definition and detail. These were awaited and, I believe, have very recently been published – last couple of weeks or so. I don’t yet have them, however, so cannot advise. Moreover, with insular differences, I would anyway be reluctant to give a definite answer on Fuerteventura regulations.

  30. Author

    I’m afraid I can’t, Linda, they’re not published in English and I just don’t have the time to translate an entire law. The law hasn’t changed in substance in any case, at least not as far as illegal letting is concerned – I think it’s important to realize that although the law was “finally approved” this year, it has actually been in place since Parliament approved it two years ago. Then, as usual, there’s a “first-year review” to see how it’s been performing in action. That’s what happened, and it was deemed to be performing well. Such changes as there are relate to governmental hotel construction and renovation policy, in the main. As I say, what will be significant will be the new regulation that is to be appended to urban letting (not tourism) legislation – we expect that in the near future.

  31. Hi Janet
    Thank you for your very early reply to my query. (I see you are a night owl aswell).
    Not knowing any Spanish I have no idea if I have been looking at the newly approved version of the 2013 Tourism Law. I wondered if by any chance it can be posted in English please.

  32. Author

    There’s a link to the law, which itself has a link to its revisions, on the links page in the menu at the top. What you might be more interested in is the forthcoming “regulación” that I posted about HERE, and about which more in due course.

  33. Hi Janet
    Wanting our residential complex to stay as such and not allow short term holiday lets, I have been nervously waiting for the review of the 2013 tourism law to hit the headlines. I understand that the final version was approved by the Canarian government on 21st April 2015. Only today did I notice your confirmation posted on 22nd April. Will you be posting the full approved version please Janet.

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