One owner’s experience of being blackmailed for illegal letting – by her own holidaymakers

I’m reproducing in full the following letter which I received yesterday. It is a warning to those who are letting out their properties privately, and I hope it will also be read by at least some of those responsible for the current legislation to see what effects it is having. Naturally, I am publishing this letter anonymously to safeguard the owner’s identity.

My husband and I decided to buy our own villa as our private holiday home near the beach in a touristic area in Costa Adeje a few years ago. We were taking on a big financial commitment but we thought that if we could let some weeks out when we were not there it would help towards the general running costs. When we were looking to buy a property all the estate agents and letting agents we spoke to were selling property as holiday homes to let and associated services. Even trusted lawyers didn’t mention the touristic letting law to us. All the people we dealt with advised us that we could let our property to tourists with no mention of any legal implications. We had no reason to doubt the information we were given since hundreds of thousands of other property owners were letting their private holiday homes it was reasonable to assume that there wouldn’t be a problem.

Of course since the onslaught by the tourist office we have become enlightened to this law and find that we have indeed engaged in illegal activity without knowledge nor intention and we may be liable to fines if caught out. As soon as we became aware of the situation we immediately made an attempt to do the right thing in correcting our position by making enquiries regarding a touristic licence only to find the tourist office were not issuing any licences. Furthermore they had not renewed or issued any licences for some five years thereby resulting in many owners with letting illegally without intention.

As highly respected law abiding professionals it was our intention to respect the law of the island we loved and make Tenerife our second home. We had absolutely no intention of engaging in any illegal activity whatsoever.

Due to the recent activity of the tourist office and global news of frightening and highly disproportionate fines we have had an experience that you may find interesting.

Last year we accommodated a seemingly nice couple who were clearly aware of the widely publicised fines and that no licences have been issued. Following their holiday at our villa and an unreasonable dispute about a neighbour, they asked for the number of our touristic licence and details of our sole exploitation agents. They know we don’t have these because no licences have been issued. We will be reported to the tourist office unless they receive a full refund for their holiday therefore we have no option but to give a full refund to these ruthless greedy people and hope they don’t report us. I feel certain this is a direct result of public knowledge of the disproportionate fines. People with a grudge can use the fear of a conviction and a frightening fine to extract money from anybody letting a holiday home in Tenerife.

With great sadness we have now reluctantly placed our beautiful holiday home on the market and we can’t sell it fast enough. When the property is sold we shall look for another holiday home in a different destination. We shall invest, spend and support the economy in another island or country. Tenerife has caused us too much stress. We have had no protection or support and as a result we no longer feel welcome here. This is not the reason why we invested in a holiday home.

We will be sad to leave the island but we feel extremely let down by the authorities that have acted unfairly. It is the island we had hoped our family would spend many months each year for decades to come, we didn’t expect to be made to feel like criminals and live under the threat of legal proceedings, embargo’s and outrageous fines.

We fully understand the need to regulate the tourism industry however the government brought in the tourism legislation 1995 without a supporting law regulating estate agents and letting agents to protect naive and trusting property investors from being misled when investing in property on the Island. Furthermore, the tourist office has not been operating fairly. In refusing to issue licences they have placed our family, together with many thousands of good law abiding people in a vulnerable and worrying position.


  1. I do so agree with this owner´s comments; when I wished to purchase some apts to replace my student houses in Nottingham & Norwich, Luis Tavio, my then Spanish lawyer based in Santa Cruz actually located 8 apts for me on Touristic complexes in the south of Tenerife; I went ahead & purchased these apts as long-term investments.

    Having had 12 yrs experience dealing with rental laws in the UK, I expected similar conditions to be imposed upon me in Tenerife; this I accepted as totally fair….ie regular inspections by various ´powers´ such as Health & Safety, & something similar to the University Accommodation Officers who would issue we landlords with annual certificates of approval, after inspections for each property. I had heard about the Tourist Board & was keen to receive their literature
    ref conditions etc….

    This never seemed to materialised altho´I was advised to leave a set of keys with each Reception area due to the Tourist Board who would make ´surprise visits´& would report back to me if there was anything amiss.

    This I did, along with employing an accountant ( as in the UK)so that I became fiscally resident & was issued with a certificate from the Hacienda each May/June.

    Now,because of all the adverse publicity, my apts are for sale even tho´ I pay all relevant taxes & I´ve not actually been informed by any legal body that I should not be letting them, or indeed that Luis Tavio should not have encouraged me to buy them some 10 yrs ago!

    I feel the Estate Agents & Lawyers should make the buyers more aware of these new laws….but then of course this would not be in their interest to do so?!

  2. So sorry to read this … but Janet, can you assure these people that it is most unlikely there will be any repercussions from such a threat.

    You and I know of a few Residential complexes where actual formal Denuncias have been made by the Administrators of the Communities and several years later, no action has been taken.

    This is just a vexacious threat which I truly believe they can ignore.

  3. Hello Janet
    I had often wondered when this issue would arise. It can obviously happen to both the illegal letting of residential and touristic properties. These owners are very open to blackmail for not only a refund of rental but all other travel costs plus much more. So owners should be very cautious to what sort of people (friends!!! & family!!!) they let use their apartment.

  4. Author

    Agreed, Doreen, and I know the letter writer is viewing this post so she’ll see your comment … and I can assure her that I agree with you too.

  5. Hello Janet
    I am sure we are all aware of the many cases of illegal letting that were dropped because the evidence was only based on internet advertizing, but if a tourist was to confirm that they had rented an illegal tourist rental to the authorities, then surely a further investigation would proceed with a view to getting a successful prosecution.

  6. Author

    Yes. What we’re distinguishing, though, is where the inspectors have initiated an investigation themselves, and where a denuncia is made by a member of the public. The inspectors have a clear priority for investigations that they themselves have instigated, and we are aware of personal denuncias still uninvestigated two years after the event.

  7. Hello Janet
    For the sake of clarity do these denuncias relate to residential only or do the include touristic complexes.

  8. Author

    both residential and private letting on touristic complexes where rentals are required to go through the sole agent.

  9. Hello again Janet
    Sorry to go on about this, but how can the authorities become aware of an touristic illegal rental since much of the internet advertizing has dried up. What would draw their attention to an alleged illegal rental, surely they must rely on someone reporting an illegal use. I would have thought that anyone could make an accusation, the tourist, the administrator, the complex president and last but not least the sole agent.

  10. Author

    They have thousands of files already on their desks … they just have to follow them up. And now they know they need to do more with them than just issue fines, they have their work cut out. They have enough work for the next several years, and private denuncias are not going to the top of the pile.

  11. In my opinion, if this attempt at blackmail continues, then the owners should have a quick consultation with Jose Escobedo (lawyer) to write a letter to the couple that are threatening them setting out just how serious it is under Spanish Law to issue threats, either verbal or written.

  12. This has happened all over the world with people threathning to report accommodation owners to trip advisor if they do not get a refund.People in the know are now making a living out of getting free holidays…very sad but the compensation culture with veil threats is now growing rapidly with owners worring whether to pay up or risk bad publicity or a fine..

  13. What a shame that their dream place in the sun has been ruined by pure greed and nastiness. Just goes to show you can’t trust anyone that you don’t know properly. Some people obviously have no conscience and sleep easy at night however they behave!

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