Public meeting ALOTCA – minutes

Public meeting ALOTCA – minutes

The public meeting to introduce the Association of those affected by the Canarian Tourism Regulation Law (Asociación de afectados por la ley de ordenación de turismo de Canarias – ALOTCA) was held in the Costa Adeje Tourist Development Centre this morning. It was very well attended, with almost every seat in a room for around 150 taken. The panel comprised the original members of the association, namely Maria Ereza Blasco (president), Santiago Saenz and José Escobedo (secretaries), Paul Ruane and myself. We were pleased to see present, and to count on the support of, the tourism councillors of both Arona and Adeje: these are very much on board and will be taking part with the association in discussions with Turismo. We were also gratified to see journalists there from the local Spanish press and Island Connections.

The meeting was opened by José introducing the concept of the association, and reiterating the latest situation on the appeals. One of several defences offered by the lawyers was that an internet advert in its own right proved nothing, neither that a property had been let, nor even that it had been offered for let, which is what the law specifically prohibits. This was because no proof could be provided that any given owner had placed an advert online. Turismo’s response was that they did not accept any of the arguments but were prepared to reduce the fines by €3,000. José then referred to a letter received only this morning from Turismo replying to a list of ten further arguments against the law, drawn up as part of the appeals process. These arguments included the fact that the enforcement of the legislation would cause, and was causing, a flood of properties on the market; that fines would reduce owners ability to pay their community fees; that it was having a negative effect far wider than just those being fined, and was affecting the likes of restaurants, taxi drivers, etc.; that people were being deterred from coming to Tenerife at all … and so on. Turismo’s response was that illegal activity was damaging Tenerife’s tourism, that the Government’s stated and confirmed aim was to maximise the benefit to official tourism, and that all the items on the list were irrelevant and neither the responsibility nor problem of Turismo.

There is clearly, at present, no chance of a change of heart, and it was the feeling that this was the case, even before this morning’s letter arrived, that fed the need for the formation of the association. The president of the association said that current tourism legislation was obsolete and did not reflect the current situation. The afectados, she said, were not just apartment owners, but everyone involved in tourism in the wider sense, i.e. businesses, gestors, estate agents, taxis, restaurants, etc – the whole of south Tenerife’s economy lived on tourism.

Paul Ruane then spoke about Los Gigantes and how he had recently asked a visiting friend if he wanted him to find accommodation. The friend had replied that he was staying in Abama. Paul said this was of course fine, but stressed to the meeting how it would be very different if he was an hotelier with a friend wanting to stay in a private apartment or villa. He would have had to say this was illegal and his friend was not allowed to do so. The boot most definitely wouldn’t fit the other foot, he said. He stressed that the association is not fighting anyone, including the hotels. We are not seeking enemies, he said, but looking to solve a problem. We understand the need to protect tourism but we also need to encourage tourism. He referred to the petition which will shortly be available online: under Spanish legislation, if 15,000 signatures are collected, an application can be made to modify or change a law. This is a recognized Spanish legal procedure but has to be applied for. This application is now in process. As soon as it is available, I will post links to it in as many places as possible, and the journalist from Island Connections said she would ensure it was in her paper as well.

I then read out a selection of comments that have been made here on this website which reflected the damage being done to Tenerife by this enforcement, and the fear and anger which it has generated – as I said, generated among one of Tenerife’s main tourist markets by those who are supposed to be promoting tourism.

Santiago then read out the articles of the association. These are lengthy and I only have an original draft to hand anyway, so I can’t reproduce them here right now. I’ll make them available when I can. In brief, though, they refer to our stated aim to make the law, and the damage being caused by the way it is being enforced, as widely known as possible through the press and through meetings, and to try to negotiate a consensual way forward that benefits Tenerife as a whole; to protect the rights and interests of everyone involved in tourism in Tenerife; to guarantee the right of ownership, use and enjoyment of property by owners under both the Spanish Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and to exercise the right to petition to modify the law to achieve the above.

The meeting was then opened to the floor. The tourism councillors had to leave at this point for other meetings, but already had a very good idea through previous briefings of the types of issues that would arise, and which did indeed arise. I hope I’ll at least convey the gist of the questions and answers, though these parts of such meetings are inevitably confused at times.

Q: will there be a cost for membership?
A: We are at the early stages with the association. The papers still have to be presented in Madrid, and at that point we will call another meeting. We will decide then whether there will be a cost, and if so, how much.

Q: Is there/will there be resistance to the association from, e.g. sole agents, residents?
A: The association does not directly affect residential complexes: illegal letting is a different issue. We are seeking to help everybody in order to benefit Tenerife, and sole agents who operate well will have nothing to fear.

Q: Do residents need to fear that the association seeks to allow tourism on their complexes?
A: Many residential complexes want to introduce touristic lets, and if they do not, then the law supports them. Ideally, in our view, residential complexes should be allowed to decide for themselves. If the majority of owners in a residential complex do or do not want tourism in their complex then we feel that this is their decision to make. We are not remotely trying to introduce or legalise tourism in residential complexes that do not want this. The aim is to quash threats, and it has to be said that those threats include some made by residents, e.g. insisting that only owners can use their own apartments.

Q: Has the association drafted new legislation if it is seeking to change the law?
A: We are seeking to modify the law, not redraft it in its entirety, but even so, we are at too early a stage and cannot yet know the extent to which modifications will be possible, nor the amount of support the association will have. At an appropriate time, however, we will draft new legislation if this is needed.

Q: Where is the petition?
A: As soon as the association has a significant number of members, a website will be set up for an online petition. This is a recognized procedure in Spain, and an application has to be made. This application has now been made and is in process. The link will be made as widely available as possible, certainly here on this website and in Island Connections. Those signing the petition will need to provide their name and NIE as is standard in Spanish petition procedure.

At this point concern was expressed over providing such details, with some present worried that such information would give the Government a hit list to target. The president stressed that this was the only way under Spanish law that a petition would work, and that data protection laws meant people weren’t endangered. There was continuing concern, however, and there were some suggestions that passport numbers might be sufficient. This will of course be clarified when the petition is ready for signing. Meanwhile, I’ll repeat here what I said at this point at the meeting. This petition will not just be signed by people who are letting, whether illegally or not. Hopefully, it will contain the details of many Spanish and Canarians too, most of whom will be affected in other ways, i.e. by their businesses suffering. There will also be signatures from residents who want clarity on their own residential complex status; from people who want to buy here but who are afraid to proceed with the situation as it is; and from people who just don’t want to stay in hotels, particularly all-inclusive ones. The names on the list will not indicate a particular interest in letting, and the inspectors will know this. I also made the point that the current inspectors are fully stretched in any case, and that they have enough internet adverts to keep them occupied … and that a name and NIE on a petition aren’t evidence of any action, let alone an illegal one. Moreover, even if they were to try to connect such information with illegal letting they would still need to find a related advert, and if such an advert existed they would be likely to find it anyway.

Q: Could the case not be taken to the Court of Human Rights because the current law is discriminatory?
A: The association could, eventually, take this route if there was enough support but we would hope to achieve our aims before getting that far down the line.

There was some discussion as to whether the law actually was discriminatory, with varying opinions. Certainly I know myself of nationalities other than British who have been fined.

Q: Someone who looks after apartments on an ex touristic/timeshare complex asked what she could do now that the timeshare company has ceased operating there.
A: There was some dispute over this. The sole agent on Paloma Beach, John Parkes, said that the complex was therefore dormant touristic and that a sole agency could be created if 50+1% of the owners agreed to appoint one. The president of the association disagreed with this, and said it was not so simple. John said that he had spoken with the Cabildo very recently and had this confirmed, but Maria reiterated that there was more involved than this. Certainly John has had this information from the Tenerife Cabildo, but Maria is ex-Turismo (Government) so it seems to me possible that the Cabildo has the requirements as detailed by John, but that the Government might have additional rules. I am not in a position to judge this myself.

Q: Why should tourists be allowed to change the law of a country they’re just visiting?
A: I said that I imagined there would be serious resistance from some quarters to being described as tourists. People who have invested significant amounts of money in the island over many years, who support local businesses, who employ local professionals – these people will consider themselves as far more involved with Tenerife than as simply tourists.

Q: What is a tourist anyway?
A: There were several answers at this point with panel members seeing various interpretations to the question apart from the purely factual. In the end I spoke to what seemed to be behind the question, namely whether a contract of three months was the defining line between touristic and residential letting. As I said, urbanistic law allows for short and long term rental contracts. Long term ones are for a year or more, and deemed residential. Short term ones are for any period under a year, and are for specific purposes, i.e. not residential. As such, Turismo have told us that they could deem any such contracts to be touristic, but would not in fact take any action against short term lets of three months or more, even though this period is not defined in the law itself.

Q: Is the association not actually going into battle against the hotels?
A: We are not seeking to be opponents to the hotels themselves, but having said that, the association is the first real voice to speak against the hotel association, Ashotel, which has such influence at high levels. We don’t view it as the primary focus, however. First and foremost, rather than battling anyone, we are trying to help all those with an interest in Tenerife.

The meeting came to an end at this point and as people started to head for the door, we asked them to come back to sign up to the association to coordinate future actions if they wanted to do so. I fear there might have been some confusion in this respect, and think that some people could have thought they were signing the petition. To be clear: the petition will be online, and will be available as soon as possible. What people signed today was the association affiliation. Hopefully most were clear on this point, but if anyone thought they were signing the petition, please be aware that you will actually need to sign it when it is available. As far as signing for the association is concerned, however, I will shortly have a form available here on this website.

As I said above, we will call another meeting as soon as we have the paperwork back from Madrid, and I’ll update, of course, if there is any further information in the meantime.

41 Comments

  1. Might I suggest that the association seeks the help of the airlines that fly the thousands of passengers like myself (12 visits in the past 3 years to Fuertaventura)Ryan Air, Easy Jet, Monach. I would not have come again after my first visit to an all inclusive. I now stay on a residential site that is let to me by a private owner. I support local Businesses and understand thier great concerns over what seems to me to be abondonment of them in favor of the interests of large hotel chains Who offer a one size fits all solution to holiday makers and is in fact very poor value. My private owner now Informs me that I can no longer rent the premisses and my alternative is a holiday complex with a shared pool or a hotel. I guess I will go back to the Good old USA or Canada instead.
    I will sign your Petition when its available for my private owner, for local business and my spanish friends.

  2. Author

    Thank you. Yes, we will be approaching all and any avenues that can help us bring pressure to bear.

  3. I am involved in a property that is let for holidays. We do everything in our power to ensure that visitors have the best possible experience during their holiday in Tenerife and we give them the opportunity to voice their opinions publicly when they return. We have not had a single complaint in over 8 years. We have spent thousands of pounds on the apartment and much more on travel, food, drink, etc. during our regular visits to the island. Our visitors are made aware of all the islands attractions and they, too, feed money into the local economy. We are not greedy foreign investors. Letting does not completely cover the costs but simply enables us to retain the property. We have let to many nationalities, and our visitors can only be good for the island in every way. We do all we can to enhance the reputation of Tenerife as a wonderful place to go. We would be happy to be inspected to ensure our records systems and the property are of a suitable standard – if such a thing existed.

    The “illegal lettings” catch-all is short-sighted and smells of corruption and vested interests. Bring on your petition and we hope you can encourage some good investigative reporting to seek out and expose the real reasons for the current situation.

    Keep up the good work, you will have our support in every way.

  4. Well done!
    May i suggest that you ask all the major holiday letting websites to forward an invitation to all present and past Tenerife advertisers to sign the petition as i am sure that many non residents will not be aware of the petition

  5. TIMESHARE?

    My complex is part residential and part timeshare. If timeshare totals 40% do we only need 11% to start the process of becoming touristic?

    We need to remind those who do not wish to rent that becoming touristic will not increase the number of rented properties and change the balance of complexes but it will restore confidence in the resale market. Many buyers need the confidence that they could if necessary rent occasionally at least to friends and family and can sell their property when they are ready offering the same freedom to the new owner as is enjoyed everywhere else in the world.

    Thank you for your continued efforts

  6. Author

    I agree with you Ruth, and it’s this far wider perspective that concerns me. I’m afraid I’m just not informed enough about timeshare/part-timeshare complexes to advise, so I think it’s best if you seek specialist advice on that in particular.

    With regard to touristic complexes whose licence has lapsed, then yes 51% seems to be the magic number, though the president of the asociación says that although this is a Cabildo requirement, the actual Government may have additional requirements. It’s certainly a starting point though.

  7. Janet Thanks for a brilliant website and the work you are doing on behalf property owners. Perhaps we did not do enough homework, but we bought on the understanding that we could cover our mortgage and other costs with holiday lettings – and it was a shock to find out we were breaking the law by doing so! We can cover the costs, but we have sympathy for others who cannot.

    We live in a wholly residential area and the local businesses, already struggling, fear they will have to close if this legislation is enforced more strictly. The holiday makers are their lifeblood. This would also be to the detriment of those more permanent residents who are actually pressing for the enforcement of the legislation.

  8. Author

    Thanks David. Although it’s not part of what the asociación is lobbying for, I personally have great sympathy for those in that situation, and of course it is part of our wider aims to stop the damage to Tenerife which will be, in my opinion, just as you describe. I know that ignorance of the law is no defence, and have said so myself in the past in other respects, but in this particular regard, that ignorance has been fostered. Fostered by estate agents who have deliberately concealed the information; fostered by estate agents who have given the correct information but who have understandably not stressed the illegality because the law was not being enforced; and fostered above all by the Government which has allowed that situation to develop by turning a blind eye to violations of its own legislation for more than 15 years.

  9. Can I add my thanks to the work that Janet is doing on this whole situation and say that the formation of the association is a major step forward. The last post by Janet is so on the mark for what has been allowed to happen and this has made the ‘crackdown’ so unfair and disproportionate.
    I believe the strategy that the association is formulating is the right one and despite seeing some negative remarks about the first meeting all I can say is ‘Rome was not built in a day!!’
    Clearly it is crucial that we have the Lawyers on board and I know from conversations with Jose Escobedo, that he is passionate about this and not just looking to make money, as has been suggested by some people – he sees the bigger picture and the damage that will be done to the local economy in the long term.
    I like the objectivity and plain speaking that Janet seems to be bringing to this whole debate and thanks goodness she is involved!

  10. Hi Janet,
    Following your brilliant start, I have been doing my bit – albeit tiny. I have
    contacted quite a few owners (those advertising on one of the international sites) and urged them to look at your site. A few knew of the problem others were in blissful ignorance. I will keep at it – we need to get everyone to back this petition for the wider aspect, not just whether or not we can let legally.
    Keep up the good work, we are all behind you!

  11. Hi,

    My husband and I were thinking of buying a detached villa on the Sueno Azul complex in Callao Salvaje with the intention of living in Tenerife over the winter and letting it out in the summer. We have now heard about the problems with the illegal lettings situation and are reconsidering. However I did see on the Tenerife Forum a post that stated that the current moratorium on villa owners being able to apply for licences may be lifted in May. Is this correct? Also does anyone know if the Sueno Azul villa complex is likely to be able to apply or is it very residential?

    Thanks for your help

  12. Author

    Anne that’s brilliant! Thank you.

  13. Author

    We don’t know whether it’s correct or not yet, Jen. There are various rumours, as there always are in Tenerife, but until the announcement is actually made we cannot know one way or another. One major word of warning though. Whatever you’ve been told about villas being able to be legalized if the moratorium is lifted, it is NOT that simple. That is one part of the issue, of course, but if it is ever lifted, the only villas that will be able to be registered will be those that are built on land classified by the relevant local Ayuntamiento as touristic.

    I repeat: it will depend on the land classification, which will be determined by the local authority, not the Cabildo, nor the Government. I don’t know specifically about Sueño Azul, but I do know from recent checks that very many villas in Callao Salvaje that have been (and some still are being) rented out touristically are on plots deemed to be residential. To stress: this means that even if the moratorium is lifted, they could not register. Even worse, approaches have been made to Adeje to see if they will consider changing this classification, if not fully to touristic, then to mixed. They were categorical – NO.

    This is one reason legislative change is needed to enable villas to register as touristic. At some level, the Ayuntamientos need to be prepared, or made to, change the plot designations, and it remains to be seen through negotiations how best that legislative change can be achieved.

    As I say, I don’t know specifically about Sueño Azul, the villas I was looking into were independent villas on the main street into the village, but your starting point has to be Adeje Ayuntamiento. If they have classified the land there as touristic, or mixed, then you would be able to register IF the moratorium is lifted. If it’s residential, however, then you have no chance unless the law is changed.

  14. Author

    Just to let everyone know, I’ve just emailed José to see if the form for people to join the asociación is ready to be uploaded on here yet. I’ll let you know what he says as soon as I get a reply.

  15. I suggest the association should involve Spanish property owners who are also affected by this law and provide information for them in Spanish as well. There is a number of Spanish websites where mostly Spanish people advertise their tourist properties. They are also victims and they could also support the aims of the association if they were informed.

  16. All the Canary Islands are affected by this law, so in my opinion our efforts should be focused to form a powerful association formed by thousands of people who have properties also in Gran Canaria, Lanzarote and Fuerteventura.
    It is very important that in a short period of time the content of this website is translated into Spanish. The more people involved, the more successful our work will be.

  17. Author

    Thank you, Roberto. I’m just the English point of contact, of course. I don’t have the resources to duplicate the whole site in Spanish, I’m afraid, but the press release I translated has gone in the main to Spanish language press. I agree the whole of the Canaries are affected by this enforcement, and we are very aware of how much local Canarian and Spanish will be affected by this. It is a very great error to think that this just affects the British, or just apartment owners. Three of the five founder members of the asociación, indeed, are Canarian (José and Santiago) and Spanish (Maria).

  18. You have my full support and will help you in any way possible to bring about change to this crazy “law”

    We have a large database of property owners who I will help circulate this article to and will help get the necessary signatures needed.

  19. Author

    Hi Martin, and thank you very much.

  20. Can anyone explain who is allowed to rent and who isn’t. There seems to be a confusion on what is a holiday complex. If your apartment is situated in a holiday complex can you rent the property? How do you find out if your complex is classed as a holiday complex and what constitutes it

  21. Author

    It’s really very clear, and there’s no room for confusion. It will depend on the terms of the licence which was granted for the complex to be constructed in the first place, and the definition will be in the complex statutes, if not (as sometimes) in the escritura itself. You can also look up on the official tourism sites to see if a complex is touristic: I’ve given the links to these sites on the links page.

    If your complex is residential, you cannot rent touristically. If it is touristic, then you can rent touristically, but only through the registered on-site sole agent. On any complex you can rent residentially, i.e. give residential contracts of 3 months or more, without any problem or any need to go through any agent.

  22. where can we obtain a residential contract that you have mentioned in your last reply?

  23. Author

    HERE is a standard pro-forma long-term contract.

  24. Glad to see someone is at last doing something about this crazy Spanish law that is doing nothing but damaging the whole economy in the Canaries and is so short sighted by the Spanish authorities.
    They should take a lesson from other countries and repeal such draconian, protectionist laws and stop shooting themselves in the foot.
    I fully support your actions and cannot wait to sign the petition.

  25. thank you for the long term contract. can i issue this myself or do i need to use a notary for passport checks etc?

  26. Well done & thank you Janet, for such comprehensive information about the law and what is being established as a challenge.

    This law is hypocritical as we are automatically taxed on an assumed rental income each year (irrespective of if we rent out or not) and that taxation does not differentiate between tourist or residential lettings.

    Perhaps besides a challenge on the letting to tourists law we should also get as many property owners as possible to demand a tax rebate as this law is actually prohibiting us raising the income that the assumed tax is charged against— they cannot have it both ways

  27. Author

    You can do it yourself, Sarah, or get it verified by a notary. Formally it should be notarized, but many landlords do it themselves. It will be legally binding and upholdable in Court if you do it yourself, which is the main thing. Remember that both passport and NIE details (or DNI if a Spanish national) must be in the contract for you and your tenant.

  28. Author

    Thank you Antony. The tax authorities would say that the notional rental income is assumed to be long-term rent, i.e. for lets of 3 months or more, because the properties belong to non-residents who, by definition, don’t live her full time. It’s a nice argument, but they won’t wear it. Having said that, I personally think it’s discriminatory because it’s only applied to non-residents because they’re presumed to be inclined to lie over rental income. The problem, as ever, is that a challenge such as this would require lawyers to take it a long way up the chain, and that would have to be funded. None the less, as far as the “illegal letting” issue is concerned, we’ll lobby as far as the issue can be taken by the asociación.

  29. Hi Janet
    I wholeheartedly support what you are doing and my husband & I will sign the petition when it is ready. We too have poured a lot of money into Tenerife over the last twelve years through ourselves and our guests renting our apartment, which is fabulous and everyone loves it. We recommend restaurants in the area and ask for new recommendations in our visitors book. One interesting point; our guests and indeed ourselves often use the hotels when then have entertainment so bring money to them as well. They do not seem to take this on board at all.

  30. Author

    Please see HERE for the form to join the asociación.

  31. Hi Janet,
    Would just like to thank you for your recommendation of Jose Escobedo,
    the lawyer who is heading the Association. I contacted him with regards to Power of Attourney being put in place, in case of a fine. Although an extremely busy man, he contacted me promptly and am now in the process of doing this. I would highly recommend him to anyone in this situation.

    Many thanks again for all your dedication and hard work.

  32. Author

    Yes, he’s a good ‘un! Thanks for the kind comments.

  33. I’m sure his bank manager thinks he’s a good un too! 🙂

  34. Author

    Yes, well there are plenty who are cynical about lawyers’ motives … no moreso than me, usually. Sure he wants to earn money from this, but he’s put the effort into it as well, and it’s grounded in his concern for Tenerife. That’s the issue, the real issue, the only issue.

  35. I was sent your petition via Astliz (thank you) & have forwarded it to Owners Direct. They have responded to my email & the Director of Government Relations based in USA has said that he will contact me for more information in the next few days. Shall I give him your website details or is there another point of contact he should have. He wishes to support in any way that he can.

  36. Author

    Hello Denise and thank you very much indeed. You are more than welcome to give him my website details. An alternative will be the collaborative website of the two lawyers who are founder members, José Escobedo and Santiago Saenz. Their website, Tenerife Litigation, is HERE. You are more than welcome to use either. I’m perfectly happy for the Director to get directly in touch with me. He could alternatively email me: it’s help@janetanscombe.com

    Just one point when you’re in touch with him, the current form is to join the asociación. When we have enough members we’ll put up the website for the actual petition, which will be purely an online affair. Again, many thanks.

  37. Thank you for this – I will point him in the right direction. Also, thank you for pointing this out to me about the form. It was sent to me as if it was the Petition & I have forwarded it saying that this is what it was! I will inform everyone to wait for the online info.

  38. Author

    Please do ask them to fill it in and email it to me, though, Denise … the more members we have the sooner the petition will be up and running.

  39. Hi

    We do not own an apartment as we have never had the money to buy, but have been visiting the Puerto Santiago area 2 or 3 times a year for the past 15 years. Other than the first time we have always rented apartments so that we can eat out at the many local restaurants etc. The owners of these restaurants have become our friends over the years and we know how much they rely on regular tourists such as ourselves. This year we have been over once but are now struggling to find apartments to rent for the whole family holiday we had planned this summer due to the issue you are dealing with. We will therefore be going elsewhere -probably the USA- as we do not want to stay in a hotel and are sadly having to accept that we may have to reconsider future plans for future visits. There must be many like us. Good luck and our sympathy to those that are having to deal with the financial and other stresses of this situation.

  40. Hi Janet, We now have several lists of signatures to support a petition, but can you tell us where to send them or can we hand them to someone here in LosGigantes/Puerto de Santiago ?

  41. Author

    Hi James, the petition is not up and running yet. Before we do that, we are collecting members for the asociación. When we see from the membership numbers that a petition is likely to get the 15,000 needed, then we will launch it.

    In the meantime, therefore, the best thing is for people to join the asociación, and the membership form and instructions are HERE.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *