Many people who want to live in Tenerife long-term rent a property here before buying. This is good practice, because there are so many variables in terms of dwellings and areas, and many people commit to a purchase only to find that they are homesick, or their circumstances change, within a year or two and they are then left with a property to sell in what, particularly at present, might be a difficult market.
If you are using an agency, view the widest range of properties. There will inevitably be much doubling up of properties, with owners putting their properties on the books of as many agents as possible to secure a tenant. Check that the property you are considering isn’t on other agents’ books: it might be available at a lower rent because incorporated fees could vary between agents. You can also rent privately, and should look out for signs saying se alquila, which means “for let”. Don’t be afraid to ring these numbers thinking the landlord is going to be Spanish. Many English owners will use them too because they will be hoping to attract the widest possible range of enquiries, from prospective Spanish tenants as well as English.
When renting, you should be aware that there are two types of rental contracts – long and short term. Long-term contracts (contrato de arrendamiento de “vivienda“) are the only proper contracts for residential lets, i.e. those where someone is moving in and staying there on a long-term basis, and are for a minimum of one year. A tenant with a vivienda contract is protected by law to a very high degree, including having the right to renew the contract for up to five years, with a further renewal period available under agreement of up to another three years. These rights are included in clauses in the contract, as are rent increases, which are limited to the rate of inflation. Some owners do not like the idea of their tenants having such highly protected rights, however, and so short term contracts (contrato de arrendamiento por “temporada“) are commonly given. These can be for set periods of one day to a year, and temporada contracts of three or six months are often issued instead of a vivienda. Whatever length of time the contract covers, its terms are binding on both sides, and it will not have a period of notice because each side must honour the full contracted period.
It is important to emphasize that temporada contracts, which are not for long-term residence, are in fact specifically for a particular purpose for a set period of time. The tenant’s usual home address must appear on them as must the purpose, which can be temporary work placement, recuperation, studying, etc., but not for holidays. Since the Canarian Government strictly controls tourism policy, it considers any temporada contracts under three months to be touristic, and so illegal under current legislation (see HERE): please understand that despite much rumour and misinformation online, fines for holiday letting are frequently issued and are sometimes in the many thousands of Euros. Put as simply as possible, temporada contracts are only legal for a genuine short-term let for a specific purpose, and not for holidays or permanent living. Any tenant who is given such a contract for residential purposes, followed by further temporadas to cover the period of their residence, instead of the long term “vivienda” contract they should be given can appeal to the Courts: their case will be based on the legal claim that the property is their habitual home and the owner is trying to deprive them of their constitutional rights. The Courts are very sympathetic to these cases and can turn a temporada contract into a vivienda contract without the owner being able to prevent it.
Legal contracts are signed by landlord and tenant, and contain ID numbers – whether passport, NIE, DNI. Strictly speaking, the contracts should also be signed before a notary and registered at the Spanish Land Registry (Registro de la Propiedad), but the reality is often much more informal. Along with the contract you should get an inventory of items in the property, and the condition they are in. Check these thoroughly, because if there is any discrepancy, it is likely to involve a deduction from your deposit when you leave. If there are any marks or damages, particularly if these are not specified in the inventory, take photographs, and resolve the issue as early as possible rather than waiting until you vacate.
You can expect to pay your rent in advance, and therefore the first month’s rent will be payable when you take possession. I am sometimes asked about agents putting up rent in the middle of contracts, or “at renewal”, and as should be clear from the above, it is only in long-term vivienda contracts that the issue arises because temporada contracts are for a single set period, and a vivienda contract will have the legally-allowable increases already written into it. There cannot actually be any reason for an agent or owner to increase the amounts agreed to and written into a contract.
Apart from paying rent in advance, you will also almost certainly be asked to pay a deposit which will be held against any damage or debt incurred during your tenancy – note that landlords may not keep deposits or make deductions from them for cleaning or redecorating after a tenant leaves, and any deductions made must be detailed in writing, with justification, and must be agreed by the tenant. Equally, if repairs or justifiable expenses exceed a deposit, then the tenant must pay immediately. If either side fails to comply with these requirements it is a matter for legal action and the courts. If all is well, however, then the deposit should be returned immediately, and if not repaid within a month, will attract legal interest. The deposit may be called a deposit or a bond, or in Spanish, fianza: article 36 of urban letting legislation says that a deposit equivalent to one month’s rent is a legal minimum for long-term rentals (the requirement is two months’ deposit for uso distinto, i.e. other than for living in, e.g. a business), so the landlord is required by law to ask for this, as is the tenant to pay it. Note too that some landlords ask for a bond as a security guarantee in addition to a deposit, and under the law this bond may not be of a value greater than two months’ rent.
Sometimes prospective tenants are asked for a deposit of more than the equivalent of one month’s rent, but this is uncommon, and if you are prepared to consider it, make very sure that it is in fact for a refundable deposit, rather than a non-refundable charge imposed by an agent, perhaps called a contract fee, or “finder’s fee”. If the landlord is a legal entity (ie a business), any such administration or contract fees must be paid by them rather than the tenant, but this is not the case if an owner is a private individual – in other words tenants can be asked to pay such fees. They are not “illegal” as popularly rumoured but obviously there is a choice involved because tenants can try to find a property through an agent who does not charge a fee, or deal with owners direct through the media or social media. Be aware that although many agents are honourable, some are not, so it is only safe to proceed on the grounds that your agent may not be so. What fees are “fair” or acceptable is naturally for each prospective tenant to decide for themself, but the overriding consideration in every single case is the need to determine the exact purpose of all monies handed over, and for the amounts, and their refundable nature, to be specifically identified in the contract. Needless to say, it is essential to get specific and clearly identifiable receipts for any and all payments made.
Some rentals include a certain amount for utilities usage, often up to around €50 or so per month, with the tenant paying any extra when the bill arrives. Apart from electricity and water, however, landlords themselves normally pay the rates (IBIs) and the community charge if the rented property is on a complex. Clearly it is important to know in advance what commitments there will be for ongoing expenses in addition to the rent, and these should be clearly detailed in the contract. Generally, however, the landlord should be expected to cover the IBIs (rates), community fees, basura (rubbish), house insurance and maintenance costs, whereas the tenant should anticipate paying metred amounts for utilities such as water, electricity, gas and telephone.
In the event of breakdowns, the landlord is usually responsible for washing machines, boilers, etc. (unless the breakdown is very minor or the result of damage caused by the tenant), and the tenant for any damage s/he has caused or which has resulted from general usage (e.g. a broken window or a blown lightbulb), and tenants are recommended to take out their own contents/accidental damage insurance for such eventualities, as well as for cover of their own possessions. While speaking of utilities and the like, it is worth mentioning that from 1 June 2013, owners are obliged by law to provide a copy of an energy certificate for the property to all new tenants – existing rental contracts are exempt from the law (see HERE).
When leaving a rented property, tenants are required to give the period of notice stipulated in the vivienda contract, though they can terminate a contract by giving just one month’s notice, and without having to pay compensation, providing that they have had the contract for at least six months. Similarly, once the property has been let for a full year and the contract has been renewed, the owner of the property will only be able to recover it from that point for use as a main home with notice of two months. Legally this means that the owner must move into it and stay in it for at least three months, and cannot just say they want to live in it in order to get the tenant to move out for a different reason.
Tenants can also be evicted, of course, and the usual reason is for non-payment of rent. It is important to be aware that even if you feel justified in withholding payment, e.g. for requested repairs that have not been carried out, the law expects payment to be made and for the claim then to be dealt with separately. To date, tenants have been able to avoid eviction by paying rental arrears just before a Court hearing, at least on the first occasion, but under the 2013 legislation I mentioned above, landlords will be able to apply for eviction in just ten days if rent is outstanding. The Courts will grant the order unless the tenant can present satisfactory argument for non-payment – which would be difficult to do, evidently. Those deemed to be at risk of social vulnerability are protected by the law, which requires the Courts and Social Services to find alternative accommodation for them.
Apart from non-payment of rent, a tenant may be evicted for using the property for a purpose other than living in it, for intentionally damaging the property, for carrying out noisy, dangerous or illegal activities, and for sub-letting: Urban Letting legislation permits a tenant to sub-let but only part of the property and only with prior consent from the owner. Anyone who is evicted under the terms of the new law will, moreover, be recorded in a new rent debtors’ register which will be made available to landlords to check prospective tenants, so clearly it is to the tenant’s advantage to leave on good terms and with no outstanding issues if at all possible.