MADRID (Reuters) - Barcelona plans to hire dozens of new inspectors to crack down on illegal holiday rentals, as the Spanish tourism hub seeks to enforce a licensing regime for people using sites such as Airbnb to let out their property.
Like other popular destinations such as Palma de Mallorca and San Sebastian, Barcelona is facing a backlash from locals who say a boom in renting flats out to tourists is removing long-term rentals from the market and pushing up prices.
Barcelona already requires people letting out their properties to sign up for licenses. A year ago fewer than 10 inspectors were checking up on rentals. There are now 80 and should be 110 by next year, the head of urban planning said.
“For now Airbnb is cooperating with local government and has removed 1,000 illegal tourist rentals from its website, however it is clear that there is more work to do”, Janet Sanz said in an interview.
Sanz said there were still around 5,000 to 6,000 unlicensed tourist flats in Barcelona, the capital of the Catalonia region on Spain’s northeastern Mediterranean coast which attracts millions of holidaymakers every summer.
Airbnb agreed in July to work with Barcelona to remove listings “that could affect long-term housing availability in Barcelona” as well as commercial operators using the site.
Spain’s Balearic Islands, another tourist hotspot, introduced legislation this month to curb illegal rentals, saying it would fine landlords up to 40,000 euros for advertising unlicensed accommodation.
Spain expects a record number of 83 million international visitors in 2017, according to forecasts by Caixabank Research. The rise comes partly due to displaced tourism from areas such as Egypt or Turkey as a result of security concerns.
Reporting by Madrid TV, Writing by Emily Lupton, Editing by Sarah White and Robin Pomeroy