A recent study focused on Gandia highlighted the need for residential tourism. Heading the study, Sr. Vicent Altur identifies the need to turn residential tourists into residents upon their retirement. He says this can be achieved by providing year round amenities. It is refreshing to see realism creep into the debate over properties that lie empty for much of the time.
For eight or nine months of the year the infrastructure, built to withstand a ten-fold increase in temporary residence is relatively underused. Entire apartment blocks and swathes of villa communities lie empty as they await northern European swallows and swifts: They swallow what the region has to offer and swiftly return.
What an appalling waste of assets at a time when property and business owners are desperate for every euro they can lay their hands on. All that is necessary for a massive injection of wealth is to reform Spain’s outdated laws on tenancy and the removal of judicial inertia.
In Spain current legislation weighs heavily in favour of the tenant, not the property owner. Any contract longer than a year implies that the tenant can stay up to five years if he or she wishes. Such legislation was inspired by concern for social justice for tenants who could previously be evicted with a minimum of formality. It gave security to tenants but was hardly in the interests of property owners.
Problems arise when unscrupulous tenants, often with professional zeal take advantage of judicial inertia. They settle into a property and then decide to stop paying the agreed rent. The dilemma for the property owner is that he or she cannot summarily evict squatters. They need to hire a solicitor and file an eviction claim.
Cutting access to utilities; water and electricity is not the answer. To do so make the property owner vulnerable for this can be construed as a crime of coercion. No responsible solicitor will ever advise that course of action.
It is not surprising therefore that property owners who could get a reasonable return on their investment by opening it up to short-term tourism are reluctant to hand their keys to an agency. They can be forgiven for thinking that it could be a permanent arrangement.
As a consequence he continues to pay 12 months mortgage on a property that is empty for much of the year. Holidaymakers, especially Spanish families who deserve to enjoy their uniquely beautiful coastline and use it for weekend breaks and longer are deprived of the opportunity to do so; it is a lose-lose situation.
A TENANTS PROTECTION RACKET
There are occasions when eviction claims can be satisfied reasonably quickly. In the City of Alicante the average procedure takes four months. Elsewhere the process can take up to a year. Both are far too long.
Repeal one-sided tenancy laws and provide a fast-track separate legal procedure for owner-tenant disputes. As soon as balance is restored we can leave the rest to entrepreneurial letting agencies, happy to manage and mediate. Imagine the potential in terms of tourism spends.