You have a property in Spain and you need money to cover an unexpected cost. So, you’ve started renting out your property as a holiday home, advertising it on two of the most popular tourist rental websites, Airbnb and Booking.com.
You’ve decided to do so while you process all the paperwork necessary to register the property as tourist accommodation.
In the end, you rent it out for part of July and August then, one day, you receive an alarming letter (expediente sancionador) by registered post. In it, the regional Tourism authorities inform you of the start of a sanctioning process for not complying with the requirements established by law for tourist accommodation. The document also refers to a four-figure fine.
In this case, the infringement is not having submitted the responsibility declaration for the commencement of tourism activity.
This sanctioning process (procedimiento sancionador) is a type of administrative procedure that the Tourism authorities must follow if they want to eventually impose a sanction.
It could arise as a result of an inspection by the tourism authorities themselves or a complaint from the town hall, the police or even a neighbour. It should be noted that the complainant has no right to be informed about the progress of any sanctioning procedure.
Variations between regions
Each regional government has its own Tourism Law in which the types of infringements (minor, serious and very serious), their corresponding sanctions, as well as the parties responsible for them are all detailed.
These sanctions vary from region to region, with fines of up to 600,000 euros possible in the Valencian Community, Catalonia and the Basque Country, 300,000 euros in Madrid and 150,000 euros in Andalucía.
How does the process work?
The first stage of the sanctioning procedure is the notification. It will include the identification of the alleged offender; the proposed qualification (minor, serious and very serious) and sanction for the offence; and the motivating factors.
The alleged offender will also be informed of their right to a hearing and to present evidence in their defence – and the corresponding deadlines to do so. Evidence can be submitted either online or in person.
Once the evidence has been submitted, or the deadline to do so has passed, the Instructing Officer will decide on the admission or rejection of the proposed evidence. Then, a decision proposal will be made. Either a sanction will be proposed or the case will be dropped.
If a sanction is proposed, the accused has another opportunity to submit evidence before the case is referred to the body responsible for ruling on the procedure.
In most cases, the deciding body rubber stamps the sanction proposed by the instructing officer and applies at least a 20% reduction on the amount. However, it may also consider the infringement to be more serious. In this case, the defendant must be notified of this so they can make the appropriate response.
Depending on the individual region’s Tourism Laws, a judgment should be made within either three or six months. If this time elapses and a judgment hasn’t been made, the sanction cannot be imposed – unless the delay was caused, directly or indirectly, by actions or omissions attributable to the interested parties. This doesn’t mean, however, that the whole process cannot be started again if the infringement isn’t time-barred.
It’s important to note that you’re not required by law to contract the services of a professional for this process. However, at CostaLuz Lawyers our expert team specialises in all aspects of Spanish property law including holiday rentals. If you need help fighting such a fine, get in touch now for a no-obligation consultation to find out how we can help you.