Key points to consider when signing a rental contract in Spain

November 17, 2014

It can be a galling process, finding yourself an apartment in another country, particularly if you have just moved there and don’t understand the language (not to mention the official jibberish you are forced to read on rental contracts in Spain).

Nobody wants the first few weeks of their dream move to be blighted by overpriced hostels, wayward conversations with pushy landlords and endless traipsing between wretched apartments. Consequently, we guiris often end up compromising one way or the other when push finally comes to shove. In fact, very rarely does anyone find somewhere that meets their every need at the right price, in the right place.

I should know; I’ve lived in four apartments in the three years I’ve been in Granada, despite having only ever signed a full contract twice, and none have ended well.

Regrettably, since my current digs have been easily the best yet, I am now about to commence the hunt for my fifth abode, after a recent and rather abrupt falling-out with our landlord (all will be revealed).

I’ve learned a few lessons while hunting apartments in Granada, so for the first time ever, I actually feel well-prepared. Here are a few of the decisive factors I’ll be looking out for before I sign along that dotted line…

Furnished or Unfurnished?

Always, always establish who is responsible for what if you are signing for an unfurnished apartment.

I wouldn’t be writing this post if it weren’t for this small yet decidedly crucial matter. Cue rant.

About a month ago, our ten-year-old fridge-freezer gave up on us, so we did what anyone would do and asked the landlord to replace it. He responded by saying he would visit the next day, insisting that he needed ‘to explain things’.

Next day, it transpired that– since our apartment is unfurnished –any furniture or appliances that were here before the rental period commenced, were here simply because he could not be bothered to find somewhere else to put them. “Este, no existe. Este, no existe. Este, no existe”, he repeated, pointing to various appliances in our kitchen, including the fridge. Essentially, he was telling us that it was our responsibility to maintain and, if necessary, replace everything in the apartment.

Ergo, no new fridge.

Now, in my opinion, which may indeed be entirely wrong, a kitchen wouldn’t be a kitchen without a fridge, just as a bathroom wouldn’t be a bathroom without a toilet, so neither of us had considered that a fridge would only be included in a furnished rental agreement.


And while on the subject of unfurnished rentals, the minimum deposit required for one is the equivalent of one month’s rent, so don’t pay anything higher than that. For furnished apartments, it is two months.

Hidden Taxes (IBIs)

Sometimes the stated fee for one month’s rent may not actually include all taxes that you, as a tenant, will be required to pay.

Following the flair-up with the fridge, our landlord produced a record of outstanding ‘IBI’ taxes– “Impuesto sobre Bienes Inmuebles” –which in Britain, I am told, equate to Community taxes, which, in the case of rented apartments, are always paid by the property owner. Not in Spain, apparently.

We contested this but sure enough, there it was written in the small print; it was then tenant’s responsibility and separate to the stated rental fee. So now we owe 17 months’ worth of IBI tax, which is, ultimately, the reason we are moving out at the end of the month!

An extended mandatory rental period

Until June of last year, the minimum contract length for a short term rental agreement was 12 months, but that has now changed to six months. Despite this, most landlords still want to tie you down for either a full year or even longer. Shorter is better as an expat in Spain, since you never know what is just around the corner, so try to negotiate a six month period.

Under the same law, you may even leave the property after six months of renting, with no obligation to compensate the landlord for the lost rental if the mandatory period is longer, providing you give 30 days’ notice.

Fixed Rent for Apartment

During my first year in Granada (before last year’s change in the law), I lived in a fixed-rent, four-bedroom apartment. We were four, but, unbeknownst to me, only three of us had signed the contract. An Erasmus student had moved in one day before the nine-month period was due to start, and neither he nor our evil landlady felt it courteous to inform us that a contract was never signed.

Thus, when said erasmus student decided to up and leave in the middle of the night two months before the rental period was due to end, the rest of us were left properly in the lurch, and, as a result, deprived of our €250 deposits, which, when combined, amounted to two months’ rent for the vacant room and accumulated bills.

landlady, evil

My ex-landlady…honest

If you are sharing a lease, make sure that everyone has signed the damn thing before you do, or check it after the last tenant has moved in.

Apartments with ‘rooms for rent’

My shortest residency to date is just one week. I’d pre-paid €100 for a guarantee on a room in order to avoid the frantic search when returning from the UK in September. The apartment was big and bright, with an open plan kitchen, six double bedrooms, a weekly cleaning service and all bills included. A bargain at €300. Or so I thought…

What I hadn’t noticed before the summer were the locks on the bedroom doors and the communal room inventories stuck to the walls. It felt like student halls all over again, which I hadn’t signed up for, but I was prepared to live with if my flatmates were good eggs.

However, I soon discovered that almost none of the other tenants would be my flatmates, since most of them were due to move out within the month. Each room, it turned out, had its own contract, which could last as long as two weeks if the tenant so desired. Thus, it was more like a hostel than a home.

Thankfully I figured it all out before signing a full nine-month contract, which would have cost me very dearly…