Renting Property In Spain: The Ins And Outs Of The Spanish Rental Process

Renting is a perfect way to try out the chosen location and see whether it works for you before you commit to buying a property in Spain.

Rental Home in Spain
Finding your ideal rental home in Spain needs time and research

Now it’s a good time to rent in Spain as the country is going through a renters’ market. With so many new properties having been built in recent years, the owners and developers are competing for tenants. It means more choices for you as a tenant and a bigger chance to negotiate a better price.

Renting prices vary hugely depending on the location. Madrid and Barcelona are the most expensive, no surprise here, – that’s where all the jobs concentrated, and infrastructure is superb.

You will find more affordable lets in the south of Spain, and cheaper yet – if you look outside of the city in a smaller town or an inland location.

Entering any unfamiliar rental market might feel a bit daunting, especially if you don’t speak the local language. So, it’s worth doing your homework beforehand.

Searching online for rental properties

Just like in the UK, in Spain you can search for rented accommodations online.

To get the feel about the types of properties on the rental market and prices in your chosen location you can start with property sites such as Idealista, Easypiso or Spotahome.

With online search you might find that quite a lot of advertised properties won’t be available for rent when you contact the agent.

Agents often “forget” to remove unavailable properties from their site. This way they have more potential customers to contact them. Once you’re on their books, there’s more chance for them to do business with you.

Furnished or unfurnished?

When you search online, keep in mind that apartments and houses in Spain are usually advertised with a monthly rent and a living space in square metres. As a rule, descriptions state whether a property is furnished or not.

However, “furnished” can come in huge variations – either with everything you might need including kitchen appliances or just a few pieces of furniture here and there.

The same is with “unfurnished”. It might be either an absolutely bare space with no carpets or even basic electrical appliances, or come with a few items left by the landlord.

It’s important to ask your agent or landlord to confirm in writing what furniture and appliances will be at your disposal. Fixing an unfurnished property can come at a big cost.

Aa a rule long-term lets must display an energy efficiency certificate. If you don’t want to pay an arm and a leg for heating in winter seasons, it’s worth paying attention to the energy efficiency rating of your chosen property.

Searching for rentals in Spain yourself

You can be a bit more proactive and search for a property to rent yourself. Usually it involves driving around your preferred area looking for the “Se Alquila” boards – a sign that the owner is looking to let their property.

Dealing with owners directly most often means you need a good Spanish.

On the other hand, if you do speak Spanish and choose to deal with the owner directly, it will enable you to negotiate the rent, as the landlord will not be paying any agent fees.

Working with a property agent

There are advantages of working with an agent: they speak Spanish, they know the local ways, they usually can help you with such things as connecting and disconnecting the utilities so that the property is ready to move into.

If you ask an agent directly to help you find a suitable property for rent, some agents might try to charge you for a service.

Ask your agent about a “finder’s fee” beforehand. Any fees paid to the agent should be paid by the landlord, not by the tenant, so make sure this is sorted out before you commit.

It’s best to work with a locally-based agency in your preferred area as they know the market and should have better connections with the landlords. To find an agent in a particular town or area, you can look under Inmobiliarias in the local yellow pages.

Applying for rent in Spain

When you’ve found the right let through the agent, the agent will usually guide you through the application process.

In some cases, you might be asked to put down the equivalent of one month’s rent when you start your application process. This sum will be included in your deposit later when the contract is sorted out.

Documents required for renting:

  • Spanish Residency document
  • Evidence of your ability to pay the rent (by showing you have adequate savings or a regular income such as pension income, dividends, payslips, etc)
  • Spanish tax identification number NIE (if you have one)
  • Passport or ID
  • Personal references (sometimes)

Rental deposit in Spain

You will be asked to pay a deposit either on the first day of the rental period, or beforehand when you apply for a let.

The initial cost of renting is usually the first month’s rent, perhaps an agency fee (if that was the agreement with your agent) and also a deposit. The deposit, by law, must be equivalent to one month’s rent.

Make sure that you pay your deposit by bank transfer, not cash. As a rule, your landlord or agent will hold your deposit in a separate account.

There are deposit protection schemes set by the government in different parts of Spain, but most agents and landlords don’t use them. And even if they do, it’s not guaranteed that your deposit will be returned to you by the end of your tenancy.

 Not getting your deposit back is a common issue in Spain, so much so that many legal firms made it their business to represent tenants in court battling with their landlord for the deposit money. 

 Some expats in Spain don’t pay the last month’s rent when they leave and don’t ask for the deposit back, however, this is not an advisable action as it can get you in trouble.

The best thing you can do is to keep on friendly terms with your landlord and ask them to inspect the property a few weeks before you leave. This way, you will have some time to resolve any issues before you need to move out and get the landlord to give you your deposit back when you return the keys.

 Otherwise, the landlord has the right to keep the deposit for one month. If the deposit is held over one month, the landlord is legally obliged to pay interest on the funds.

 It’s also worth keeping a record of any work you undertake to improve or fix our accommodation during the tenancy which you can use to back up your case if there’s a disagreement.

Tenancy agreements in Spain (contrato de arrendamiento)

The rental agreement in Spain is valid in both written and verbal form. However, having a written contract, translated by an Abogado, Gestor or translator if you don’t speak Spanish, is more preferable.

 If there’s a dispute between you and your landlord as to what exactly has been agreed in the verbal contract (i.e. who pays for the utilities), neither party has means to prove or disprove their position. Therefore, a written contract is in the best interests of both tenant and landlord.

 All tenancy agreements need to be in Spanish. The contract itself is a very useful document to have at hand – you will need your Spanish contract to register on a Padron (with local authorities), open a Spanish bank account or apply for a permanent residency in Spain.

If you have a longer renting contract (more than a year), then under Spanish law you have greater rights as a tenant. For example, as a long-term tenant, you have the right to renew your contract for 5 years.

This is unless the landlord after one year intends to personally live in the property. Then they must give two months’ notice. The landlord can increase the rent if they improve the property, as long as the increase meets certain standards and is less than 20% overall.

That’s why long-term contracts aren’t very often in Spain. Your typical tenancy agreement will be 11-12 months with a clause to renew if required.

If you want to move out before your contract ends, you must give at least 30 days’ notice before the end date. If you give notice to quit during this period, you will have to pay rent until the end of the contract.

You might find useful:

  • The Expat Guide to UK Pensions Abroad – detailed information about your state, workplace and private pensions when you retire abroad; your options, tax implications and opportunities if you transfer your pension pots abroad or leave them in the UK;
  • Living in Europe After Brexit: What You Need To Know – resources and information on how Brexit can affect your retirement abroad and how to get ready for it.
  • Visit our homepage for a comprehensive range of Retirement Abroad guides.

Happy With Your Pension Abroad?

Our popular free Expat Pension Plan has helped hundreds of expat retirees to find a better pension solution and retirement income abroad.

Learn more →

About the author: Ola Degteva is the overseas retirement research director at Expatra. Coming from a teaching and research background, she has been working in online publishing since 2010 when she became an expat. Having done 3 major international moves herself, Ola knows exactly what relocation and settling down in a new country involves and how important it is to plan ahead to make moving abroad less stressful.