Recent months have seen the Anti-harassment Disciplinary Unit at the Municipal Institute for Housing and Renovation (IMHAB) bring 32 cases against parties advertising housing and property. The proceedings brought are for non-compliance with the Catalan law on containing rents, by not citing the reference price index for the homes offered. The cases initiated may lead to fines of up to 96,000 euros.
The law regulating rent prices establishes that in areas where the market has been declared as under strong pressure, as is the case with Barcelona, rent prices may not differ by more than 5% to the prices set out in the corresponding reference index nor exceed the price in the previous rent contract. The law also requires that all housing publicity must include the reference data, to avoid homes being rented out at above-market rates.
In terms of fines for setting rents higher than the reference index and previous contracts, rises of less than 20% are considered minor infringements, while rises in excess of this figure are considered serious infringements and carry a minimum fine of 9,000 euros.
Three cases executed and fines paid
In, all, sixteen housing ads have been detected for homes in Barcelona where the obligation to cite reference prices and previous prices was not met. Ten of the ads were published in the property website Idealista, five were on the site Fotocasa and one on the site Habitaclia. In response, Fotocasa and Habitaclia have now established systems on their sites to warn those placing ads about their duty to include the reference index, as well as providing information for users.
For each case brought against an advert, proceedings have been brought to fine the property management companies for the homes in question. In three cases, the respective property agents have recognised and accepted the infringement, paying the corresponding fine. The rest of the cases are either still pending the receipt or resolution of initial challenges or are at the resolution proposal stage.