Blackstone May Cease Investing in Spain if the Rental Legislation Changes

27 February 2019 – Idealista

The senior director of Blackstone’s real estate division, James Seppala, has indicated at a meeting that his firm will continue investing in the Spanish real estate sector, but only provided that the regulatory framework for the rental sector remains stable. The declarations come at a time when the Spanish government is negotiating approval, with support from Podemos in extremis, for a royal decree that seeks to modify the Urban Rental Act (LAU) and to limit rental prices.

At a meeting organised by Bloomberg (…), Seppala added that his firm will continue to back the real estate sector, especially in Madrid, Barcelona and their metropolitan areas, which offer returns of between 6% and 7%. He is convinced that there is no risk of prices overheating in those areas (…).

Original story: Idealista

Translation: Carmel Drake

Sareb Puts 1,100 Homes Up For Rent In 20 Provinces

13 December 2016 – Público

On Monday, Sareb put around 1,100 homes up for rent, located in approximately twenty Spanish provinces. Most of the properties are new builds, but there are also some second-hand homes in the portfolio.

“The company is aware of the increasing demand in the rental market from different groups, such as young people, and it is trying to contribute to the growth in the availability rate of homes, through initiatives such as this one”, said Sareb in a statement.

The company has said that it intends to boost the rental of homes with the aim of avoiding their deterioration, covering their costs and facilitating their sale in the future, in order to fulfil its divestment mandate.

The assets are located in the provinces of: Alicante, Almería, Badajoz, Barcelona, Castellón, Ciudad Real, Cuenca, Girona, Guadalajara, Huelva, Lleida, Madrid, Málaga, Murcia, Pontevedra, Sevilla, Tarragona, Toledo, Valencia and Zaragoza.

Sareb, which was constituted at the end of 2012 in return for aid amounting to €41,300 million granted by Europe to the Spanish government to rescue the banking sector, has played a key role in the clean-up of the Spanish financial sector, by allowing those banks that received public help to transfer assets amounting to around €50,000 million to the vehicle.

Original story: Público

Translation: Carmel Drake

Tourist Sector Hits Back At Airbnb, HomeAway & Niumba

18 May 2015 – Expansión

The sector is demanding a stronger institutional fight against the intermediaries. The Government says that each region is responsible for its own response.

The main Spanish tourism companies have teamed up in an offensive with the aim of limiting the power of the proliferation of unregulated tourist rental accommodation, which do not pay taxes and do not meet the safety, hygiene and space requirements and other guarantees offered by legal accommodation. The sector wants to curb the platforms (websites such as Airbnb, 9flats, Wimdu, Rentalia, Niumba and HomeAway, amongst others) that make money by acting as intermediaries. And to that end, it has been pressuring the Spanish Government for some time to prohibit them, since they think that the autonomous communities are not fulfilling their regulatory duties.

Over the last few months, the tourism association Exceltur, whose members include prestigious companies such as NH, Melia, Iberia, American Express, Hotusa and Globalia, has been holding conversations with the Secretary of State for Tourism (who reports into the Ministry for Industry, Energy and Tourism). Exceltur thinks that the Executive “could do a lot more” to regulate the operations of these rental companies, which it considers are unfair competition and which threaten its business. The main trade association for Spanish hoteliers, Cehat, estimates that between 2010 and 2013, the number of customers staying at these establishments increased by 300%, and it calculates that the number of foreign tourists who use them represents more than 20% of the total.

To support its position, Exceltur has commission the consultancy firm EY (Ernst & Young) to conduct a study analysing the impact that this illegal rental accommodation is having on the tourism sector as a whole, not just on the hotel segment. To date, EY has prepared a report about the consequences for the Balearic Islands if this rental accommodation continues to grow at its current rate over the next ten years. According to its calculations, the hotel sector would lose between 5,000 and 13,000 jobs and forgo a gross added value of between €211 million and €529 million.

Regional jurisdiction

The Government says that tourism is a regional jurisdiction, and so the Central Administration cannot do much beyond trying to standardise the regional regulations as much as possible. Moreover, the upcoming regional and general elections are likely to scupper any attempt at reform.

To date, the regions that have endeavoured to do the most to regulate tourist rental accommodation are Madrid and Cataluña, although the former received a blow from the National Competition and Markets Commission (CNMC) in March when it ruled that the Madrid law (which only allows accommodation to be rented provided the minimum stay is five days) is a barrier to free competition.

Meanwhile, the Catalan Generalitat requires intermediary websites to ensure that each property offered for rent has a kind of identification number plate to accredit it as accommodation with its license in order. Last summer, Cataluña imposed a fine of €300,000 on the web portal Airbnb for allegedly failing to comply with that standard.

On an international level, cities are taking a variety of decisions. Thus, for example, New York has declared war on tourist rental accommodation, with coordinated teams of tax inspectors, police and lawyers; and the town hall of Amsterdam has just approved an agreement with Airbnb, which requries the platform to coordinate the collection of the tourist tax that is applicable to the activities of its users.

The so-called “collaborative economy” represents a real headache for legislators, both in Spain and across Europe. In Spain, Article 16 of the Law for Information Society Services (2002) states that intermediaries (such as Airbnb, Uber and others) are not liable for the possible unlawfulness of the people they host, unless they have specific knowledge thereof. Meanwhile, the European Commission is drafting a directive that may ease restrictions on the European market and facilitate the activity of these platforms.

Original story: Expansión (by Yago González)

Translation: Carmel Drake

Only 490 Homes Sold In Exchange For “Express Visas”

17 February 2015 – El Mundo

The Government has raised €369 million in 15 months from its offer to grant residency to those buying property for more than €500,000.

Spain does not attract as many foreigners as Portugal does through its program.

The controversial express visas that the Government introduced through the Entrepreneurs Act, in order to raise foreign capital, have only attracted 530 international investors in the 15 months since the legislation came into effect, according to data provided by the Secretary of State for Trade. The millionaires that have moved to Spain in exchange for a residency permit have invested only €446.8 million, of which only €369.7 million has been spent on house purchases.

These figures are much lower than those recorded in Portugal for its golden visa program. The neighbouring country has managed to secure more than €1,100 million for the 1,649 golden visas that it has granted (figures to November 2014).

Given the limited interest from the very investors that the Government sought to attract by granting them permanent residency in an EU country, and given the suspicion with which the European Parliament views these types of programs, the Government is preparing rules for the enforcement of this legislation which, amongst other things, will give more guarantees to investors.

The so-called golden visas were approved, not without controversy, in the summer of 2013 as part of the Entrepreneurs Act. The idea of the Executive was to attract foreign investment through these permits and whereby reduce the huge stock of housing in Spain. As a result, it was decided that residency permits would be granted to those investors buying properties worth more than €500,000 (excluding taxes) and those deciding to invest significant quantities in Spanish company shares, domestic bank deposits, public debt or any other general interest project.

A year and three months after the Act came into force, the program has only facilitated the sale of 490 properties (out of a total of 830,000 properties sold during this period), according to the National Institute of Statistics (el Instituto Nacional de Estadísticas or INE) and investors have been incentivised to close only 29 transactions to purchase shares and another 12 transactions of general interest, according to data from the Secretariat that reports to the Ministry of the Economy.

Portugal has had more success with these visas and the key reason for this lies in the fine print of the legislation, which is more favourable for investors. “In Spain, we grant residency in exchange for investment, rather than nationality for investment like in other countries. Moreover, in Portugal, it is possible to become a citizen once you are a permanent resident. By contrast, in Spain, permanent residency only lasts for two years, rather than five years, which means that documentation must be renewed and residency justified on a more frequent basis”, explains Pamela Mafuz, Associate in Employment at Baker & McKenzie.

However, Portugal’s first-mover advantage is also behind its success. “Portugal was able to get ahead and be one of the first to implement this policy and that always has a positive influence” says Borja Ortega, Director of Private Wealth at JLL.

Whilst in other countries, such as Malta, there has been a lot of overseas publicity about the existence of the programs to grant visas to rich people, the Spanish Government has barely promoted its initiative, partly for fear of controversy.

Most of the beneficiaries of the visas granted to date are Russian and Chinese citizens. But, Baker & McKenzie report that their office also receives lots of questions from investors interested in these visas from the Persian Gulf, Egypt and Jordan.

“Many Latin-American investors are also interested in purchasing property (in Spain), due to the special bond that they have with the country. But, for them the visa is usually a secondary consideration because they tend to have other means of obtaining residency”, says Margarita Fernández, also an Associate at Baker & McKenzie.

Just like with the large funds, the majority of the investors seeking golden visas want to buy homes in big cities. “Housing is in highest demand. Specifically, single family homes and in terms of location, the region of Madrid is clearly the preferred destination”, says Ortega.

Original story: El Mundo (by María Vega)

Translation: Carmel Drake