Barcelona tightens the siege with more fines on the largest plot of illegal tourist apartments

Barcelona City Council is redoubling its pressure on the largest plot of illegal tourist flats detected in the city.

Oliver Thansan
Oliver Thansan
31 March 2024 Sunday 10:23
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Barcelona tightens the siege with more fines on the largest plot of illegal tourist apartments

Barcelona City Council is redoubling its pressure on the largest plot of illegal tourist flats detected in the city. After starting at the end of the year the processing of a record fine of 600,000 euros to the alleged mastermind of this network with more than 70 apartments in Eixample and Ciutat Vella, the management of the municipal inspection services is setting its sights on the collaborators of this framework, in its ghost tenants. We are talking about fifteen coercive fines of 10,000 euros each.

The inspectors argue that for years these people have been acquiring homes that they divide into apartments that they offer by the day through vacation rental platforms. And, when the inspectors issue their penalty warnings, they respond that the apartment is rented by someone else, that the person responsible for subletting to tourists is their tenant, that here is the contract that proves it... Some of these ghost tenants live in abroad, but they have several rented apartments in Barcelona.

After the initiation of that record fine, neighbors of the properties where the apartments in the plot are located assured that they continued to encounter tourists. These people already have 88 orders to cease their activity. “Once the processing of the fines is completed, we will evaluate their effect, if the illegal activity has ceased,” the City Hall inspectors abound. “Then we will consider the opportunity to impose more fines or resort to sealing the apartments.” The problem is that these multiple offenders are very professional, they are not intimidated by the administration, they take advantage of the guaranteeing nature of the system. In fact, the City Council is still finalizing the processing of the endless allegations they presented regarding that 600,000 euro fine.

But pressure has its effects. These people are now trying to get rid of some of the apartments that, according to the inspectors themselves, earned them around two million a year. And above all, these people want to get rid of 16 Giralt el Pellisser Street. In the end they choked on this candy after the Santa Caterina market. They bought it last spring for 1,600,000 euros. And since then the tenants have accused them of real estate mobbing, of trying to kick them out of the apartments to turn them into illegal tourist apartments, to do the same thing they already did in the neighboring properties... "We continue to see tourists entering and leaving with suitcases, but of a more discreet way.”

As La Vanguardia detailed on other occasions, after the City Council stopped illegal renovation works that left the property marked by disturbing cracks, a few alleged squatters settled in two of the floors. And one morning the television antenna cable was cut. On the stairs, insults and threats became everyday. Some of these supposed squatters even recognized the neighbors who were there to annoy them, to make them leave, who had already done it before. And a report from the firefighters concludes that the successive floods that ruined a few ceilings and walls were intentional, which are an indication of real estate harassment.

“And suddenly,” the neighbors continue, “recently, when there were already ten of them, when they had even started renting beds, they took their microwave and left.” So much hustle and bustle frightened potential buyers of the property. Who is going to spend two million on a half-renovated block, marked and with bugs? Bugs is the sector's way of referring to tenants who don't want to leave. Those here have just discovered some work carried out from the farm behind. They suspect that they are trying to open a shaft for an elevator. In real estate circles they say yes, it is an attractive property, but it is considered problematic. One of the sales advertisements details the dates on which the neighbors' rental contracts expire.

Furthermore, this story already became a political issue. As a result of all this, the municipal government and the ERC councilors signed an agreement to stop real estate harassment in Barcelona. Oriol Junqueras himself visited the affected tenants. The problem is that the City Council's action in the face of real estate harassment seems rather erratic. Proving these practices is more complicated than proving the illegal tourist rental of a home. And the passage of time always hurts tenants more. They are the ones who in the end are always on the losing end, who lose sleep.

The case is already in court, but in a preliminary phase. These procedures are always slow. And municipal sources point out that as long as there is an open criminal case, the City Council cannot start an administrative process for the same reason. The City Council has tools to impose fines of up to 900,000 euros for real estate harassment, but these processes rarely end in an effective sanction. At this time, various municipal areas are trying to clarify what strategy they adopt. The neighbors are much calmer these days after the departure of the supposed squatters, but at times they feel helpless. They have the feeling that enduring so many sufferings for a year or so will be in vain. “Sometimes we are so tired, that for a moment you think that we should have taken those 3,000 euros that they offered us to leave in less than 15 days. But we have our life in this neighborhood. We don't want to leave. Is it that in this city making people's lives miserable comes for free?