The mafias dedicated to renting real estate and then sub-renting them for days to tourists through digital platforms return to their privileges. In recent times, intense pressure from the Barcelona City Council managed to dismantle up to 23 organizations of this type. They call them multi-offenders. And the pandemic then stopped his misdeeds in their tracks. Only a dozen organizations maintained residual activity in the meantime. However, for weeks these groups have been trying to rebuild themselves to take advantage of the massive return of tourists. Five of them are showing themselves to be especially active, willing to recover the business of yesteryear. The municipal inspectors have already opened a lot of sanctioning files for all of them. Right now they could be illegally exploiting a hundred properties.
Three young Irish tourists climb the stairs of a building on Cucurulla street, next to the Portal de l'Àngel, in the heart of the Gothic quarter. “Yes, we are staying in the second second,” they answer on the landing. We found it through Airbnb. It's very good. 210 euros for two nights in the center of Barcelona! In a room, with several beds, like in a hostel. And in the other rooms are the other guests. And one person takes care of everything.
The residents of this building are already fed up. It's been two years now that this racket has disrupted their daily lives, and more and more lately. “Couples, families, groups of friends come, sometimes twelve people get together in there!” they lament in the doorway, in a low voice. "And the elevator is one of the old ones, it doesn't hold so many suitcases, it breaks down every two by three." "They also broke the glass in the door." "You can see that little by little normality has been restored, that the city is once again full of tourists." "There was a time when things calmed down, but now...". "Sometimes discreet people come, and on other occasions kids with a great desire to party." "Then, at dawn, they get the intercom confused, because they are drunk, and they don't care."
Behind this racket is the most daring, powerful and dangerous multi-offending organization in the city. Sources from the municipal inspection services detail that in recent times at least 59 properties have been illegally exploited. At present they could have at least twenty.
It is an organization made up of at least a dozen people. Each one fulfills a very different function. They convince landlords that they are looking at the ideal tenant by using company names and false documentation. In order to sublet the properties for days, this gang has at least sixteen profiles on Airbnb. The Mossos d'Esquadra are already aware of these activities. The pandemic stopped this practice in its tracks, but lately, however, the city has once again been close to full. The affected owners suffer a long ordeal.
"They have people who give the keys to the clients, others who clean - the residents of this farm in Cucurulla resume, in the portal -... They are very organized, but some command more than others." “The other day one of them told me that he was finally leaving all this, that he had obtained the papers, that he no longer had to put up with it…”. "It's that they call them at any time, to bring the keys, and they have to come...". In the past, before the outbreak of the virus, these errands were paid for around ten euros each. They are the lowest echelon of these trapicheos.
"Yes, apparently they distribute them over several floors, who knows how many these people have -the residents of Cucurulla continue-... and the best thing that can happen to them is that they put them in charge of one, because that way you have a place to live". “Lately here they have a woman and her son. This way they also show that someone lives permanently in the flat”. "It's harder to evict them this way, I guess." "They cut off their water, recently, but then they punctured it."
The owner of more than half of this Gòtic building explains that this clandestine pension is made up of offices next to a house that total 157 m2, five rooms and three bathrooms. And that a couple of summers ago he rented everything at a market price in this area and for five years to a Swede who presented an exceptional payroll, who assured that he worked for a multinational, who clearly seemed like a tenant of legit... “At the end of October 2021, the neighbors began to complain, to tell me that many tourists come and go,” says Josep Matias Vilaclara, the owner in question. The tenant told us that from time to time some employees of his multinational could spend the night... In the end we began to investigate and verified that they are renting both the office and the house as individual rooms through the Airbnb portal. So, with photos that we already had and those of the ads that we found, we make a notarial deed to record everything that is happening in November 2021! And then we hired a private detective...".
The private detective pretends to be a random traveler and through the well-known portal dedicated to vacation rentals he contacts a certain Hadaad, a host whose virtual profile also offers ten other apartments in the city. The person in charge of giving you the keys is called Diego. Diego is very attentive, and explains that at that time, there are also two women in other rooms of the building. The detective pays 45 euros for one night, thirty for cleaning and twelve for who knows what. Despite this, the place smells very bad, the unit is very dirty. This is not a luxury accommodation. The snapshots reveal that this clandestine pension was set up with very cheap furniture.
"We sent the tenant by burofax, to the Swede who signed the contract, the termination of the contract for his breach, and we let him know that we had proof of this," continues the owner. In addition, we also informed the City Council of everything that was happening. But the truth is that contact with the tenant is very cumbersome. And in August of last year the City Council finally reacted and suddenly notified me that if I do not stop renting my flat to tourists in a period of 48 hours irregular will impose several fines of 10,000 euros on me! me! and I do not give credit, the truth ”.
Meanwhile, the tenant in question continues to pay the rent religiously, every month. So in March 2022 the owner decides to sue him civilly, alleging that the subletting of his property is a breach of the rental agreement they signed. “And the judge points out that the oral hearing of the trial will be held on March 11 of next year – adds the owner, between resignation and indignation – can you believe it? so we put up a sign at the entrance, saying that tourist accommodation is prohibited on this farm, but the truth is that it is not having much effect. At least recently, the City Council verbally informed me that it withdraws the disciplinary file opened against me. It's something...".