Tourism minister Biel Barceló. | Jaume Morey

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The holiday rentals legislation draft, which should have been approved by the cabinet a week ago but wasn't because of the eruption of the contracts affair, has now been approved. One of its headlining elements is that town halls will be able to prohibit holiday rentals either completely or partially. This provision comes as something of a surprise, which was the case when Palma's deputy mayor for the model of the city, Antoni Noguera, proposed a total ban. Tourism minister Biel Barceló, while saying he supported Noguera, appeared to suggest that there would not be such total bans. It may be that the possibility of ban has Ibiza in mind more than Majorca. There is a great deal of resistance to permissive regulation in Ibiza, where the housing situation has become critical.

As is already the case, the island councils will be responsible for zoning areas in which rentals can be openly marketed as being for holiday/tourist purposes. (This is principally of course aimed at apartments but not exclusively.) Town halls can then come up with their own decisions. These will be binding if they prove to be more restrictive than envisaged by the councils, implying that decisions cannot be more permissive. There are nine zones in Majorca, one of them being Palma.

There is to be a period of eight months for this zoning to be finalised once the legislation is approved by parliament. During that time no new holiday rentals (and here one at present is talking houses or villas) will be permitted.

With regard to votes by communities to allow or not allow the open marketing of holiday apartment rentals, the legislation provides for a simple majority. This is something that has been well signalled previously. Barceló says that legal specialists at the University of the Balearic Islands have established that this voting can be done. There has been debate as to whether this provision invades national law.

A further provision is that there can be no holiday rentals in properties which are less than five years old. The legislation will also state that the government considers any rental of less than one month to be a holiday rental, unless there is proof to the contrary. The Ley de Arrendamientos Urbanos (tenancy act) does of course allow for rentals of short duration but with the provisos that they are not marketed for holiday/tourist purposes and that there are no services given.

Specifically with apartments, the legislation will mean that there have to be individual and official water meters as well as other supplies, i.e. gas and electricity.  This provision is to protect communities having to assume costs caused by holiday rentals.

Fines for infractions will be up to 40,000 euros. Barceló hopes that the legislation can be processed and approved by parliament within two months.