Tourists who have made bookings could well find that they are cancelled. | Archive

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The law on rentals for tourists is already having an impact. Owners of apartments are starting to cancel bookings, fearing the fines of between 20,000 and 40,000 euros. Adverts for apartment accommodation on websites are being removed for the same reason. The Aptur holiday rentals association has advised its members to take down any advert which is for an illegal apartment and to do this immediately.

Owners are not the only ones who are worried and who are also uncertain of the situation. Their clients - tourists - share their worries and uncertainties. Aptur notes that clients will have paid for airline tickets and, in the majority of cases, also paid a deposit.

At this time of the summer, Aptur adds, it is difficult for tourists to find alternative accommodation. If it is a licensed rental, such as a villa or stand-alone house, it will cost much more than an apartment, assuming one is even available. For the moment, it doesn't seem as if the hoteliers are necessarily gaining extra business. The Majorca Hoteliers Federation says that it is too early to assess the impact of the legislation.

Aptur notes that it has been inundated with calls from owners who have apartments on websites such as Airbnb or HomeAway. The government now treats any property advertised on these sites and others as "tourist". As apartments do not have a tourism ministry licence for tourist rental (and never have had), they are automatically deemed to be illegal.

Overwhelmingly, it is apartments that are causing the anxieties. Any type of property that is advertised as a holiday rental without the appropriate licence is liable for a fine, which has always been the case. But apartments are the real target of the legislation. Under the 1999 tourism law they were excluded from categories of property which could be licensed. The 2012 tourism law reinforced this by prohibiting apartments from being marketed with terminology saying they were for tourists: adverts could not, therefore, include terms such as "tourist", "holiday" or "vacation".

A way round this was the Ley de Arrendamientos Urbanos, usually referred to in English as the tenancy act. A national law, it sets no minimum period on the length of a let. Perfectly legitimately, owners were using this law for apartment rentals. So long as they were not advertised as being "holiday", no services were being provided, and a lease contract was drawn up, they were within the law. In effect, the Balearic government's legislation, which considers any rental of fewer than 30 days to be for tourism purposes, has ended this. It will be very difficult for an owner to prove that a rental of less than a month is not touristic. And it is down to the owner to prove this.

Aptur's legal services are saying that although the tenancy act is a national law and doesn't define a minimum period, this does not prevent the Balearic government from fining a let that is for less than a month.