The legislation exists in the Balearics to enable town halls to make surcharges. | Marc Pons (Twitter)

Town halls in the Balearics will, if they wish, be able to make a 50% rates surcharge on all empty properties. This would be in accordance with measures set out by the Spanish government. The reasoning behind this is that it will be an incentive for owners to make properties available for rent. This, in turn, would help to drive down the cost to rent.

The Balearics will be the first region to adopt the surcharge policy. For the Spanish government provisions to apply, there has to be relevant regional legislation that categorises empty properties. The Balearic housing law, recently passed by parliament, is the only such regional legislation in the country.

In broad terms, an empty property - according to the Balearic law - has to have been unoccupied for at least two years. Account is taken of legitimate reasons for this, such as an owner having had to move away for work reasons. The legislation has also categorised "temporary unoccupancy" of a minimum of six months.

The most recent census of empty properties is now seven years old (it is carried out every ten years). The 2011 census gave a figure of 71,255, which was at a time when economic crisis was at its worst. The current figure is likely to be lower, and the government estimates this to be around 60,000.

Palma had more empty properties than anywhere else in 2011 - 16,349. In Calvia there were 4,517; Manacor 3,662; Llucmajor 3,169; Inca 2,170.