When moving to Spain, often your first order of business is finding a place to call hogar, dulce hogar. And, like many things in Spain, it’s an exercise in patience! Renting a flat in Spain is far from a simple task, but it’s one of the most important and should be one of the first things you do when arriving to Spain (after tapas, of course).
After you’ve found a few flats you’re interested in viewing and have made appointments to see them, be prepared to ask your landlord the tough questions. While this may cancel out a few accommodations early on, you’ll end up saving yourself a lot of trouble.
Not sure what to ask your landlord in Spain? We’ve got eight important things to consider when searching for an apartment in Spain:
1. How much is rent and how will you be expected to pay?
Rent will take up a sizable chunk of your income – most financial experts say up to 1/3 of your salary. Typically, renting in a city center or in newer developments will cost more, as will choosing to live alone. Curious about how much? Our Cost of Living in Spain survey is one place to start!
Make sure to ask your future landlord about how to make payments. Some caseros may ask you to deliver cash-in-hand, while others will expect a bank deposit to be made during the first few days of each month. The latter is coming far more common place, but it’s worth asking so taht you can be prepared and put aside some money. If you need budgeting tips for Spain, we’ve broken down our best ideas.
2. What utilities are included in the price of rent and what utilities are paid separately?
Typical utilities include water, phone + internet and electricity, though unexpected costs like building maintenance fees, called comunidad, or propane tanks to heat water could hike up your monthly outgoings. Ask potential landlords which utilities or gastos are included, and which are not.
Curious about the average cost of electricity, per year, in a Spanish home? Really sure? It’s 990€ according to podo.com‘s latest study. Turn off the Netflix and go have a tapa!
3. How often does each bill come, how will you be notified and how will you be expected to pay?
Oftentimes landlords will contract all of the utilities in their name and tell you how much you owe each month or quarterly. Sometimes, they’ll want you to put the bills in your own name, which means the amount will be automatically deducted from your bank account and usually before the physical bills arrive in the mail.
Inquire beforehand about which system your casero prefers and how much the bills typically come to. If the bills will remain in your casero‘s name, make sure to see a copy (a scan or picture sent via phone will do) before paying. Note that not all bills are monthly: some bills come bimonthly or even quarterly!
Also keep in mind that in shared flats bills may be split between roommates evenly or at a percentage based on room size or usage. We’re going to go out on a limb here and say – ask!
4. What is the length of the contract and what down payment or fianza is expected?
Will you be staying for a full calendar year or just the school year? Note that most landlords – though not all – will expect a one-month security deposit upon signing in addition to the first month’s rent. The fianza should be returned in full when you move out, unless you’ve broken lots of things and left the place a mess! Be sure to leave this point clear so that there are no surprises at the end of the year.
If you’re in Madrid, there is a way to protect your deposit, and that’s with the Agencia de Vivienda Social. If your landlord rents legally, they are obligated to transfer 100% of your security deposit into this account, which they can’t touch. When you leave a flat, they can solicit the money be returned to you.
If you found your flat through an inmobiliario or rental agency, you’ll usually owe them a fee as well, called honorarios. Landlords may take care of this cost for you, though.
5. Who will you contact and how if there is a problem with the apartment?
Issues with mold, faulty appliances and broken furniture are just a few of the typical problems you might run into in your new Spanish home. Make sure to ask who you can call or email – be it in the middle of the night, a weekend or a holiday – so that someone will come running.
Spanish landlords are notorious for letting little problems go unfixed, they don’t have to live with them, so be persistent! Remember, it’s their job to keep the property up to snuff, especially if they expect timely rental payments.
6. What is the policy on guests? Will visiting friends and family be charged for crashing on your couch?
If you’re renting an entire piso, having guests stay shouldn’t be an issue, but in a shared flat space comes at a premium. If you have family and friends who plan to visit you in Spain, make sure to talk over the details and logistics first. Where will guests sleep, whose bathroom will they use, will the living room be overrun with suitcases and souvenirs? If you need to pay a little extra to have your friends stay, find out first! If everyone is okay with sharing for free, make sure to treat your roommates to a few beers and tapas as a thank you!
7. When sharing: are you responsible for only your room or the whole apartment? If a roommate moves out mid-contract, who has to pay?
You’ll find three types of rental situations in Spain: renting an entire flat yourself, renting a flat with a group of people or renting a single room. If you or a group of people plan to rent an entire place, a single or multiple names must go on a contract and those people are then legally responsible for paying rent regardless of who else comes and goes. Make sure it’s clear what expectations there are regarding what you owe, especially should a roomie decide to pick up and leave.
8. Where does your landlord live?
It’s a bit awkward to ask, but we promise you won’t regret it, because where your landlord lives will undoubtably affect potential social gatherings, whether or not guests are welcome and how comfortable you feel in your own home.
Cat’s landlord in her first shared apartment in Spain had the uncanny ability of coming round for rent money when she was in the shower! She’d usually find him on the sofá watching TV. Hayley lived in an attic apartment and had to pass her landlord in the hallway, usually shirtless and all to anxious to chat, every day as she left for work.
A little Extra Info
- Under the Ley de Arrendamientos Urbanos (better known as the Ley de Alquiler), you cannot be kicked our of your apartment without sufficient notice. Landlords must give renters a minimum two months notice. Should you be the one who decides to move out early, remember that you are legally obligated to notify your landlord a full month beforehand. However, this is only true for renters who have a legal contract, known as a contrato (de arrendimiento).
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Note that this article is a general one – there are always exceptions to the rule in Spain! Be sure to ask all of your questions before signing.
Do you have any questions about moving or finding a piso, or even any success stories? Sound off in the comments!