From May to September
Special Report: How the Campaign to Stop Ibiza Illegal Tourist Rentals Started With All Guns Blazing, and Ends Up as Weak as a Water Pistol
- Editorial, Nick Gibbs
The issue of illegal and unregulated tourist accommodation rentals is perhaps the biggest news story of the year (OK second after Space closing).
The issue of illegal rentals permeates every aspect of life in Ibiza.
The growth in sites such as AirBnB and through them the ease with which ‘easy profits’ can be made by letting accommodation to the tourist sector, has unquestionably resulted in a dramatic decline in accommodation available for long-term rental to supply the needs of Ibiza’s residents and workers.
The knock-on effect of the reduction of supply is that the properties that are still available for long term rentals have seen big increases in prices being asked.
It affects us all in so many ways.
It affects us in any issues of law and order in that the police cannot recruit officers to fill vacancies in Ibiza and state the cost of living as a prime factor.
It affects us in education, in that Ibiza has many teaching positions unfilled and again state that qualified staff do not wish to come to the island due to the high cost of accommodation.
It affects our hosts, the indigenous Ibicenco people, in that their sons and daughters cannot find affordable accommodation.
It affects the businesses of Ibiza who rely upon seasonal workers, evidenced by this year being the first that so many are desperately seeking staff to complete the season.
It affects those who choose to make their homes in what were previously peaceful residential neighbourhoods, that now find themselves aggravated by the excesses of tourists within their community.
And, according to a meeting this week between tourist associations, consumer affairs and the tax agency, it affects upwards of 50,000 people in Ibiza who do not have what they could describe as a home. (see report at the foot of this article)
Of course, there are dissenting voices. When posting a brief summary of the Consell’s announcements yesterday, alongside considerable support, there were several people stating the view that property owners should be allowed to do as they please and that the shortage in available property was being overstated.
Even taking these opposing views into account, I feel it is reasonable to assess that a significant majority of Ibiza’s resident population consider the problem has escalated to a level where action is needed.
Certainly the Consell de Ibiza took heed of this public opinion at the beginning of the season. They made very loud noises as to the priority the issue would be given and the resources that would be applied to tackling the issue.
It is with this in mind that I find the statement issued this week that “The Consell considers that, in the circumstances, ‘it is not a bad record’ that 100 disciplinary proceedings have been initiated …” , frankly astonishing.
Whichever side of the issue your own opinions fall, it should be evident from the following two articles that for all their huffing and puffing, the outcome is feeble at best.
Announcing the clampdown on the 16th May, the language is one of Inspectors undertaking a ‘shock campaign’ , and having already identified 20,000 probable illegal beds on a single website.
In the space of only 4 months this fighting talk has been watered down from tens of thousands to 100, and the inspectors shock campaign to a situation where we must understand they have to deal with applications to rename a café too.
Then there is the issue of procedure. It turns out that prosecutions will take up to three years to process. The absolute maximum fine is 40,000€. That means that at a modest 1,000€ weekly rental over a 20 week season, an illegal renter would earn 80,000€ (this year plus 3), twice the maximum fine they could be imposed.
All of this was surely known at the outset so why wait until now to present it as a problem?
A fair statement by our power-masters would be one of ’Bloody hell, this is going to be a much tougher job than we thought. We really didn’t think this through and we are going to have to give it hugely more resources and give some systems a serious overhaul, or admit we’ve failed’.
That we could perhaps live with. But to call 100 prosecutions ‘not a bad record’ is insulting our intelligence. Do they really think we are so dim that we have forgotten what was said between May and September?
Compared with what was promised in the pre-season pontificating, it is not a bad record, it is an appalling record.
These two articles, both press conferences, will highlight what we were promised, and what we have got.
Press Conference 16th May 2016
Inspectors to Carry Out ‘Shock Campaign’ Against Illegal Renters
- Software application has identified 20,000 illegal tourist beds on single website.
The bespoke software commissioned by the Consell designed to trawl accommodation-letting websites and identify those offering illegal and unregistered tourist lets, has detected 20,000 beds on a single website. The beds are the total of 4,500 properties considered to be probably illegal. (Though the website is unnamed, it can be noted that the market leader in that sector is AirBnB.)
Consell president Vicent Torres announced at a press conference that the software is expected to identity several thousand more properties on other leading rental sites.
It was stated that there are currently only 1,500 legalised properties equating to approx. 5,000 beds. With a further 5,000 beds in the process of registration application, it would result in a potential maximum of 10,000 legal beds. The president cited there being twice as many probably illegal on a single website compared to the maximum possibly legal on the entire island, as an indication of the magnitude of the problem. The president went on to speak of the ‘brazen nature’ with which people are renting homes as if they were tourist accommodation.
The Consell say they are to mobilise inspectors and supporting legal staff in a ‘shock campaign’ against illegal tourist rentals.
Press Conference 26th September 2016
100 Prosecutions Commenced but Sanctions and Process Ineffective.
- Ibiza Consell’s Director of Tourism, Vicent Torres Ferrer has stated that the sanctions applicable to those found guilty of illegally renting in the tourist market, namely fines of 40,000€ maximum, are insufficient in light of the profits that can be made for tourist renting in Ibiza.
He said “the benefits that many individuals and businesses who dare to venture into the path of illegality often far exceed these sanctions”.
In addition, the tourism director lamented the long processing time of proceedings from initial detection of violation through to resolution. “The whole process usually lasts three years between notifications, documentation, reports and other procedures required in these cases.”
He went on to say that if prescribed timescales, which range from one year for minor infringements to three years for the most serious, were not met, the proceedings are deemed to have expired and the whole process must be started again.
The Consell considers that, in the circumstances, ‘it is not a bad record’ that 100 disciplinary proceedings have been initiated this year from the several thousand alleged illegal rentals detected by the department’s six inspectors.
Highlighting the workload faced by the inspectors, Torres said that their job was not only to ensure the control of illegal tourism, but they must also deal with all proposed reforms of hotels and restaurants on the island. “Sometimes a business can be renamed three times in one year and all of this has to be dealt with by the inspectors” he said.
Torres went on to advocate changing all of the procedural rules that slow down the processing of prosecutions alongside an increase in the inspection service.
“There are between 50,000 and 60,000 people on the island without a place to call home”.
- A round table meeting has been held between representatives of hoteliers, holiday homes, the tax agency and the department of consumer affairs.
President of the Association of Tourist Accommodation of Ibiza and Formentera (AVAT) Roberto San Estiban, concluded that “there are approximately between 50,000 and 60,000 on the island without a home”.
San Estiban said he thinks these people are sleeping wherever they can. Whether on the sofas of friends, in unused buildings and even rotating beds, it is all a result of pressure from Ibiza’s level of summer tourism.
San Estiban stated that the problem is due to both the negative effect of illegal tourism and unfair competition in the sector. It is not only that properties are let illegally, but also that those doing so do not pay taxes or insurances resulting in hugely lower operating costs and none of the profits remaining in the island economy.
Tax agency administrator for the Pitiuses, Vicente Arbona, went on to say that inspectors are making more checks than ever before since he started with the tax agency in the 90’s. “They have more resources than ever to test the income derived from those leases and have a long four year limitation period,” he said. He went on to warn that they would not stop pursuing fraud stating, “We have the time, resources and qualified personnel”.
Arbona said that if fraud is confirmed, the person would be required to catch up with tax payments and also pay fines ranging from 50 – 150%. He said that the detection of fraud has been helped by the anonymous denouncing of neighbours, which often results when holiday tenants are causing an annoyance. He said that for tax agency purposes, it is inconsequential whether the income is from properties that are licensed for tourist lets or not, “equal tax is due on income whether it has been earnt from a regulated or non-regulated property”.
Speaking for the hotel federation, Manuel Sendino said he was “radically against the legalisation of tourist apartments” he pointed towards the unfair competition by technology platforms such as AirBnB.