by Telegraph Reporters, The Telegraph, August 10, 2017
British tourists face the nightmare of being turned away from rented holiday apartments in Spain this summer after the authorities introduced steep fines for owners who illegally let their properties.
Flat owners on the islands of Majorca, Ibiza, Menorca and Fomentera will be slapped with fines of up to 40,000 euros (£36,000) if they are caught renting their properties to tourists.
The new fines, which came into force this week, have terrified many homeowners into withdrawing their properties from the tourist market immediately.
Travel agents or websites caught promoting flats to rent on the islands, such as Airbnb and HomeAway, face even bigger fines of up to 400,000 euros (£360,000).
Today the Balearic Association of Temporary Rental Homes and Apartments (Aptur) said it had warned its members to stop renting flats to tourists immediately.
Aptur said the new fines were unfair on holidaymakers who had already paid for holidays and air tickets.
It said: “At this time of the summer their rehousing in other lodgings will be complicated, as well as being more expensive, since renting a house costs more than a flat or apartment."
The regional government in the Balearic islands wants to stop flats being rented out to holidaymakers, claiming the practise is destroying town centres and driving up prices for locals and seasonal workers.
It has employed a team of inspectors to seek out apartment owners breaking the rules - and has set up an online reporting system so neighbours can report the practice.
Houses and villas with the correct tourism licences will not be affected.
The Federation of Majorcan Hotels said it will monitor whether there is an increase in hotel bookings as tourists are turned away from flats.
The government of the Balearic Islands banned the renting of flats to tourists in 2012 but the rule has not been properly enforced.
The authorities are creating a mobile app that will allow holidaymakers to check if the property they intend to rent is legal or not.
Some 15,000 properties in Majorca have a tourism licence but thousands more are rented illegally.
The authorities in the Balearic Islands said they may create zones where it is legal to rent out flats to tourists. But it may take up to a year to decide where those zones are.
Biel Barcelo, the regional tourism minister, said: “What we are doing is giving judicial certainty. Up until now it has been illegal to let flats (to holidaymakers).
"It will continue to be so except in areas which are authorised by the ministry or by the City Hall in Palma."
An Airbnb spokesman said: "Airbnb helps build sustainable tourism that benefits local families and their communities.
"The new rules in the Balearic Islands are complex and confusing, and don’t distinguish between local families sharing their homes and professional operators running a business.
"Airbnb has worked with more than 300 government across the world and we will continue to encourage local policymakers to follow the example of other major cities that have introduced clear and simple home sharing rules.
"By working together, we can help build sustainable tourism models that spread benefits to many - not keep them in the hands of a few."