“Somewhere a landlord’s laughing till he wets his pants”

Time for a rant by a confused and annoyed guiri who has lived here for almost 30 years and still runs into problems with the way things are done. Even though, in theory, I speak and understand Catalan very well.

The five years on my flat rental contract are up. I’m not going anywhere, and the landlord can have no complaints about my tenancy, as far as I’m aware. So time for the two parties to renew the contract, right? With a slight adjustment in rental price to account for inflation, even though anyone renting a flat these days is feeling the financial heat at least as much as any landlord when it comes to the unbearable rise in the price of living, right? Wrong and wrong again. And the new housing rental law passed in May 2023 will protect me as the tenant against any furtive attempts to overcharge me by the always honest and scrupulous estate agent, right? Wrong a third time.

I received a “burofax” – a registered fax used in this part of the world to mean its receipt is documented – from my charming estate agent two months before the expiry of my old contract explaining that I would have to renounce that one and sign a new one prior to said expiry (I’m starting to use slightly more formal English here to get you in the mood for what’s coming…), and that this would involve me paying the estate agent a contract signing fee made expressly illegal by the aforementioned new law (I’ve added that last part... they didn’t seem to know it was illegal when they sent it to me, poor things must be overrun with work to have missed all these new laws forbidding them from ripping off tenants). And also that my deposit would be returned to me as I was signing a new contract, and the new deposit charged according to the new rental price, which had risen by precisely 4.13%.

When I pointed out, quoting the new law verbatim, that a) the cost of the new contract now legally fell upon the landlord, not the tenant, so would they be so kind as to please remove that from the bill? and b) to my understanding, there was a limit of 3% rise in rental prices in 2024, I was informed in no uncertain terms (nothing polite about the reply, and no sign of an apology for trying to rip me off to the tune of 600-odd euros), that the item had (reluctantly, I assume) now been removed from the bill, but that because it was a new contract the price rise was legal. Having consulted various contacts in the real estate business and my own “gestor”, I was told that the requirement to sign a new contract seemed shady at best, and possibly illegal, but that also I was risking being left on the street come the end of my contract given the current demand for flats in Barcelona. So I went ahead and agreed to the price hike and thanked them wholeheartedly for not charging me the illegal amount they had originally added to my bill.

On we go. After receiving the draft contract and reading a very confusing, to me at least, clause of how much I had to pay my landlord if I left my flat within a year of signing, I asked the agent exactly how much this compensation would amount to, providing an example. I received a curt emailed response implying that I was asking a lot of questions about this contract and why didn’t I just sign it? In addition, there was this: “the owner wants to make sure that the tenant stays at least one year and does not vacate the flat earlier”. Well, my heart goes out to landlords in these hard times.

Imagine if for some reason through no fault of my own I am forced to leave the flat, or I actually have the audacity to leave of my own volition, before a year is up. Then I have to pay compensation to the moneybags landlord who is raking it in month after month. Having checked the legality of the clause and being told it was now “standard procedure”, I duly signed. As Lou Reed sang on the track Dirty Blvd from his 1989 New York album , “Somewhere a landlord’s laughing till he wets his pants”.


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