Renting in Barcelona: how Spain’s second city compares to London for private tenants

When the Mayor of London called for the power to freeze private rental prices across London in March, he cited the example of other European cities. Barcelona, where a 2020 rental cap was removed, was not mentioned by him. It was criticized for its inability to make housing more affordable. In an effort to control rents, the rental cap was implemented in September 2020 in 61 cities and towns across Catalonia. The worst-hit city was Barcelona, where rents rose by 43% between 2013 and 2019. The worst-hit city, Barcelona, saw rents rise by 43% between 2013 and 2019. They claimed that setting private rents was not the responsibility for local governments. Their appeal was successful: in March 2022 the rent cap was over-ruled by the Spanish Constitutional Court.Barcelona resident Mark Stucklin of outlined one downside of rent caps. He says that he considered buying a property in Barcelona and renting it out for EUR2,000 per month. This would give him a 4.1% gross yield. “Considering the costs and risks of the investment, it was not financially feasible due to the EUR1,140 monthly rent cap. Sagrada Familia as seen from across the city / Shutterstock/ Kanuman”A friend who had a small apartment to rent was planning to invest EUR20,000 to make it more livable for tenants before putting it on the market. “But the new rent would not have justified the investment. Who benefits? The new tenants will be paid less, but live in a smaller flat. These decisions were made city-wide, leading to a steady decline of Barcelona’s housing stock. “Mohammed Butt is the Barcelona Office Director of Lucas Fox International Properties. He claims that the rent cap reversal will be a good thing for both tenants and landlords. He said that when the rent cap was first introduced, we saw a large number of landlords removing their properties from the market because the rental yield didn’t make sense. This resulted in a limited supply of quality rentals and higher prices. Landlords began charging more for parking and other amenities and reverting back to shorter-term contracts. Park Guell / Shutterstock/ Georgios Tsichlis. Landlords can now relist their properties on the market and offer tenants a wider range of options at sustainable prices, based on the property’s quality. “Property website Idealista reported that in September 2021, one year after the rent cap was implemented, data showed that there had been a close to “zero impact” on price reductions and a “significant decrease in rental supply.” Madrid’s rent prices fell more than those in Barcelona in the same year, even though there was no rent cap. What is the average cost of renting in Barcelona? According to Butt, “Typical rental prices for a 2-bedroom apartment in the city center vary depending on the building and the level within it.” Prices for apartments close to the beach range from EUR2,200 to EUR2,900. Equinox Urban Housing, a sales and rental company, has reported that Barcelona rents average EUR15 per square metres. The Old Town, Ciutat Vella is the most expensive at EUR19 per sq m, while the elegant, high-ceiling homes of Eixample are the most affordable at EUR16. Sant Andreu, Horta Guinard? are two areas that offer better value. The Old Town, Ciutat Vella, is the most expensive at EUR19 per square metre. The high ceilinged homes of Eixample at EUR16 are the most affordable in the city’s northwest. Their “Right to Housing Bill”, currently in parliament, would allow regional governments to impose rental caps on apartments owned by landlords who have 10 or more properties in “stressed markets”. It is home to close to 2000 start-ups, a vibrant conference industry, and the largest number of offices occupied by large tech companies, such as Apple, Google, and Facebook. It is a hub for digital nomads. The city is located between the Mediterranean Sea, mountains and has a limit on the area for new housing. The mayor of Barcelona imposed a rule in 2018 that all new developments larger than 600m2 must have 30% social housing provision. The result was a drastic drop in new building in Barcelona. She moved to Ibiza to work at a yoga centre before settling in Barcelona, where she has worked as a sport injury and massage therapist for most of the past 13 years ( She currently lives in an apartment in Eixample, with her six-year-old daughter Darcy. Rent is EUR1,240 per month. “Initially, I had planned to be gone for three months. I was a little naive when I first arrived in Barcelona, thinking it would be easy for me to establish my own business. I imagined it would be wonderful living in the Gothic area, with its beautiful architecture and constant buzz. But it was noisy and bustling, and full of tourists. I don’t think I would want to live there anymore because of the reasons I loved it when I was single and without children. “I shared a room with two other people in a flat and I believe the tenant collecting my rent was subletting his rent. It’s a common pattern. Through a contact at work, I found a small apartment in Barceloneta with a small balcony and a seaview. It was a wonderful place to live, especially from October through May, and I stayed there for five years. “After two happy years, I was forced to leave because the owners wanted to rent it out to their friends. I stayed in the same area and, through an agency, found a better flat in the building where I now live. “My current contract expires this summer, and a friend who is a property professional has warned me to expect a significant rise in my rent. I love my home and want it to remain because of the schools nearby, so I will continue to live there. There are very few apartments available, and people tend not to stay in the same apartment for long periods of time. “Is it difficult to find a flat for rent in Barcelona?” Claire Coombes Claire Coombes is originally from Muswell Hill and now lives in Barcelona near the Sagrada Familia. She and her partner, Indy, are rescue dogs. She is in her 40s and works as a senior partnership manager in the music industry. She said that finding a rental property was difficult and that she was constantly looking at different sites. Anything that looks good is grabbed immediately, and you rarely hear back from the agent. Listings go live immediately and you must act quickly to avoid hassle from agents. “I can recall 10 years ago when an advertisement for a London rental was taken down after 30 minutes. You would get overwhelmed by inquiries. It’s the same here. “I have moved three times in the four years I’ve lived here. We had to sublet our first apartment because you can’t rent without proper paperwork unless you are willing to pay through the nose for a short-term let of less than 11 months. After we got our residency papers, we tried to find a long-term option. However, everything was either too expensive or in poor condition. Although London rents can be quite high, landlords tend to take good care of their properties. “The major difference in Barcelona is the fact that the renter is responsible if anything breaks down, such as the fridge, boiler or door handle. If they are beyond repair, the landlord is responsible for replacing them. I find this absurd and have my own insurance. “And apartments aren’t so well maintained. Many landlords believe that because the city is so popular they don’t have to work too hard. They often think that old furnishings and fittings are charming, when in fact they are quite grimy. “Coombes agrees that apartments in this area are often small with bedrooms that can fit the smallest double bed. Even new buildings have small rooms, which I find bizarre. “Generally, the tenant is responsible to fix things which is insane. Although we’ve been fortunate, there are horror stories about owners who take money from the deposit to pay for repairs and upgrades. “There are many scams” Many people sublet rooms to pay rent. Coombes says that although they are not supposed to, some families sublet the spare room to make ends meet. “What really surprised me was that the tenant must pay the agency fees and not the owner. Not just any fees. One month rent plus VAT is required. If you are lucky. Many places charge two months rent. For a three-bedroom apartment, we paid?1,700 and the agent?2,000. Agents find it very lucrative. “Some agents ask for six, while others require you to pay at most two months’ deposit. It’s a lot of money to put up. There are many scams. It is rare to find a property that you rent directly through the owner. Some people simply list an apartment and then disappear. “Then there are break ins and squatters. It’s very difficult to get rid a vacant apartment if someone takes it over. You must be extremely vigilant about security.