More spotters and inspectors to combat illegal tourist accommodationThe municipal body of spotters for illegal tourist lets is made up of forty people, twice the number who started the task last summer as part of the shock plan against unlicensed activity. The measure, backed up with improved resources, also involves bolstering the inspection team from 20 to 34 people.
The boost means a new step forward in the task of identifying flats and greater efficiency in combatting accommodation operating outside the law. The Deputy Mayor for Ecology, Urban Planning and Mobility, Janet Sanz, described the task of the spotters as essential and declared that the extra manpower means “we’re moving from a shock plan to an ongoing and stable city plan, to act surely and solidly to govern tourism”.
Apart from the extra personnel, premises have been set up for use by the municipal body and new and improved technology has been provided such as smart phones, mapping tools and the optimisation of the web crawler, the search bot to detect tourist lets advertised on the various websites.
According to a study commissioned as part of the Strategic Tourism Plan, the total number of tourist accommodation properties (HUT) in the city stands at 15,881, of which 6,275 have no licence. Sanz asserted: “We’ll spare no resources in stopping illegal lets, which create problems of co-existence, push up housing prices and drive local residents out of their neighbourhoods”.
From January 2016 to April this year, some 5,490 disciplinary cases have been opened, half of them involving fines, and 2,015 orders have been issued for unlicensed flats to cease their activity. The money raised from these operations will be used for public housing policies.
The shock plan put into operation has motivated the public to participate and led to an increase in reports of illegal lets via the website or by phone. The figure rose from 39 in 2015 to 2,784 in 2016. In the first four months of this year there have been 560 cases reported by citizens.
The key task of spotters
Spotters are tasked with making checks in the street to see if the addresses of adverts on the intermediaries’ websites correspond to specific properties and speaking to tourists and local residents to get addresses of flats which may be operating without a licence. They also carry out research on properties publishing false licences which are either duplicated or made up, as well as following up on previously identified illegal HUTs whose owners have expressed their willingness to adapt to legislation and which have been re-advertised, to check if they really have complied.
The increase in the number of spotters forms part of the agreement between the municipal government and the ERC group to approve the Special Urban Plan for Tourist Accommodation (PEUAT) and is one of a number of measures, such as the recently-created work group with holiday rental platforms.