Property owners in tourist zones urged to confirm their rights to residential use or risk losing it

This summer the Government of The Canary Islands passed into law their latest legislation surrounding tourist properties and tourism land.  Property owners in tourism areas remember well the chaos that ensued on the south of Gran Canaria a couple of years ago when San Bartolomé de Tirajana, the town hall overseeing Maspalomas, tired to pass their general plan in response to the Ley del Suelo land law decree of 2013, which sought to regulate short term tourism rentals, and definitively separate residential uses from tourism licensed complexes, envisaging a system of “owner substitution” that many felt was a draconian measure designed to disinherit legitimate property owners from their apartments and bungalows in the tourist zones.

The outcry led to thousands of objections being filed and the creation of PALT (the Platforma de Afectados por la Ley Turística) a loose association of property owners, activists, lawyers and politicians whose stated focus is to avoid the subjugation of legitimate home owners rights through what they see as stealth tactics, whereby local, island and regional government have allegedly tried to re-engineer the de facto reality of residents and tourists rubbing along together in what were originally envisaged as some sort of tourist-only resident-free zones.  It has since been clearly stated that the regional government seeks to “encourage” residents to move out of tourist zones.

After much debate the regional government agreed that some changes needed to be made to the laws as drafted, however PALT feel that the politicians are simply trying to protect large businesses and an imagined tourism image, that takes little into account of everyday residents needs or wants.  Many feel that tourism business is expressly reserved for large companies to profit from, while individuals rights are neglected.

Part of the problem, of course, was that the originally set out rules were not enforced as they should have been in the first place, with municipal councils failing to keep a proper handle on property complexes that were designed, built and licensed as tourist accommodation. As the years went on, so more and more of these complexes became mixed use, with owners residing full time alongside visiting tourists. People raised families in these properties.

No where is this mixing of ideas more pronounced than in the southern Gran Canaria enclave of Puerto Rico.  Mayor Onalia Bueno of Mogán, the municipality responsible, made clear her perspective early during the 2015 fracas, saying that there should not be residents living in tourist accommodation and that she favoured limiting property use.

Last Spring the regional government announced that they would after all be taking into account the de facto residential use of apartments originally designated as for tourist use.  They decreed that all apartments that were in residential use prior to January 2017 could remain as such.  PALT pointed out that there was an obvious limbo for anyone who purchased property after that point, and before the announcement, and felt that although there had been a significant positive change, that the law still remained very problematic.  For instance the new law, passed this summer, only allows for a property in residential use to return to tourist usage, but not the other way round.  So those who cannot prove that they have been using their apartment or bungalow residentially may well find themselves being compelled to utiliise the apartment solely for tourist letting, under an “exploitation” company and may not be able to make future residential use of the property.

This means that it is now imperative that anyone who wishes to use a property residentially, that was originally designated as having been built on tourist land or for tourism use, must obtain certification from the administrator of their communidad de propertarios, showing that they have been using their property residentially since before January 2017. Not doing so leaves owners open to being forced to either put their apartment into tourism exploitation or not be used at all, as they could potentially be prohibited from living in them.

PALT have urged anyone who might be affected by this to join their association to stay informed about the latest changes and its consequences.  They say it is of the highest importance that those who want to be able to choose how they use their property, make sure that it is properly registered, by showing that they have been using it residentially.  Not to do so, is to potentially lose the right to choose.

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