Court strikes down ban on tourist apartments in Palma de Mallorca

The judges ruled against the 2018 municipal order in the city on the grounds that it is “disproportionate and unnecessary”

Tres personas llegando a un piso de alquiler turístico.
Tres personas llegando a un piso de alquiler turístico.INMA FLORES

The High Court of the Balearic Islands struck down on Thursday a ban on tourist apartments in the city of Palma, unofficially known as Palma de Mallorca, on the grounds that it is “disproportionate and unnecessary.”

The ruling was in response to an appeal brought by the Association of Temporary Apartment and Housing Rentals (HABTUR), which argued the order – which was introduced by Palma’s local government in 2018 – was designed to favor the hotel industry on the popular Spanish island destination.

Although the judges did not agree with this claim, nor with the association’s allegations that the ban violated the principle of equality and the right to private property, they did rule that it was in violation of several EU and Spanish laws.

There will be no tourist apartments in Palma
Mayor of Palma José Hila

In its ruling, the court argued that the local government had banned tourist apartments across the city, without taking into account the differences between areas or justifying “the imperious reasons of general interest” on which the measure was based. The judges said that the order made reference to the high levels of energy and water consumption, neighborhood conflict and noise linked to the tourism sector in general, “without attributing parameters and harmful effect to tourist rentals in multi-family homes.”

The ruling agreed that the Palma local government introduced the ban in an effort to protect and safeguard the community, environment and access to housing, describing it as “a praiseworthy goal that must be proportionate and required.” But the court argued the local government could have employed “less radical” measures to achieve the same objectives. “A ban, logically, is the last solution possible for the harmful effects the administration was trying to avoid and tackle,” the sentence said.

HABTUR celebrated the court’s decision and is now hoping to negotiate with the Palma government zoning regulations that will allow holiday rentals in some areas. The mayor of Palma, José Hila, from the Socialist Party (PSOE), however, said that the city would appeal the ruling, insisting “there will be no tourist apartments” in Palma. “The ruling has not changed the rules of the games of vacation rentals in Palma,” he said.

If the local government loses its appeal, the ban will be replaced by the restrictions introduced by the Mallorca administration, which created a moratorium on new licenses for tourist rentals in one-family homes in June 2020. This measure, which will remain in force until December 31 of this year, increases the fines for renting homes without a license. If the property owner is an individual, the fine is between €20,001 and €40,000, while platforms can face sanctions of up to €400,000. These restrictions received the backing of the High Court in the Balearic Islands in May.

Residents of the Balearic Islands have to contend with high rental and property prices as a result of the high demand from tourism. This has also become a problem in other popular tourist destinations, such as Barcelona, Madrid and Valencia, where local governments have also made moves to limit vacation rentals.

English version by Melissa Kitson.

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