This week the rent brake will begin to be applied to new apartment contracts in 140 municipalities in Catalonia.

With three days until the rental price regulation comes into force in 140 Catalan municipalities, we are trying to resolve doubts, such as whether the new rule provides for a sanctioning regime; how to know key data to set the new price (how many apartments the owners have or the rental price of the last contract); or who to contact if landlords do not want to comply with the rule.

What day exactly does the price regulation come into force? As the Ministry of Housing explained on February 27, when it presented and published the State Reference System for Housing Rental Prices, it is expected that the price index and the declaration of the 140 tense residential market areas proposed by the Generalitat are published on March 12 in the BOE, and the regulation comes into force on the 13th, Wednesday.

Who will control the regulation? Directly, neither the Ministry nor the Generalitat have enabled mechanisms. What tenants can do if landlords fail to comply with the Urban Leases Law (which has been modified in the Housing Law) is to go to the consumer, to the courts or to professional associations, if a professional intermediary has intervened. From Catalonia, the Department of Territory recalls that the rule that regulated rentals in the community and was overturned by the Constitutional Court did contemplate a sanctioning regime.

What control mechanisms has the Ministry of Housing foreseen? Directly on compliance with the income cap, none. Based on the price index, it will “monitor the evolution of rent and, in particular, in areas that are declared to have a stressed residential market, in order to verify the effectiveness of the measure.” In the areas declared stressed, ministry sources add, “the application of the measures plans must be evaluated” designed to reverse the market situation that has been presented, for now, only by the Generalitat.

And the Generalitat? The Department of Territory insists on regretting the lack of a sanctioning regime in Spanish law. “There is little effective control mechanism,” they acknowledge, which “forces the Generalitat to look for alternatives to law 12/2023. These are going to consumption, mediation, or ordinary justice if there are violations according to the Catalan housing law.” The Tenants’ Union considers that the Generalitat should “enable a sanctioning regime”, as existed in the Catalan regulation that regulated prices for 18 months, between 2020 and 2022.

How can a citizen know if the landlord they want to rent an apartment to is a big landlord? This information is important, because owners who are large holders (five or more apartments) must apply the price set by the index, which could lead to price reductions compared to the last contract for the apartments. The short answer is that you can only find out by paying at registration, but here is a more detailed explanation. The Housing Law does not provide for any consultation mechanism, nor does it require it to be detailed in advertisements or contracts. The Generalitat assures that it is working to approve “before the end of 2024” a “regulation of the Registry of Large Holders” so that it can be consulted. So for now, it can only be consulted at the Property Registry, which means paying. The registries have enabled a consultation service for the Law. The website allows you to consult the properties “of a person”, for which you must enter the name and NIF or DNI; or “a company”, from a search engine. In both cases, the cost is 12 euros “VAT not included” and a window warns: “I accept that for each property located I will be charged 20.76 euros for detailed information about it. VAT not included”. In Barcelona, ​​almost half of the rental apartments belong to owners who have more than five homes.

How to know the price of the previous rental contract? The Law requires that in apartments in tight market areas the owner or intermediary must indicate: before formalizing the lease, “and in any case in the contract document”, “the amount of the last rent in force in the last five years in the same home” or the corresponding price according to the index (if it is a large holder). In case of doubt, or if the owner says that he does not know, you can consult a copy of the previous contract for the apartment you want to rent in the Incasòl financial registry.

What is the price of rent that will have to be paid now? The reference rent in apartments owned by landlords that have between one and four apartments is the last monthly payment paid. An amount that is usually the rent set by the previous contract, plus the annual increases in the CPI or what was agreed between the parties. The Ministry explains it like this: “In accordance with the regulation established in article 17.6 of the Urban Leases Law, the rent of the new contract cannot exceed the last rent of the habitual residence lease contract that had been in force, on the that the annual rent update clause of the previous contract could be applied.” “The regulation does not establish exceptions in cases in which this last income would have been conditioned by the extraordinary limitation introduced by article 46 of Royal Decree-Law 6/2022,” the ministry specifies, referring to the limit of increases of 3 % applied to cushion inflation between 2022 and this year. In short, the price is set by either the last rental or the contract update clause, if it has one.

Can they charge us fees or expenses that did not appear in the previous contract? No. New conditions cannot be established in the new contract that establish the impact on the lessee of fees or expenses that were not included in the previous contract. In this chapter, the Tenants’ Union recalls that with the new Law, contract expenses cannot be collected and that owners should leave “a margin of a few days to review or obtain advice regarding possible abusive or illegal clauses.”

Is there any case in which the rent can be raised? Yes. Up to 10% in the cases established by the Housing Law on article 17.6 of the Urban Leases Law (LAU): in the event that the owner has carried out rehabilitation works or improvements to the accessibility of the home. Or if you offer to sign a contract with a term of a decade or more.

What to do if the landlord does not want to apply the price regulation or asks to pay partially? You can report it to the Catalan Consumer Agency, to the Professional Associations of the real estate sector if there is intermediation, or to a court. The Generalitat recommends that beyond these means, “the person who intends to rent should not accept these situations based on what the new norm establishes.”

Does the law provide for fines or sanctions for owners who do not comply? No, as has been said previously, the Housing Law does not include a sanctioning regime, as did the Catalan rent containment decree that was in force for 18 months between 2020 and 2022. But the Catalan Housing Law considers an administrative infraction, and can be report before consumption, not stating the price of the previous contract in advertising, offers or rental contracts, reminds the Generalitat.

What if the price of my current rental is higher than what the national pricing system sets? The pricing system will only apply to contracts signed on or after March 13. Another thing is, points out the Tenants Union, that if it is consulted and there is a difference, an attempt will be made to negotiate a reduction, which will depend on the landlord.