When renting a property, it is not always obvious who has to pay for works in the premises. In Spain the law is clear about the responsibilities of the landlord and the tenant. Law 29/1994, applicable to both residential use and commercial use, makes the distinction between two types of works: Maintenance works and Improvement works.
The tenant will be responsible for small repairs resulting from normal wear and tear.
The landlord will have to take care of all maintenance works necessary for the normal conservation and use of the premises unless the tenant is responsible as specified by articles 1,563 and 1,564 of the Civil Code. It is not mandatory for the landlord to repair the premises if the damage is caused by force majeur (examples: fire, earthquake, flooding…). In this case the rental contract can be terminated.
If the maintenance works are necessary before the end of the contract the tenant will have to tolerate the works. If the works last for over 20 days the tenant will have the right to a reduction in the rent, proportional to the area of the premises that cannot be used.
When the works are ordered by a public authority and prevent the normal use of the premises, the tenant can choose to suspend or terminate the rental agreement without the right to compensation. Suspending the contract means that both the rental period and the rental payments are suspended until the work is completed.
Urgent maintenance works
If the work is urgent the tenant is obliged to inform the landlord promptly. The tenant can at any time, after notifying the landlord, make urgent repairs to prevent harm or serious inconveniences, and immediately get a refund from the landlord. If requested he will have to give access to technical experts and the landlord.
In most cases financing improvement works is agreed on between the tenant and the landlord.
Improvement works initiated by the landlord
As in the case of maintenance work, if the improvement works cannot be delayed until the end of the rental agreement, the tenant must tolerate them, and if the works last for more than 20 days, the tenant is entitled to a proportional reduction in the rent.
In these cases, the owner must give at least three months advance notice about the work to be done, the starting date and the duration. When the tenant receives the notice, he can cancel the contract within one month, unless the works impact on the usage of the premises is minimal. If the tenant chooses to withdraw from the contract, he has two months to vacate the premises before the works begin.
After the end of the five-year period, the landlord will be able to renegotiate the contract taking into account the improvements, unless there is a previous agreement. However the rental increase will not exceed 20%.
Improvement works initiated by the tenant
The tenant cannot make improvements that alter the configuration of the premises without the landlord’s expressed signed consent. Moreover, the tenant cannot perform works that decrease the safety or the stability of the building.
If the tenant executes works without authorisation, without prejudice to the right to terminate the contract, the landlord can require the tenant to return the property to its original state upon vacating the premises. If the works decreased the safety or the stability of the building, the landlord can force the tenant to return the property to its original state immediately.
Any disputes between tenant and landlord are best solved peacefully and with the advice of a Spanish lawyer specialised in property law.