Over the past 16 months, Barcelona’s city government has opened nearly 6,000 disciplinary cases against illegal tourist apartments, with approximately one-third found to be operating without a license and only 628 responding to government demands.
Since 2012, Barcelona had operated a controversial, strictly-enforced licensing system with minimum standards that needed to be met for operation as a tourist apartment after it was estimated there were approximately 500,000 unregulated apartments throughout Cataluña.
There are currently fewer than 9,700 tourist apartment licenses in Barcelona, with probably 6,000 unlicensed. This is estimated as around 50,000 legal and 50,000 illegal beds, more than the 75,000 hotel beds available.
The majority of unlicensed apartments are believed to belong to people who rent a room or their apartment only occasionally, rather than commercial tourist apartments which do still need a licence; and the city has now highlighted this difference as neither illegal nor legal, but “a-legal” and unregulated.
Airbnb estimated 1.24 million visitors used Airbnb in Barcelona in 2016, up 40% on 2015.