How to rent an apartment in Spain as an expat: everything you need to know

One of the biggest challenges of moving to a new country is finding somewhere to live. Here, learn how to rent an apartment in Spain as an expat and avoid getting conned in the process.

6 min read

Just landed in Spain and looking for somewhere to live? Read on for the need-to-know info about how to rent an apartment and avoid the scams.

Finding an apartment to rent in Spain can leave anyone feeling frazzled—and even more so if you’re an expat and you’ve just arrived in the country. Between all of the documents, processes, and conditions, finding somewhere to live can be an odyssey.

In this guide, we put together everything you need to know about how to rent in Spain as an expat—and get a fair contract.

Requirements for renting property in Spain

You’ve probably already started to look at different housing platforms. Maybe you’ve even found an apartment that’s (seemingly) perfect for your new life. 

But what are the actual requirements for renting property in Spain? What documents do you need to move into a rental apartment? Before you start negotiating with the landlord, here are some basics that you should know about:

  • The rental contract will be six months minimum. However, most contracts are longer, usually one or two years.
  • You have to pay a security deposit. This is an amount equivalent to 1-2 months’ total rent. The owner must return the deposit to you at the end of the rental period, provided you return the property in the same condition it was in when you moved in.
  • You need proof of your income. Before the landlord agrees to rent their property to you, they might ask for a document that proves you have a minimum monthly income that will allow you to pay the monthly rent without any problems.
  • You have to have a bank account in Spain. To pay the costs of the rent and utilities, you need a local account that you can use.

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Documentation you need as an expat to be able to rent in Spain

Some landlords are more flexible than others. Depending on their preferences—and how trustworthy they think you are—they’ll ask you for more or fewer documents and credentials before renting to you.

These are some of the most common requirements:

  • An NIE. This is essential if you want to rent an apartment in Spain, so you’ll need to get one in advance.
  • An employment contract or study certificate. You’ll need to ask your employer for a certificate proving that you’re working legally in Spain. If you’re a student (and heads up—some landlords choose not to rent to students), you’ll have to ask for a certificate from your educational institution.
  • References from third parties. This depends on how trusting and easygoing the landlord is, but you might be asked for references from people you know or landlords of other apartments you lived in previously.

Rights and obligations when renting an apartment in Spain as an expat

As well as knowing what requirements and documents you’ll be asked for when renting an apartment in Spain, it’s important that you know what your rights and obligations are as a tenant. Make a note of these points—they could be a lifesaver if you ever have any problems with your lease:

  • What are your rights as a tenant? You always have the right to view the property you want to rent first. Normally, the property owner or real estate agency will give you a guided tour. This is also your opportunity to negotiate the duration of the contract and any adjustments to the condition of the property. If anything breaks or is damaged due to normal wear-and-tear after you move it, the landlord will be responsible for fixing it.
  • What are your obligations as a tenant? You must pay the initial security deposit and the monthly rent. You will also have to pay for all utilities (water, electricity, internet, etc.) Lastly, remember that you can’t sublet the apartment without the landlord’s permission.
  • Can the landlordrent an apartment without furniture? Yes, as long as this was clearly mentioned in the rental listing ad.
  • What happens to the security deposit? If you return the apartment in the same condition as it was in when you rented it and you’ve paid your rent in full, the landlord must return the security deposit to you when you move out.
  • What is a security deposit? A security deposit is a bond that covers any damages or losses caused by a tenant during the rental period (failure to pay the rent, additional utility costs, etc.).
  • How does the price of the rent change from year to year? During the first five years of the contract, your rent is updated in line with the Spanish consumer price index (CPI). After that, the price will depend on the negotiation between the tenant and the landlord.

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The most expensive and cheapest places to rent in Spain

When you’re figuring out how to rent an apartment in Spain, it’s important to be aware of regional price differences and to get an idea of the rough cost of living.

Expats generally choose to live in one of the big Spanish cities. Barcelona and Madrid are where demand is highest—and so are the prices. In Barcelona, it’s tough to find places to rent for less than €850 per month (for properties between 60 and 90 m² large). In Madrid, a similar apartment can cost as much as €1,200.

Other areas are less expensive, like Ourense (from €375), Murcia (from €500), Castellón (from €450), or Malaga (from €600 per month). Of course, prices vary depending on supply and demand at any given time.

Tips on how to avoid scams when renting

Getting excited about finding your new home in Spain now? One more thing: Watch out for scams as you start your search—they’re all too common and often specifically targeted at expats. Here are some general tips on how to avoid rental scams or cons:

  • Check the rental contract line by line. Always do this with the landlord or real estate agent.
  • Compare prices carefully. Don’t rush when choosing an apartment. Do your research to avoid overpaying.
  • Visit the area. Make sure there are supermarkets, health care services, and good public transport connections in the area.
  • Never rent a property without seeing it first. You should always view the property, inspect it, and ask questions during your visit. Photos can be deceptive and you don’t want any nasty surprises when you move in. 
  • Work out your budget. You should have enough in your account that you could pay rent in advance, even if you plan to pay month-to-month. It’s a good idea to have between six months and one year of rent saved up. 
  • Make sure you know all the conditions of the rental agreement. This is important both for the apartment itself and the common areas of the building you’re going to live in.
  • Only search for properties on reliable websites. Don’t use pages that look suspicious. Instead, search on popular websites such as Idealista or Fotocasa.

Open your N26 account without leaving the house

To pay your rent in Spain, you’ll need a local bank account. With an N26 online bank account, not only can you set up your monthly rent payments, you can also set daily spending limits. Plus, easily keep track of your spending with instant notifications after every transaction.

Opening your N26 bank account is 100% digital and won’t take you more than 8 minutes—with no paperwork. Get features that will help you streamline your finances and give you more time to enjoy this new phase of your life. Compare our different accounts today.

At N26, we’ve taken the red tape out of opening a bank account in Spain. Open an online account in just 8 minutes—all you’ll need is your smartphone, a valid address in Spain, and a valid photo ID. You’ll get an official Spanish IBAN, so you can pay and be paid like a local. Plus, there are no hidden fees and you’ll always have access to English-speaking customer service, so you can focus on settling in to your new home.

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