LONDON, England – Hundreds of thousands of Britons with holiday homes in Spain and France could be prevented from renting them out to tourists.
Controversial laws set to be passed could also add hundreds of pounds to the cost of breaks for millions of travelers from Britain.
They will no longer be able to pay cheaper rates direct to owners but will have to stay in apartments, villas or hotels operated by major firms.
Meanwhile, thousands of second-home owners could end up trying to sell up as the changes make it too complicated and costly to keep the property going.
In France, a crackdown on holiday lets in the capital Paris as well as Lyon and Marseille is expected next week. If the new law is a success, the rest of the country could follow suit.
In Spain, the authorities are expected to ban unlicensed rentals next spring.
Ryan Levitt, of holiday rental website housetrip.com, warned: ‘This law is closing the door to working and middle-class families who want to book a break to Spain at an affordable price.
‘Instead of being able to share a whole house with friends, you face being stuck with your kids in a cramped hotel room.’
An estimated one million properties in Spain are owned by Britons. Many are inhabited all year round by expatriates but hundreds of thousands were bought as holiday homes.
Until recently, it has been relatively simple for British owners to rent out their properties in the two countries.
But under the new rules, those with second homes in Spain will need a licence from the local council, which could incur a fee.
They will also have to meet strict conditions, such as being contactable 24 hours a day to deal with problems such as water leaks or power blackouts.
Owners will have to pass regular safety inspections and obtain hygiene certificates. Failure to comply will lead to hefty fines.
In France, the new law will clamp down on homeowners in the three cities who let their second property to tourists.
Anybody – including Britons as well as French citizens – who rents one out for any period will be deemed to have changed its use, incurring a hefty penalty.
Most British-owned second homes in Spain and France are mortgaged and the owners let them for some of the year to cover bills without making a profit. This means the properties can be very good value for visitors.
A family of four could pay £2,500 in high season to share a room in a hotel in Alicante with flights booked through a tour operator.
But renting a two-bedroom villa with a private pool would cost hundreds less at £1,700 including flights.
Tourists can cut costs further by renting bigger villas and sharing the cost with friends and family. Private rentals have exploded in popularity among the 12 million Britons who visit Spain each year.
According to La Caixa bank, around three-quarters of overnight stays in Spain last year were in ‘unregulated premises’ such as privately-owned villas or apartments.
Most of these visitors booked directly through the high number of online holiday rental firms which have sprung up over the past decade.
Until now, in most parts of Spain, anyone can let out their homes provided they pay full tax and declare all revenues.
But the recession-hit country is desperate to boost revenues and officials suspect that second-home owners are not paying billions of euros in tax.
The powerful hotel industry has also been lobbying for the changes as the surge in private rentals is hitting its business.
Catalonia, the Canary Islands and the Balearics already have tough restrictions. In the past year, thousands of apartment and villa owners in these areas have been fined up to £15,000 each.
Others have been banned from renting out property while hundreds have put their homes on the market. However, finding buyers has proved difficult because of a glut of sellers.
Janet Anscombe, president of a Tenerife support group for those hit by the shake-up, said: ‘The only licences being granted are for hotels. Inspectors trawl the internet and fine people found renting their homes.’
The clampdown will be a further blow to holiday homeowners in Spain, who have seen the value of their properties drop by up to 50 per cent since 2007.
There are 200,000 UK holiday homeowners in France, mostly in Provence, the Dordogne, Normandy and Brittany.
Lawmakers in Germany will vote on similar laws in the next fortnight.