Never rent a flat from a lawyer

Oh how I love my landlady. She’s such an understanding, polite, honest and sincere person. Or not, as the case is. This is a blog for all those renting in Spain, who may not know about a certain ‘law’ that exists.

We’ve been living in our current flat since 2009 (on a yearly rolling contract). When we moved in it was a palace compared to the box flat we were previously in. The kitchen (no window) was so tiny that the fridge had to be in the lounge (handy for grabbing a cold one while watching the footy). The windowless bathroom was so minute you could brush your teeth while going for a number two. We lasted a year, left during the contract, and there were no problems with our landlord.

Giralda

View of the Giralda just round the corner

Our current flat is a pleasant two bed place with plenty of wardrobe space, a little balcony to put some flowers and right in the heart of Seville about two minutes away from the cathedral. My only real qualm is the windowless kitchen and bathroom, again. We were happy here, until about a year ago.

The problems started just before last Semana Santa when the dimwit workers in the warehouse directly underneath started making loads of noise. Up until then I hadn’t really noticed the warehouse, which belongs to Robles, one of the most prestigious, stuck up, restaurants in Seville.

The half-brained muppets suddenly started slamming the thick metal door, getting together and chatting loudly right under our window all morning, rolling metal beer barrels on the floor down the street, and they even started working on Sunday mornings, waking us up at 7 am. Then we noticed the lift they used for bringing up stock from the cellar sent pulsing vibrations throughout the whole flat, especially in the bedroom. Throughout Semana Santa it got worse, some days they would start at 6 am. We both started to get really annoyed, unsure how we hadn’t noticed the racket before. So we contacted our landlady, who I shall call R.

“Well, that just won’t do, I’ll go and speak to them,” R said. Did she? My arse she did! The constant banging and chatting seemed to get louder and more frequent. Every day they would wake us up. I went down and spoke to the muppets working there and had a go, saying that my wife was pregnant and she couldn’t sleep and they were making loads of noise.

“Not our problem,” was the response.

I called R again.

Hola, is that R?”

Si, diga.

“We are moving. We can’t stand it any longer. The noise is too much.”

“I’m coming over.”

Within minutes she was standing downstairs having a go at the workers, asking to speak to the man in charge. Brilliant, I thought, finally, and down I went to join in the row.

“Noise? What noise?” said the ugliest one, standing from behind the door.

“The door,” I said, angrily, grabbing hold of it. “This door, you can close it like this,” I said, opening and closing the doors lightly. “Not like this,” I said, slamming it in his face.

R spent a few minutes having a go at ‘the boss’ saying she was going to chat to the owner of the restaurant on Monday morning unless something was done. We thought the situation would change, but again we were wrong.

They did put some rubber pads behind the door to ease the impact, but the noise from the chatting and lift continued. In the end we just decided to get on with our lives and tried to ignore them. We were both getting wound up and as my wife was pregnant we tried to keep calm and forget about the nuisance.

But it was there, lingering, like a small woodpecker chiselling at our brains.

Over Christmas we started looking at flats, exploring Seville for a decent, quieter, area, with no warehouse under the bedroom. Luckily we have found a new flat, not too far out the centre and it’s got 3 bedrooms for about the same price that we are paying. It’s all exterior so there’s loads of light, and finally we have a window in the kitchen and bathroom.

So my wife called R.

“You’re leaving? Well, when?” said R.

“As soon as possible, we’d like to be out by March.”

“I see, well, you’re breaking the contract.”

“What do you mean?”

“Well, you are on a rolling contract from September to September, so you are leaving early. That means you have to pay a penalty of one month’s rent.”

“But we are giving you over forty days notice.”

“That doesn’t matter.”

When my wife told me, I thought she was joking.

“Yeah right, she’s talking rubbish,” I said, dismissing the news.

“I’m not so sure, also it turns out she’s a lawyer.”

Perfect.

So R came round and we had a little chat.

Falete

Maybe my landlady is really the flamenco singer, Falete.
Photo by portaldelsures

“So,” she said, waltzing in, flinging back her shoulder length black hair. “You’re leaving.”

“Yeah, well, it’s time to move on, soon our son will be running about and we need space, plus the noise from downstairs is getting to us,” said my wife.

“What noise?” she said, shrugging her shoulders. Then I realised she reminded me of Falete, a famous transexual flamenco singer from Seville.

“The noise from the warehouse,” I said, getting irate. “You were here with us last year defending us.”

“I can’t hear any noise.”

“You can’t hear it now, but that door still slams and the lift sounds through the flat all the time,” I could feel my blood boiling.

“When I lived here I didn’t hear any noise, and no one has complained before.” My wife gave me one of those ‘hold your tongue’ looks, so I did. “The main issue here is that you are breaking your contract with me and the law says that if you break the contract you need to pay a penalty of one month.”

“But no other landlord has ever said anything about this law. We just give one month’s notice and that’s normally fine,” said my wife.

“That’s not my problem. I am a lawyer, and that’s what the law says.”

I was fuming and asked where this law was in the contract.

“It’s not in the contract, but it’s the law.”

Turns out she was actually right; there is a ‘law’. Luckily it has changed because before we would have been entitled to pay up until September. So beware.

After some negotiating we have managed to get her down to half a month’s penalty, but I’m still not happy. My main issue is the deposit, 700 Euros. After seeing her change of attitude since she found out we are moving, then I’m dubious as to whether she’ll give it back. But I’ll go down fighting.

So we have learned the hard way. Be careful when you sign a contract to rent in Spain. Don’t make the mistake we did of not clearing this minor detail up before you move in. Oh, and double check they’re not a lawyer.

A few colleagues of mine have had problems with their landlords while renting in Spain. Have you had any problems? Share your thoughts.

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