Expats drive lodging law changes

in Algarve · 23-04-2015 13:52:00 · 1 Comments
Expats drive lodging law changes

More than three hundred people of numerous nationalities gathered in Faro this week in a bid to seek clarification and give their input on the new local lodging regulations introduced late last year. Since coming into force the new legislation has generated a certain level of dismay and uncertainty, eventually culminating in the staging of this event held in English.

Immediately in the wake of the event, entitled Local Lodging as an Asset to the Algarve Tourism Industry, The Portugal News was told that a number of the issues raised by those attending are now being put forward at the highest level in order to improve local lodging (Alojamento Local or AL) legislation.
Some citizens aiming to let out their properties this summer admitted they had considered selling up and leaving the country, having been plunged into a permanent state of dejection from the endless red-tape and what they claim to be the contradictory flow of information emanating from the various authorities involved in applying the new local lodging legislation.
Positive law changes
But many others came out in support of positive changes to the law, to make it easier for authorities to clamp down on illegal holiday rentals and unfair competition, while also making this type of accommodation safer for tourists.
In an unprecedented show of good faith and willingness among official entities to ease the fears of foreign residents and businesses, Safe Communities Algarve managed to bring together almost a dozen entities to explain the new legislation and brave the concerns voiced by the packed auditorium in attendance.
Top brass attend
Held almost entirely in English, the seminar attracted a number of high-ranking civil servants who addressed the eager audience on this thorny and controversial issue.
Besides the President of Safe Communities Algarve (SCA), David Thomas - whose efforts in the past five months resulted in this gathering - attendees were also addressed by the Tourism State Secretary Adolfo Mesquita, the Mayor of Faro, national and regional tourism authorities, a representative from the ASAE health and safety agency, the SEF Immigration and Borders Service, PJ and GNR police and Dennis Swing-Greene from the National Association for Local Lodging Establishments (NALLE).
Reforms already made
Tourism State Secretary Adolfo Mesquita Nunes, a lawyer by trade, took credit for drawing up the legislation during his address, but told the audience that the Government was open to constructive criticism and had already made some changes to the lodging law following a similar meeting in Portimão held in Portuguese last December.

While the State Secretary was praised for his address, other commitments meant he departed midway through the seminar and was sorely missed during the question time allocated at the end.
Similarly, some of the concerns raised at the event were left only partially answered, with no representative from the Finance Ministry present despite the best efforts to have one attend; Dennis Swing Greene of NALLE and President of the Eurofinesco Board explained the fiscal and administrative intricacies involving local lodging.
While it was held in English, several nationalities from across Europe were represented at this forum, many of them local residents, who revealed the profound impact this new legislation has had, and continues to have on both the foreign and Portuguese communities.
More discussions on the horizon
In comments to The Portugal News after the event, SCA President David Thomas revealed that as a result of the positive feedback received during the seminar, which lasted almost five hours, government officials have agreed to further discuss some of the issues raised.
Among them is the intention to amend existing legislation to include carbon monoxide detectors and to request large British property platforms to make reference to the legal requirement here in Portugal for properties to have an ‘AL’ licence.
Officials from ASAE and Turismo de Portugal have already agreed to meet with representatives of the foreign community such as SCA and NALLE to discuss these proposed amendments.
Similarly, SEF spokesperson Fátima Teixeira also told the audience when confronted with the laborious process of registering guests for immigration purposes that the agency is not averse to reforms.
“We are open to changing the law with regards to the logging of guests’ data”, she explained.
In relation to the thousands of properties still believed to be operating outside of the law, Helena Sanches from ASAE asked for the help of citizens to tackle illegal rentals.
She explained that ASAE currently has about 300 inspectors nationwide, but she told The Portugal News that many of them would be heading south this summer to assist their colleagues in the Algarve with inspections across the region.
Not unfair competition
Speaking to The Portugal News on the sidelines of the seminar, Tourism State Secretary Adolfo Mesquita Nunes reiterated his position that allowing apartments and villas to legally operate as tourist accommodation is not unfair competition and that their existence is part of Portuguese reality.
“Tourists decide where they want to spend their vacations and it is not up to the state to tell them where they can or cannot stay”, he said.
The State Secretary further explained that 1,767 AL registrations have been recorded in the Algarve since the introduction of law last November, which brings the total number of legally-operating apartment and villa lets to just under 6,500.
However, when questioned by The Portugal News as to what government estimates are with regards to unregulated properties, he said it was impossible to provide a number and there was no way to confirm the ones provided by industry associations.
Home owners who let out their properties to holiday-makers but who fail to register guests are liable for fines that vary between €2,500 and €3,740, while companies could be asked to fork out between €25,000 and €35,000.
For more information on this legislation, contact the National Association of Local Lodging Establishments (NALLE) on tel: +351 213 424 210, e-mail: info@nalle.pt or visit www.nalle.pt or www.safecommunities algarve.com



Comments:

the bottom line in all this is portugal is after more income. however, what tptb need to recognise is that a number of home owners who let their properties out on a part-time basis have both costs (eg mortgage interest) that the portuguse tax system doesn't recognise, unlike the UK for example, and also a lot of home owners are in negative equity as a result of the property price crash.
in my case i got a letting license from lagos camara in 2012 but this has now been superceed by the new law.
finally, given that so many property owners are other EU nationals, it would be good if forms could be in english as well as portuguese.

by geoff bailey from UK on 30-04-2015 09:27:00
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