New legislation stipulates that the minimum period for long-term rental agreements is one year and renewable for three years. According to the decree, “SIMA” (“Serviço de Injunção em Matéria de Arrendamento” – Lease Injunction Service) will be created to strengthen tenants’ rights, namely for the reimbursement of improvements incurred by tenants. The legislation also assures the continuation of the National Rental Office (BNA), which has exclusive jurisdiction to deal with procedures for evictions.
Local Lodging operators who opt to be assessed under the tax rules of Category F (long-term rentals) may deduct commissions from this income paid to online reservation platforms. However, those carrying out their tourist business under Category B as Sole Traders do not deduct specific expenses but rather are automatically allotted 65% from their gross “AL” income to cover operating expenses.
After the hubbub of the summer, many Local Lodging owners wish to book long-term rentals to assure low-season occupancy over the quieter winter months. As always, there are pros and cons, particularly when distinguishing between long and short term lets is not always easy.
Reporting Long-Term Rentals
Under current legislation, bureaucracy has mushroomed in recent years for long-term rentals:
- a) Registration of Rental Contract – Mandatory Rental Contracts must be reported via Modelo 2. This form identifies the parties, the property, the price and the terms of the agreement.
- b) Stamp Duty – Stamp Duty is due on the rental contract at the rate of 10% of one month’s income. Every time there is a change in the contract, Stamp Duty must be paid again so automatic renewals, if appropriate, should be included in the original contract to avoid repetitive payment of tax.
- c) On-going Electronic Rental Receipts – Similar to Electronic Green Receipts, Electronic Rent Receipts must be issued in Portuguese in duplicate on a monthly basis via the Finanças Copies are issued to the tenant with a second copy retained for the landlord’s records.
- d) Annual Rental income summary – In the following January, landlords must declare an annual summary of rents received via Model 44.
- e) “IRS” Declaration – An annual personal income tax declaration will necessitate completion of Annex F. All claimed deductible expenses must be accompanied by original invoices that include both the name of the landlord and the corresponding tax number.
- f) VAT – On the positive side, long-term rentals are VAT exempt and require no VAT reporting, potentially saving time and money.
As a tourist accommodation, a Local Lodging unit must: a) be a furnished and equipped facility, b) be available to the general public, c) meet specific health and safety standards and d) limit stays to less than 30 days.
However, there is nothing improper about a guest checking out after a month, then checking back in for another 30-day period. If this procedure is adopted, the owner can continue the “AL” operation on a year-round basis, avoiding the additional bureaucracy associated with Category F. In addition, the on-going use of the property under Local Lodging avoids the overlap and potential contradictions of property usage in two distinct business categories within the same fiscal year.
Beyond Stamp Duty and VAT, the income tax calculation for each activity is substantially different. In Portugal, rental income is taxed residentially under Category F (Income from Immoveable Property) while Local Lodging is assessed commercially under Category B (Business Income).
For a Local Lodging activity, most owners are assessed under the “Simplified Regime” where they receive a flat exemption of 65% on gross income. Residents then add the remaining 35% to other taxable forms of income and are assessed at marginal rates. Non-Residents have the standard levy of 25%, leaving a final tax to pay of 8.75% of gross business income.
Under Category F (long-term rentals), Non-Residents are taxed at a flat 25%. Residents may elect to be assessed autonomously at a flat 28% or aggregate this income with other sources and be taxed at marginal rates.
There is no “one-size-fits-all” answer. Some owners will find rolling over a one-month winter “AL” let to be a straightforward solution. Others will be willing to endure the doubled-up bureaucracy of opening a new winter long-term lease as a solution that merits the extra time and effort. Faced with a difficult choice, professional guidance is always the order-of-the-day.
Owners who remove their properties from Local Lodging and make them available for long-term letting can be spared mandatory CGT assessment. This push to long-term letting integrates the government’s package of proposals in the 2018 State Budget. Once confirmed, this measure will be the only Capital Gains Tax refuge once an owner stops an “AL” activity.
Vancouver, CA has passed new regulations banning homeowners from renting out certain kinds of property on short-term rental platforms like Airbnb as part of an attempt to cope with a shortage of long-term rentals. Owners may still rent out room individually or let their principle residence on a temporary basis when on holiday. The city will charge an annual licensing fee of C$49 (€32.80).
To promote the languishing traditional letting, the Government is studying fiscal incentives for landlords who choose to enter into up to 10 year lease contracts with their tenants. One of measure under consideration is to reduce the 28% rate currently applied, as revealed in the “Jornal de Negócios”.
Living in Lisbon is increasingly expensive. The tourist boom in recent years has triggered rental price hikes in the country’s capital. The latest study reveals that apartment leases rose 23% in 2016, to an average of €830 per month. In the Chiado district, purchase costs average €6,700 per square metre.
Private student residence letting is a burgeoning business that reconciles some of the vagaries of short term lets common in local lodging with the stability of medium term rentals while avoiding the ongoing commitments endemic in long-term leases. In university cities like Lisbon, Porto and Coimbra, the average price for a student room currently runs around €350 per month.
The holiday accommodation platform, Airbnb, is interested in offering long-term lets to help its customers base find homes to live in. This initiative builds on the company’s already existing experience. Since 2011, Airbnb has included a sub-lease section on its website in more than 5,000 cities, listing houses and apartments for rent by the month.
The gradual end of rent control is still creating market distortions according to a comprehensive report recently published in the Financial Times. While the number of frozen rents (with contracts signed before 1990) is constantly shrinking, many are still skeptical that property owners will someday prefer long-term leases over the lucrative Local Lodging option, even in a completely liberalized market concludes the FT report.