Created a year ago by the outgoing government to encourage so-called black-market holiday home rentals to “come on board”, the ‘Alojamento Local’ law is now under fire from all directions.
At the last of the four sessions held in Faro to explain how the law works, president of the AL association Eduardo Miranda said many people who had originally signed up for the scheme were now rethinking.
“There have been many cancellations,” he explained. “There are many new people joining up, but also, a year on, when they feel the obligations, many people rethink”.
And with new clauses being discovered along the way, Miranda’s fears are that more and more businesses will return “underground”.
One of the latest “obstacles”, he explained, are new ‘taxes’ that have suddenly crept in, like the requirement for businesses involved to pay commercial water rates.
“Of all the obstacles that we could imagine that make legalisation difficult, in terms of cost, this is simply the largest,” he told the meeting. It could make a “sizeable chunk” of potential AL ‘business’ look the other way.
Miranda’s words come after another shock was discovered in the small print of this new legislation by operators in Monchique – an area known for its wonderful-tasting spring water.
In simple terms, the AL law forces everyone involved, who is not on mains water, to “sterilise” their supply with a chemical cocktail that includes “residual traces of chlorine”.
The argument is that this way people choosing AL in areas not serviced by mains water will not run the risk of picking up bacteria that could lodge in pipes and other equipment as it is pumped into properties from boreholes and water mines.
But locals who set up their businesses on the basis that Monchique is a natural paradise, refreshed by pure spring water, are in despair, and a number told us in September that they were realising AL spelled nothing but major headaches.
Miranda erred on the side of diplomacy and told the meeting at which regional tourism boss Desidério Silva was present to eulogise the scheme that AL legislation must “avoid excessive bureaucracy and apply obligations according to the real dimension of each lodging business”.
For the time being, the issue concerning commercial water rates is to be further discussed by the Intermunicipal Community of the Algarve.