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Alojamento Local (AL)

If you buy a property in Portugal that you’re not going to use as your main residency, at least not in the short term, you may want to grab the chance of getting a return on your investment by renting it out to tourists. This activity is called in Portugal “Alojamento Local“.

Portugal is one of the most sought-after tourism destinations in Europe, generating many business opportunities. Its diversified landscape ranges from the mountainous north to the warm, plain south lined with long golden beaches in the Algarve and includes the paradisiac, unspoiled islands of the Azores and Madeira archipelagos. In these cities, among the safest to visit, tourists can feel the genuine Portuguese hospitality and experience the taste of delicious gastronomy and surprisingly unique wines. 

“Construir Portugal”: Alojamento Local Updates 2024

In light of the housing crisis in Portugal, a habitation program called ‘Mais Habitação‘ was set in motion by the previous Portuguese government in 2023. Included in that program were:

  • The ban of new AL licenses in high-density municipalities;
  • IMI and IRS property income tax exemption for owners of existing ALs who decided to put their properties on the regular rental market;
  • An extra levy for Alojamento Local, “IHRU”.

As of May of 2024, these measures have all been revoked. Alojamento Local rulings are back in the hands of each municipality. So, if you plan on getting an AL license for your property, you should definitely check where your ‘Câmara Municipal’ stands. 

Since this decision is recent, high-density areas are will working out how to get back on their feet regarding this short-term renting model. But, if you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact us! 

alojamento local portugal map municipalities
In white - Hight-density municipalities © Portuguese Government
Frederik Pohl
Frederik Pohl, CEO
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What is Alojamento Local?

Alojamento Local or AL (that translates literally to “Local Accommodation”) establishments in Portugal are those that provide temporary accommodation services, namely to tourists, for remuneration, as long as they don’t meet the requirements to be considered tourist resorts. In simple terms, it corresponds to the commercial use of a property for short-term rentals to tourists.

When you purchase a property in Portugal in order to rent it to tourists, there are many options, as tourism is well-established in most parts of the country. However, the bigger the city, the more AL offers and opportunities you’ll find. 

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Types of Alojamento Local in Portugal

Tourists coming to Portugal choose a specific type of AL to be accommodated in depending on their vacation goals: it might be the destination as a whole, the proximity to the city center, a comfortable and spacious place to stay, services and amenities or privacy, among other things. The Portuguese AL offer is vast and contemplates all sorts of needs and tastes.

The AL establishments are categorized according to the types of units of accommodation and include:

  • Residences: the accommodation unit is an autonomous building of single-family character;
  • Apartments: the accommodation is an autonomous fraction of a building or part of an urban building susceptible to independent use. The feasability of the renting in apartments has to be check with the condominium and the city hall;
  • Lodging establishments (like hostels): the lodging units consist of up to 9 rooms (or up to 30 clients), integrated into an autonomous fraction, in an urban building or part of an urban building susceptible of independent use;
  • Rooms: accommodation consisting of up to 3 rooms within the owner’s property.
What are the capacity limits of an Alojamento Local?

AL establishments may have a maximum capacity of 9 rooms and 30 users, with the exception of hostels, which have no capacity limit, and rooms – that can only be 3 in the owner’s residence.

In terms of users, AL capacity is determined by the characteristics/size of the dwellings. It cannot exceed the number resulting from multiplying the number of rooms by 2. In the case of apartments and houses, it’s possible to accommodate 2 additional users in the living room. In all types of housing,  provided there are living conditions, up to 2 additional beds can be installed for children up to 12 years of age.

How many apartments can be allocated to alojamento local in a building in Portugal?

Under the AL apartment modality, each owner or Alojamento Local operation holder may operate more than 9 units per building if they do not exceed 75% of the number of its existing fractions or independent parts.

For the purpose of calculating the number of units, apartments registered in the name of the spouse, descendants, and ascendants of the owner or operation holder are considered, as well as those registered in the name of different legal entities, where there are common shareholders.

What price should you charge for your AL?

Once you have concluded your initial research, you will have a general idea of the price to charge for your Alojamento Local. The value you establish should take into account these important factors:

  • Be within a price range that can compete successfully with other short-term rentals in the same category as yours;
  • Not underestimate the importance of your unique value offer – be it an outstanding service, an unforgettable experience, or a truly unique location and surroundings. Price isn’t the only factor!
  • Set a pricing strategy and seasonal accommodation rates.

Calculate an average price per night that takes into account fixed costs. Setting up a pricing strategy assures your AL won’t be out on the market at a rate that’s lower than it should.

Establish which will be the high and the low season, according to the calendar and the demand for your specific alojamento local location characteristics (for instance, in the mountains of Serra da Estrela, winter is considered a high season because it is a snow destination). Don’t forget to check out all the festive days and holidays, not only in Portugal but also in your international client’s country of origin. Adjust your rates according to these factors.

alojamento local portugal

Starting an Alojamento Local: Step-by-step guide

Step 1: Confirm if the building/house is in an AL authorized zone

To preserve neighborhoods and affordable rent for locals, Portuguese municipalities can define containment zones (‘zonas de contenção’), which are all those that exceed 25% of the available housing allocated to alojamento local. There are also temporary suspension zones for areas between 10% and 20% of the available housing related to this activity.

In these zones a limit is set on the number of alojamento local establishments – a single owner can only operate a maximum of 7 lodgings and the corresponding licenses are personal and non-transferable.

Right now, July 2023, you can only set up new AL in certain municipalities, located mostly in inland Portugal. The city centers of Lisbon and Porto are prohibited, for example. 

Step 2: Know that the condominium board has decision-making power

If you want to open an AL in a building on horizontal property with autonomous fractions, you can only do so with the authorization of the other condominium owners. If more than half of the condominium owners oppose the accommodation, it cannot be an AL

Step 3: Open an independent activity at the tax office

After having obtained your Portuguese Tax Number (NIF), you have to go to the Portuguese Tax and Customs Authority portal or to a tax office to declare the opening of your activity as an independent contractor (Atividade Independente). Although you can do that online, we recommend registering on-site, as the online process isn’t that simple and most probably you’ll have doubts that can be answered on-site.

You have two options regarding your income declarations and taxation:

  • Category B (self-employed, business, and profession AL income): start an activity with the code of economic activity (CAE) 55201 – furnished accommodation for tourists, or CAE 55204 (other short-stay accommodation). If the income you make is up to 200 000 euros, you will be framed under the simplified tax regime. If the income surpasses that amount, you are obliged to have an organized accounting system, with a professional AL accountant.
  • Category F (property income): for taxation purposes, all your income can be considered or, in the alternative, choose to tax the property at a 28% rate.

Depending on your specific situation, the best option may not be obvious. We suggest seeking professional AL advice from an accountant for this decision since it will have an impact on your finances.

Step 4: Register the alojamento local

The registration of alojamento local establishments is a necessary and compulsory condition for their operation. The registry process starts with prior communication with a deadline addressed to the mayor of the municipality in which your alojamento local is located.

This prior notice must include information such as

  • The valid title of use of the property
  • The name adopted by the establishment
  • Its modality and the capacity of rooms, beds, and users

It has to include several documents, among which are

  • A term of responsibility
  • Copies of the urban land register
  • Copies of the declaration of commencement of activity
  • Testimony of the condominium owners approval

You can proceed to the registry by accessing the Balcão do Empreendedor (BdE – meaning “Entrepreneurs’ Counter”), accessible through the EPortugal Portal, through the Tourism of Portugal Portalor even by accessing the websites of the municipalities.

The registry procedure gives each request the registration number of the AL establishment if the competent city council doesn’t object to it (within 10 days or, in the case of a hostel, 20 days). The registry number acts as the valid title. With it, you are allowed to begin your AL operation and advertise it, including on platforms like Airbnb and Booking, which require that number.

Step 5: Subscribe to compulsory civil liability insurance

The Portuguese law states that whoever operates a alojamento local unit is “jointly and severally liable with guests for damage caused by the latter to the building in which the unit is installed“. Thus, the person in charge of the establishment is obliged to take out an insurance policy that covers fire risks and property and non-property damage caused to guests and third parties.

The insurance must be contracted immediately and its non-existence may lead to the cancellation of the registration, meaning that your alojamento local license will be revoked.

alojamento local portugal

Be prepared for the municipal council inspection

At the end of the 30-day period following the prior notice with a deadline to the municipal council, there’s a mandatory inspection of the alojamento local to verify its compliance with all the requirements

Here are the legal obligations that the alojamento local must provide its guests on every visit, whose compliance the inspection will verify:

  • Fire extinguisher;
  • Fire blanket;
  • First aid kit;
  • Visible explanation of the 112 emergency number;
  • Information on the availability of a complaint book (both in paper and digital format)
  • House instruction book in 4 languages (two of those being Portuguese and English), that contains information such as neighbourhood and house rules and contacts of the AL owner/manager
  • Acrylic identification plate “AL” affixed

General requirements of an alojamento local

AL establishments must comply with certain legal requirements:

  • Present conditions of conservation and operation of facilities and equipment;
  • Connection to the public water supply and sewage system;
  • Have a window or bALcony with direct communication to the exterior;
  • Be equipped with adequate furniture, equipment, and utensils;
  • Have a system to seal off the entrance of exterior light that ensures adequate ventilation and aeration conditions;
  • Have doors equipped with a security system that ensures the privacy of the users;
  • The sanitary facilities must have a security system that guarantees privacy;
  • Always meet hygiene and cleaning conditions.

AL establishments with a capacity of 10 people or less, must also meet safety requirements, but simpler ones:

  • Fire extinguisher and fire blanket accessible to users;
  • First-aid equipment accessible to users;
  • Indication of the national emergency number (112) in a place visible to users.

If the capacity exceeds 10 people, the alojamento local must comply with the rules against fire according to legislation: DL N.º 220/2008 and Portaria N.º 1532/2008.

Your Duties as an alojamento local owner

Communicate the entry and exit of foreigners to AIMA

The Portuguese Agency for Integration, Migration and Asylum (AIMA) requires that the responsible for AL national apartments and hotels communicate the data of all foreigners that use them – the person who makes the reservation and the other guests. The demanded data is:

  • Name;
  • ID card number;
  • NationALity;
  • City in which the guests were before arriving at this property;
  • City to which the guest is going.
Charge City Taxes

Some Portuguese municipALities have implemented the Municipal Tourist Tax (Taxa Municipal Turística) on overnight stays. It’s a fee charged to all guests staying in tourist or alojamento local developments in cities where the tax is in effect. Adding to the room rate, an extra amount is charged, per night and per person. For instance, in Lisbon, it’s mandatory to charge a nightly occupancy tax of €2 per person and stay, excluding children under 13, for a maximum of 7 nights.

What AL expenses are deductible?

If the property is only partially used as an AL, only 25% of the expenses will be considered as deductions. The deductible expenses include:

  • 4% of the property value of the property
  • Insurance
  • Electricity
  • Water
  • Gas
  • Cleaning
  • Commissions are paid to platforms such as Airbnb, Booking, or HomeAway.

As tax legislation is frequently subject to changes in Portugal, please do check all the updated relevant information at the time you decide to go forwards with your alojamento local business.

AL tax obligations

From the moment you start operating your alojamento local services, these are the tax obligations you’ll have to fulfill:

  • Issue invoice receipts (recibos verdes) through the AT Portal or pass invoices;
  • Pay the value-added tax (IVA): if your annual income is beyond the amount of 10.000€, you are exempted from this obligation. Once this value is surpassed, you’re demanded to pay a 6% tax on the invoiced amounts. In this case, you must submit the correspondent tax return by means of a periodic quarterly declaration, easily accessible at the AT online portal.
  • Pay Personal Income Tax (Imposto para o Rendimento das Pessoas Singulares – IRS).
  • Extra IHRU tax of 15% on Alojamento Local located in high density regions, as of July 2023

To be sure you have all the correct information for your specific situation and are compliant with all the legal obligations, we advise you to consult a specialized accountant. We at Pearls of Portugal can assist you in this demand by counseling you to our trusted, experienced professional partners.

How to make your alojamento local visible and profitable

Create your alojamento local website

One good way to give your alojamento local visibility is to have your own alojamento local website. You can do it by yourself with a small investment in a WordPress pre-built theme, domain name purchases, and server hosting. An advantage of having your own website is that you can create a direct sales channel, that answers with no delay the client’s questions. You can include a direct reservation option in it and settle your deals directly from your website.

Advertise on alojamento local online platforms

An alternative way to get more immediate visibility and put your new business on the map, as well as gain reputation and trust with customers, is to advertise your alojamento local on the best available platforms. Booking, Airbnb, HomeAway, Rentalia, Trip Advisor, and Expedia are among the most known advertising and reservation platforms. But not all might be the best fit for you.

Our advice is that, firstly, you determine your business profile based on the type of accommodation you offer and the audience segment you want to target. Then you are prepared to decide which platform meets those needs to the best extent. Even then, to maximize your reach, diversification is key: consider advertising on at least 4 different platforms, including the ones with a broader reach, like Booking, and those which are more niche-segmented, such as Vrbo. These platforms obviously charge commissions, so it’s a cost that has to be budgeted for in your business.

Invest in good quality photos

A detailed description of the property and its surrounding is very important to inform and attract clients, but having a gallery of good quality photos might take your AL a long way and set it apart from your competitors. Consider hiring a professional, specialized photographer to capture your alojamento local best features in the most appealing way. You could even add a professional video for a more immersive virtual experience.

How Pearls of Portugal can help

As the leading real estate buyer’s agent, we at Pearls of Portugal grant you the best guide to alojamento local in Portugal. Our goal is to help you find the best possible solution to gain a sustainable return on your house purchase investment in this country. We work with professional partners to assist you all the way, so don’t hesitate in asking for our help!

Frederik Pohl
Frederik Pohl, CEO
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