Getting your property classification

In Croatia, every rental property for tourists must be inspected and registered before it can be legally let. Like a hotel, it receives a classification depending on its level of facilities, and the certification plaque must be displayed. This process is normally only done once, at the start of the property’s rental life – it is very unusual for it ever to be inspected again. During the rental season, tourist police patrol and any occupied property they find without certification can be closed down and the owners fined. This really does happen: don’t even think about running your property on the black, they are scarily efficient! 

 

Property preparation

So what needs to be done to get your tourist classification? A lot of this depends on whether you are arranging the classification personally or working through an agent (see below). Whichever route you take, you need to be aware of what’s required a long time in advance, starting before you buy your place!

 

1.     Buy a suitable property

First step is buying the right type of property and by that, I don’t just mean one which will rent well to tourists: I mean one which is eligible for a tourist classification, and by no means all foreigner-owned properties are. For more on this see ‘Buying a rentable Croatian property’.

 

2.     Meet rules & regulations

The second step is to make sure your property meets the necessary rules and regulations. The list is long and detailed, but available on-line on the Narodne Novine site. It comes in the form of a table (in Croatian) showing what is needed for a 2*, 3*, 4* or 5* categorisation. At first glance it may seem rather daunting, but don’t panic. It’s very straightforward: most of the items are common sense and cover things you would be doing anyway.

Not every property will want, or get, a 5* categorisation (most people aim for 3*, as 4* and 5* are very difficult to achieve). You need to check which star-rating best fits your property, based on it meeting (or capable of being modified to meet) the appropriate criteria.

There are a range of forms depending if your property is old (built pre-1991), or new. For each there is a choice of house (kuca), apartment (apartman), studio-apartment (studio apartman) or room (soba). These are all basically similar, with small variations.

As an example, click here for a copy of the form for a pre-1991 house. I’ve added an English translation so you can see what’s needed. Please note that for definition purposes, to be considered a house, the property must be totally detached. Terraced, or semi-detached houses are classified as apartments and should use the apartment form. 

When equipping your place, while you need to provide everything mentioned in the list, remember you should consider that your starting point. To ensure your property rents well, make sure you also add anything you think makes a holiday house a ‘home’.

 

3.     Check additional requirements

I would also check with your local Tourist Classification official, to see if there are any additional local additions or variations. She/he should be based in your municipal council (Opcina) offices, not your local ones. Using my place as an example, Kovaci is part of Kaštelier, which in turn is part of Porec. Both Kaštelier and Porec have council offices, but the Tourist Classification official for all is based in Porec.

Regulations may vary from area to area, but I would expect them to be largely similar. As an example, here’s what you can expect in the Porec region. As well as the official regulations, our classification representative is also very much concerned about safety. As she explained, especially with older properties, she’s often the only official who will ever see inside the place and must ensure any visiting tourist has a safe holiday.

This can lead to requirements that are not explicitly specified in the official form. Some examples of things to look out for:

  • All windows must be at least 80 cm off the ground: if not, there must a bar or bars across bringing the window to this height (so children can’t fall out).
  • Staircases must have vertical railings to prevent children slipping through.
  • Warning stickers should indicate where there is a need to duck (e.g. on an offending beam, when going up and down stairs).
  • All bedrooms must have doors.
  • If your pool terrace is 50 cm higher than the surrounding area, it will need railings to prevent people falling off.

 

4.     Fingers crossed

Final step is … keep your fingers crossed. Rules and regulations are constantly changing in Croatia and it’s often hard to keep up-to-date with the latest developments. So on the day of your inspection, keep your fingers crossed!. That said, our experience generally has been positive and, while it can seem a chore to modify things, generally we’ve found there are specific reasons. They’re not out just to make your life difficult!

 

Arranging inspection

Unlike Croatians, foreigners cannot let property privately and need to work through a company. You can either set up your own Croatian company (a long article for another day!) or work via an agent, who is often also a property manager.

Most Croatian property management companies also arrange tourist classifications. It’s often the first thing they do for their client. While it’s a good idea to be informed about what’s required, they’ll guide you through the process and liaise everything with the Council (Opcina). Please note, as the law currently stands (2013), the classification is taken out in their name and, if you should choose to sell your property at a future date, the classification does not go with the property (which may discourage a potential buyer if they are also looking to rent the property). It is hoped this law will change, but don’t hold your breath: check the status before you decide which route to take.

If you have your own Croatian company and wish to arrange it yourself, here’s what else you need to do.

1.     Application form

You will need to fill in an application form at the Opcina. These forms vary in layout by municipality but all cover the same information. You need to supply:

  • The address of the building.
  • Indicate whether it is a room, apartment, studio-apartment, house or other.
  • The level of categorisation you are seeking (i.e. the number of stars). This can be determined from the form mentioned above.
    • Indicate which of the following you are offering: just accommodation, bed and breakfast, half board or full board. Most often it is just accommodation and the forms I’ve mentioned cover this. There are other forms on the Narodne Novine site for the varying meal options with their additional requirements.
    • The number of bedrooms your property has and the number of people it will accommodate.
    • The parts of the year you want coverage for. There are two options:
      • the whole year (for this you need to provide heating)
      • the ‘season’ – this is a pre-defined 6-month period. In some municipalities it runs from April to September, in others it is May to October.
  • The form needs to be signed and stamped with your company stamp (a ‘pecat’, which you need for everything your company does!). If you are arranging this through an agency, they will fill in and stamp the form.

 

2.     Additional papers

As well as meeting all the requirements, ahead of your inspection you need to provide the tourist classification inspector with:

  • A copy of your company papers from the Trgovacki Sud (local court where the company is registered).
  • An official copy of the land book entry which shows you own your property (the Vlasnicki List). This must be less than six months old (but is available immediately on request) – see Buying a house in Istria – the paperwork ).
  • Scale drawings of the property (1:100) showing furniture in place.
  • Copy of the cadastral documents which show your house is eligible for renting (certificate that confirms it’s older than 1968, or an appropriate building permit – see Buying a house in Istria – the paperwork ).
  • 70 kn fiscal stamps.

Once the official is happy with your paperwork, the inspection should happen within a month.

When they come you must have available:

  • Emergency exit plans.
  • Copy of the rental price list.
  • Copy of ‘house rules’ (these are available in picture form on the internet  (or type ‘kucni red’ into Google). Just print the version you feel appropriate).

 

Closing things out

If the inspector finds a problem, and with the long list of requirements, it’s quite likely they will, don’t panic. You will usually be given time to correct the error and provide proof the work has been done. Sometimes this involves a second inspection, sometimes photographs are sufficient.

When the inspector is satisfied, you will receive the official notification (‘Rjesenje’) by post. You now have your official tourist classification and can rent your holiday home. There’s just one more thing you need to do – you must obtain an official certification plaque and display it along with a company sign where they can be seen. These are the main things the tourist police look for during inspection.

Done all that? Congratulations, you’re now ready to welcome your first guests!

Please note, all information was correct for Istria when this article was posted in February 2013. However, as laws in Croatia have a habit of changing often and suddenly, and can vary from area to area, please don’t take everything written here as gospel – double check. At least having read this, you will know more about what you need to know.

Many thanks to my property managers, Elbina and Iris, at Solis for their assistance with this article. If you have any further questions on this process, they’re happy to help: Elbina speaks English; and Iris, German and Italian.

 

Also see:

 

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