Typical Student Accommodation Problems in Spain and How to Solve Them

acc2Student accommodation problems in a foreign country? No fun!

At first, it might be daunting to deal with a Spanish landlord on your own, or sometimes other students may have questionable kitchen hygiene standards. On occasion, even when you complain, some noisy neighbours don’t seem to care much about your beauty sleep.

So how can you best handle student accommodation problems in Spain? Below, we have put down some helpful information on:


In each section, we’ve also included some helpful Spanish phrases.

If your fuse box blows or there’s a major plumbing problem, you will need to call for help. Usually help comes from a student residence’s management or your landlord, but in some cases you may need to deal with the problem yourself.

Are your neighbours experiencing it?
Bear in mind that there may be an electricity cut, summer water restrictions or a broken water pipe in the area. Check if your neighbours are having the same problem.

Tripped fuse switches
A tripped fuse switch is a common problem in some Spanish houses. The wiring is not necessarily bad, but just not installed to have more than one or two appliances running from the same circuit. If you overload the circuit, the fuse switch trips for safety. Simply shutting down your appliances and flicking the fuse switch back up will resolve the problem. Not sure where the fuse box is? Ask your landlord for the cuadro eléctrico.

Gas and hot water
If the hot water in your apartment runs off gas, an empty gas bottle (“bombona”) or a blown-out pilot light could be the culprit. Your landlord should explain to you where to buy and how to install a replacement gas bottle, and how to light the pilot flame. Sometimes there may still be a little gas left in a bombona, but the gas pressure is so weak that the pilot light falters. Replacing the bottle should do the trick.
Here’s what to do if you cannot sort the problem out on your own:
1. Contact your landlord and explain the problem.
2. If you do not know what to do, stress that you need help urgently.
3. Ask for the matter to be seen to within 24 hours, if it is not within your ability to fix it.

Useful words and phrases:

Tap, washbasin, sink, toilet, bathtub, shower

El grifo, el lavabo, el fregadero, el water (pronounced ‘el bah-tehr’), la bañera, la ducha


Water pipe, water heater, pilot light

La tubería (de agua), el calentador de agua, la llama piloto


Electrical socket, light switch, fuse box

El enchufe, el interruptor, el cuadro eléctrico


The water/electricity has been cut off since ___ o’clock today and hasn’t come back on.

El agua/la luz se cortó a las ___ hoy y no ha vuelto desde entonces.


There’s no hot water.

No hay agua caliente.


There’s a leak in the kitchen/bathroom/boiler.

Hay una fuga de agua en la cocina/el baño/el calentador de agua.


The heating does not work.

La calefacción no funciona.


Where’s the fuse box?

¿Donde está el cuadro eléctrico?


I don’t know how to change the gas bottle, can you show me?

No sé como cambiar la bombona, ¿me puede enseñar?


It’s very cold. I need this to be fixed today/tonight/this weekend.

Hace mucho frío. Necesito que lo arreglen hoy/esta noche/este fin de semana.


Please send me a 24-hour plumber/electrician. I must have water/electricity.

Por favor envíame un fontanero/elecricista de urgencia. Necesito tener agua/luz.


The ___ isn’t working/won’t come on.

El/la ___ no funciona/no se enciende.


It’s very urgent.

Es muy urgente.


acc42. KEYS & LOCKS
Yep, we’ve all done it once or twice. Maybe you’ve left the keys inside, and the wind blew the door shut. Or maybe you got home at 4am to find you’d lost your keys… Calling your residential manager or your landlord may do the trick, but only during business hours. In the worst case, you’ll need to call directory inquiries (on 1212) and get a number for a locksmith. Either way, you’ll probably need to pay a lost key charge or a locksmith fee. The latter may run into 100-300 euros depending on the time of day, the type of lock and your area.

Key, keys, lock, the door

La llave, las llaves, la cerradura, la puerta


I’ve lost my key. / I’ve left my keys inside the house.

He perdido mi llave. / He dejado mis llaves dentro de la casa.


My key broke inside the lock.

Mi llave se rompió dentro de la cerradura.

Could you give me a number for a 24-hour locksmith in ____(city)?

¿Podría darme el número de un cerrajero de urgencia en ___?

How much will it cost?

¿Cuánto costará?

My address is…

Mi dirección es…

How quickly can you get here?

¿Cuánto tiempo tardará en llegar aquí?


If you’re staying in an all-inclusive student flat or residence, it’s fairly easy to get stuff fixed. Simply by reporting the problem to the residence’s management, you can get a broken toaster or an air con unit quickly fixed or replaced.

On the other hand, renting your own apartment directly from a local landlord means that you’ll occasionally need to deal with the owner, or workmen coming to fix or install something that’s broken or stopped working.

Here, the important thing is to explain to your landlord what happened. You’ll need to be clear about whether you caused the breakage or if it was simply a case of wear-and-tear. And then you need to find out how the item can best be fixed, agree on who pays for it, and how quickly it will be done. Sometimes you’ll need to chase the matter up if you don’t hear from anybody for a couple of days.

Useful phrases:

 Washing machine, toaster, microwave oven, hob (electric), hotplate (gas), oven

La lavadora, la tostadora, el microondas, la placa (vitrocerámica), la hornilla (de gas), el horno

TV, telephone, telephone, landline, DSL, fan, heater

El televisor, el teléfono, la línea de teléfono, el ADSL, el ventilador, la estufa/el calentador
Table, desk, chair, armchair, lamp, bed, sofa, sofa-bed

La mesa, el escritorio, la silla, el sillón, la lámpara, la cama, el sofá, el sofá-cama

Window, door, door handle, window/door frame, latch

La ventana, la puerta, el pomo de la puerta, el marco de la ventana/la puerta, el cierre
The ___ doesn’t work. / The ___ broke.

El/La ___ no funciona. / El/La ___ se ha roto.
I don’t know what happened.

No sé que ha pasado.

It wasn’t me, it just stopped working.

No he sido yo, simplemente dejó de funcionar.

It was me, I broke it.

Fui yo, lo/la he roto.

When can you replace it?

¿Cuándo puede reemplazarlo/la?


How long will it take?

¿Cuánto tardará?

When will the electrician/ technician come to repair/install it?

¿Cuándo vendrá el electricista/técnico a repararlo/instalarlo?

How much do I owe you?

¿Cuánto le debo?

Can you take it from my rental deposit?

¿Puede restarlo del depósito del alquiler?

I haven’t heard anything about the ___. Can you update me on what’s happening?

No he vuelto saber nada sobre el/la ___. ¿Puede decirme lo que está pasando?


When you share a flat, a room or a residence with other people, not everybody will have the same standards of cleanliness or respect for sleeping hours. Most purpose-built student residences will have rules and if they are broken to an excessive degree and there are complaints, they will be enforced by the staff. But sometimes it is necessary to deal with things on your own.

Here’s how to deal with noisy or messy people:

  1. Ask them to politely stop what they are doing, explaining how it affects you negatively.
  2. Thank them when they correct the situation.
  3. If they don’t stop, ask them again.
  4. If they continue, ask for a third time – then if you still get no results, refer to the next authority in line.

Don’t resort to leaving notes.
If you really believe in something, say it. Notes rarely work and tend to just create unspoken resentment.

Need extra help dealing with a complaint?
First, make sure that you have read and understood the flat or community rules. This will help you decide what is right and wrong. For example, most residential areas in Spain apply a no-noise law between 12 midnight and 7am. For someone coming from Scandinavia, 11.30pm can seem awfully late to be watching TV, but in Spain it is permitted.
A student residence, on the other hand, will have clear rules about cleanliness and noise. The staff will usually enforce these, if your complaint is reasonable.

If you think other people around you are affected by the problem, you can ask them for their opinion or help. They may be willing to deal with the situation together with you. But don’t try to force anybody to join you in your complaint – they may decide to just live with the problem. You then need to decide for yourself, how important the matter really is.

If you suffer with noisy neighbours when renting a private apartment, consult your landlord on a more formal complaint procedure, either through the building’s elected community president or administrator. They can usually send a formal letter to the problem-neighbour, asking them to stop whatever they are doing – there are usually firm community rules for noise and litter. In the worst case, call the police. The Spanish Police number for reporting disturbances is 060.

Useful phrases:

 Please, could you turn the music/TV down? I can’t sleep/study.

Por favor, ¿podría bajar el volumen de la música/la tele? No puedo dormir/estudiar.

Would you mind clearing up these plates/your things? I would like to cook/study here.

¿Te importaría quitar estos platos/tus cosas? Me gustaría cocinar/estudiar aquí?

Could you give the bathroom/kitchen/living room a clean? I’d like to use it, but it’s dirty/messy.

¿Podrías limpiar el baño/la cocina/el salón? Me gustaría usarlo, pero está sucio/desordenado.

Police? Could you please come and deal with a noise disturbance at ___ (street address)?

¿Policía? ¿Podrían venir por un problema de ruidos molestos de la casa del vecino en ____?


 SOME TIPS for making complaints in Spain

  • Be polite. You’ll get much further by expressing yourself in a nice and firm way, than being demanding or raising your voice.
  • Be patient. In Spain, things can sometimes take a little longer than they would in Northern European countries or the USA.
  • Take local customs into account. Weekends, bank holidays and local fairs are all times when businesses tend to close in Spain and you often have to wait until the next business day to get non-urgent matters seen to.

Treat others like you’d want to be treated yourselfacc7
Maybe somebody else is unhappy about the way you clean the bathroom after yourself or the loudness of your music? It’s always best to try and get along with others when you are sharing a flat. But if you genuinely feel that a flatmate is being unfair and you are not doing anything wrong, revert to the house or community rules, then ask yours residence manager or an impartial friend to adjudicate.

Changing accommodation if you are really unhappy
Finally, sometimes despite our best efforts to plan and look for the right place to live, we can be disappointed or unhappy with our student accommodation. If you are staying in Spain for a while and think your living situation is going to affect your studies in a negative way, you may be tempted to find another place to live. Always make sure you have another place ready, before handing in notice.

In some specific cases, UniSpain has helped students to change their accommodation mid-course. Students must bear in mind that whilst UniSpain always does everything in their power to help you, they cannot interfere in matters between you and a private landlord. If the accommodation is booked via UniSpain, then changes are usually possible, although a fee may be charged and there may be delays because of high season. You may also find that the new place will cost you a lot more than the previous one, so always weigh up your options carefully before you decide.

The good news?
When dealing with problems in Spain, remember that you are abroad, learning a new language and absorbing a new culture. Absolutely everything that happens can be turned into a perfect opportunity to practice your Spanish!

More information
Visit UniSpain’s blog for more tips on living in student accommodation in Spain or to find out more about UniSpain’s accommodation terms and conditions (explained in a simple way).



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