Spain Explained

A new urban law that affects rustic properties

Last updated on November 22nd, 2022 at 05:09 pm.

Did you know that even minor home improvements and refurbishments need planning permission in Spain? The town hall must give a licence for work to go ahead or you risk a hefty financial penalty. In this article we explain about building licences and what you can do if they’re missing.

You need permission whether it’s building a shed in your garden, turning your balcony into an enclosed conservatory or converting the children’s paddling pool into an Olympic-sized specimen.  You must apply to your local town hall for the go-ahead to carry out the work before even starting the project.

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If you are having home improvements made to your property then you should check that the correct licences have been applied for. Builders will sometimes indicate that either this isn’t necessary or they have made the application themselves. However, ultimately it is the owner who is responsible and you are liable for fines and sanctions if the correct permits are not in place. Failure to apply can even lead to the demolition or reversal of the project in the worst scenarios.

The regulations around clamping down on illegal building work have recently increased. For example, in the Valencia Region prior to new legislation, town halls would not usually take action against work done before the 20th August 2010 after four years had elapsed. Since this date, refurbishments and similar building work must have remained unchallenged for 15 years. After this, the town hall no longer had the legal power to intervene even though the work is still not entirely legal. However, this is now expected to change for rustic properties.

The project of new law

The law is changing and there are some important modifications in the Valencia Region that people should be aware of.  The  most  important  change  would  be,  in rustic areas there will be no time limit against illegal constructions. Whenever the work was done, you can be required to apply for the correct planning permissions. If the land is not considered to be suitable for the purpose you can even be required to demolish the work done. This may also happen in other regions of Spain shortly.

Illegal constructions are vulnerable if they are not legalised before this new law comes into force. No future renovations will be possible where the work is illegal and any building work can be demolished by the town hall. In addition, it will not be possible to declare any new works on deeds. In serious cases, failure or refusal to conform to the new legal requirements could lead to the compulsory purchase of your property.

If you are hoping to sell your property the buyer will want to purchase a totally legal and registered property. This will not be possible unless any refurbishments are legalised. Where a mortgage is being applied for then the bank will only value the property according to what is shown on the Land Registry.

Not worth the risk

Town halls are becoming increasingly vigilant and inspectors do check areas looking out for those who are making changes without the correct licences. It’s not worth the risk.

If it comes to light that there are illegal building works on your property, apart from the general fine, it is possible that you will receive an immediate sanction. The amount could range from anything between €600 and €3,000 for every month upto a maximum of ten months, depending on the severity of the breach. In addition, the town hall can impose a separate fine of between €200 and €2,000 for every ten days with a maximum of ten payments for carrying out illegal building work.

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Abaco advice

We strongly advise that you apply for any building licence before beginning building work on your property. If the work has already been completed and no licence is in place then you should apply for retrospective planning permission. You should also ensure that any completed work is added to the title deeds, particularly if you have a rustic property.

Our legal department can provide a personalised study of the possibility of obtaining the licence you need. They can also advise where you are at the stage of planning improvements to your property.

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Michael Holland

1 March, 2018 10:39 am

Surely the builder must take
Surely the builder must take responsibility for not getting the correct approval in the first place, or the town hall for turning a blind eye.
Corruption is rife in these areas even so called solicitors don’t know what to do just shrug their shoulders, useless.

Suzanne O'Connell

2 March, 2018 2:35 pm

Hi Michael

Hi Michael

I'm afraid it is your responsibility to make sure that you have the correct licences not the builders. 

Pauline Herridge

1 March, 2018 11:18 am

We live in hondon de los
We live in hondon de los frailes. Having some work done on our house eg pool etc. Went to town hall but were told no planning permission is being given at present. Lots of building and construction is going on around here and “deco y cons” are doing booming businesses. What does this all mean.?

Suzanne O'Connell

2 March, 2018 2:19 pm

The reason why they are not

The reason why they are not giving you a licence can depend on your individual circumstance. For example, it could be that it can't be licensed as it's not in accordance with local urban legislation. Alternatively it could be a general prohibition because local legislation is being reviewed. We would be able to check this for you but would need copies of documentation and there would be a charge for this service. 

Ged askew

20 September, 2018 7:19 pm

Hi there I’ve been looking at
Hi there I’ve been looking at a property to purchase near montroi I have been informed that the property is built on rustic land and I have plans on building an outdoor kitchen/bbq pellero area and a car port, do I need permission or would I be granted permission as this is only out buildings and not part of the main house.

Suzanne O'Connell

26 September, 2018 2:11 pm

Hi Ged

Hi Ged

Thank you for getting in touch. However, where a property is built on rustic land it is best for you to obtain advice from someone who knows the local situation. There can be many local regulations that you must comply with and you will need a concrete legal study of your own individual case. 

Angie Harrison

29 October, 2018 10:42 am

Hi, would this also apply to
Hi, would this also apply to putting in new windows? No change in size. Mine are rotten as they are wood and want to replace for more modern ones.

Suzanne O'Connell

5 November, 2018 1:07 pm

Hi Angie

Hi Angie

Unfortunately, yes it would apply. You also have to apply for a licence at your local town hall. If you need assistance please do not hesitate to contact us by email at 

Linda Willmont

10 January, 2019 8:54 am

We have put down a deposit to buy a 3 bed bungalow at El Faro, Andalusia. The owners have built a 2 bed 1 bathroom apartement underneath the bungalow, hidden from view also have terraced the whole garden , added walls and altered the roof terrace. The solicitor working for us has not replied to our emails asking if this has the correct planning permission . If this work has been carried out illegally what sort of fines would incur if found out and would we get our deposit back.

Suzanne O'Connell

15 January, 2019 1:29 pm

Hi Linda

Hi Linda

If these new constructions were not foreseen in the commercial documentation provided by the builders or agency they have the right to terminate the contract since it would be misleading advertisement. That is to say, if when you decided to buy, they gave you a brochure or documentation of how the house will  be, showing common areas, views etc. and then when the house is built, these photos that were seen do not conform to reality, the buyer has the right to terminate the contract and claim back the amounts delivered under conditions that are stated in the contract. 

If the new works appear in the documentation but are different from what was agreed or do not have a licence,then the same applies. The buyer has the right to request his money back. However, each case must be studied separately. In some cases it is possible to keep the house by being compensated for the loss of value of the house due to the new constructions. 


22 November, 2022 2:46 pm

Thank you for this insightful article. Does this refer to the Andalusia property law? of is it a National law? if yes could you please give the name of it. I am trying to read up about it but am having problems finding it. Thank you again for taking the time to write this article.

Oscar Paoli

22 November, 2022 4:03 pm

Hi Julia,

This is now an outdated law and this one in specific is related to the Valencia region unfortunately.

With kind regards,

Ábaco Advisers

Julie Schreter

8 January, 2023 7:05 pm

We are looking at a farm with farm buildings on but no residential property. The mayor has said he would look favourably on a plan for conversion and planning permission. Can we put a plan forward to gain building permissions using existing farm buildings to live in before we purchase ?

Oscar Paoli

10 January, 2023 10:16 am

Hi Julie,
To be able to answer correctly to your query we would need to have more information of the property, type of land, in which Town Hall the farm is located, etc. Should you wish to contact us do not hesitate to do so at
With kind regards,
Ábaco Advisers


20 February, 2023 6:18 pm

I am looking at buying a property that has had internal work done without a permit. They have turned the ground floor into a living space where it was a carport.

How difficult is it to get the retrospective permits if I purchase?

Oscar Paoli

21 February, 2023 10:23 am

Hi Matt,
We would have to check if it is possible to legalize these works as you are not able to get a retrospetive permit. Should you wish to email us more information do not hesitate to do so at
Best regards,
Ábaco Advisers


12 April, 2023 7:48 am

Dear Suzanne,
I am looking to buy a Almarcen 300m2 that is built on rustic land, (Valencia area) What I don’t understand is why the land is rustic, it has houses backing on to it from three sides , then a shared asphalt road in front. Walking distance to the pueblo. Is it possible to change the land to urban? And if so how do I go about it? the land is 1,700m2
Thank you in advance.

Oscar Paoli

5 May, 2023 1:45 pm

Hi Tina,
This is not an easy issue, this must be arranged by the town hall. You may contact them to see if they can assist you.
With kind regards,
Ábaco Advisers

Ron fox

3 May, 2023 7:35 am

You specifically mention external building work,extensions etc. Is permission required for internal work.i.e, removing a toilet that is badly positioned,or changing the position of internal doors?

Oscar Paoli

5 May, 2023 2:03 pm

Yes, you should still apply for a permission for this.
With kind regards,
Ábaco Advisers