Spain Explained

Clamp down on building work in Spain

Last updated on October 28th, 2019 at 05:10 pm.

Have you made any of these improvements to your Spanish property?

  • built a shed
  • enclosed your conservatory by installing windows
  • built a conservatory
  • built a swimming pool
  • paved the patio
  • increased the height of a wall
  • installed solar panels
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If you have or if you’ve made any other minor changes to the exterior of your home did you apply for planning permission? If you didn’t, you’d be well advised to start thinking about it now.

There has always been a legal requirement in Spain to obtain planning permission or licences for even minor works. However, the number of ‘reforms’ or Spanish home improvements that abound in many older urbanisations can give the impression that making changes to your property is an automatic right. It’s not.

You are required to obtain licences from the town hall and agreement from your community of owners before building work can take place. In some cases, unscrupulous builders have assured property owners that permission from the town hall isn’t necessary or that they have already received it for prospective projects. The only way to be certain that this is the case is to check for yourself with the town hall. You are the person held responsible for having the correct paperwork and not your builder.

Why worry now?

There has always been a risk in going ahead with these illegal improvements. However, the risks have increased due to new laws pending. The LOTUP (urban and landscape planning and zoning law) has already been approved by the Valencian government. Although it has still to pass through Parliament, it is likely that it will become statute in 2013. When it does it will have significant implications for property owners.

According to existing law, after a period of four years has elapsed the town hall can not take any action against you even if you have not received permission for your building work. The new law will mean that this period is extended to 15 years after the work has taken place. It’s retrospective too.  If you made changes to your property in 1999 you could still face action from the town hall even now.

Other features of the new law include:

  1. After the 15 years have elapsed, the refurbishment will still be considered illegal meaning that no additional work can be carried out on it.
  2. If building work has been carried out on ‘unsuitable’ land it will be demolished
  3. If you don’t ‘correct’ your omission either by applying for retrospective planning permission or returning your property to its previous state, your property can be removed from you by compulsory purchase in the most serious of cases.

These aren’t just empty threats. Orihuela Costa on the Costa Blanca is already tightening up on illegal building work and is issuing fines and giving owners a deadline of 15 days to set matters right before demolition. 14 demolition orders have been given so far and more are set to follow. The illegal builds that are being targeted include storage rooms, solariums, extensions, fences and walls.

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In Orihuela Costa, a dozen urban infringement cases are being processed every week. Not all of these will lead to demolition or a sanction but the worry is such that it is time to put your extension in order if you haven’t already. You can apply for retrospective planning permission and in view of the new law and the increasing vigilance of town halls, we would recommend that you do so.

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Malcolm cook

7 March, 2018 4:32 pm

What about the rule if you
What about the rule if you buy 10,000mtrs of land that you can build what you want without planning permission.

Suzanne O'Connell

9 March, 2018 12:55 pm

Hi Malcolm

Hi Malcolm

This would seem to be a rumour. Any construction, wherever it is, must be made according to a licence. The figure, 10,000 m2 is the minimum size of rustic land on which you might be able to build on. However, you would still need a licence. 


29 January, 2020 11:47 am

What is the situation regarding wooden pergolas? If a pergola is erected on your driveway with more than 2m distance from your nearest neighbour and totally free-standing is that going to need planning permission?

Oscar Paoli

6 February, 2020 11:29 am

Hi Ian,
Wooden pergolas do need building permits. Depending on the town hall and the type of pérgola and material you will need to apply for one or the other permit. It is important that you know that you must comply with the specific rules of the town hall and for their particular residential since the minimum distance could be more than two meters. We would recommend consulting your specific matter with your local Town Hall or an architect to check the regulations that apply in your case.
Of course we can help you with the paperwork if needed.
With kind regards,
Ábaco Advisers