Spain Explained

Do you require planning permission in Spain? Find out how to get it

Did you know that even minor works to Spanish property need a planning permission? Many home owners in Torrevieja have found out to their cost that work they’ve had done has not been legalised. Here, we explain what might happen next.

Types of planning permissions in Spain

Improving their property is something that many people do once they have bought in Spain. It might be anything from building a swimming pool or a building extension to retiling or a new kitchen. What many people are unaware of is that they must have licences for this work.

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The building licences that you should apply for from your town hallare of two types:

  • The first ‘obra mayor’ is for major works such as building a swimming pool or a building extension.
  • The second ‘obra menor’ is for less extensive work such as refitting your kitchen or tiling.

If it’s a major work that you are engaged with then you need an architect’s project to accompany your application at the town hall. You should also make an application to the community of owners, if you belong to one, and have their agreement to go ahead. This will be decided at the AGM.

If it is a major work and changes the description of your property as shown at the Land Registry, then this should also be recorded on the property’s Title Deed, Land Registry and at the Catastral Registry. For example, the addition of a swimming pool or a building extension serves to alter the size and value of your property which is also a consideration when you come to sell or bequeath.

Tax implications of not getting a planning permission in Spain

There are implications for the tax man too. Your rateable value or valor catastral is dependent upon the size and nature of your property. If you have made adjustments to it, then your tax is affected as well. The failure of some home owners to register changes to their property at the Catastral Registry has led to town halls taking action claiming the tax due.

One example of this is in Torrevieja itself. A total of 825 new constructions have been identified as not having had the correct planning permission in Spain. It was during 2016 that the department of finance in the town set about doing an audit of properties to check on those that could be seen to have had building extensions and swimming pools without notifying the  authorities.

With new information collected from the air, investigators were able to match visual evidence with council tax bils.

It’s perhaps not surprising that they discovered quite a large number of properties that were at odds with what the records said about them.

This information has been passed to SUMA, the tax collection agency working for the town halls in the Alicante region, who have adjusted people’s council tax bills accordingly. This has come as something of a shock to some people who were faced not only with an increment for the current year but also charges for taxes from the last four years.

Of the 825 new constructions identified, 297 of these were swimming pools and 528 were additional buildings such as porches or extensions.  The project took two years and involved extensive field work, including the use of drones to access areas that were more difficult to reach. It’s believed that most of the illegal building work  took place between 2006 and 2018 with owners either being unaware of the requirements, or ready to take the risk of going ahead anyway.

Other consequences

The tax man amending his records is only one of the possible repercussions from the disclosure of illegal builds. The town council can now open files on property where it has been identified that the correct building licences are not in place and require property owners to legalise the situation.

Where the additional pools and building extensions are built upon urban land then it should be possible to legalise them. However, if the land is not designated for building or takes the amount of surface area used over the prescribed limit, it could even lead to a fine and/or demolition.

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If you have extended your property without the correct planning permission in Spain and have seen your council tax bill change then you know you have already been rumbled and should act immediately.

For others, who are unsure whether the building licences are there or not, our legal department can check on your behalf.

Help getting a planning permission in Spain

If you don’t have the necessary licences in place we can help you apply for retrospective planning permission before the tax man spots your home improvements too. You just have to fill our this form and we will offer you a free consultation without obligation.

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7 June, 2020 2:27 pm

Yes all very interesting but what are the limits?
If you have a plot 1800sq m a house 800sq m can you extend the property at all?
I understand you need this and that and the other but the question is can you make the property bigger or are you wasting your time?

Oscar Paoli

10 June, 2020 9:54 pm

Hello Steve,
The limits depend on the type of land on which the house is located and on the City Council in particular. I would recommend that you visit an architect to be informed of the applicable standards in your area, or if you wish to send us more details of your case to our legal department at we would be happy to assist you.
With kind regards,
Ábaco Advisers

A Taylor

19 July, 2020 7:23 am

Should the builder tell you if you need planning permission if you don’t know this yourself

Oscar Paoli

19 July, 2020 9:59 am

Hi Taylor,
They usually will inform you of the type of permisssion and cost involved in applying for it, usually they will also assist you in the process of requesting the planning permission.
With kind regards,
Ábaco Advisers

Mike and Tracy Pennington

26 November, 2020 4:44 pm

Hello, we are an English couple who have recently moved to Spain. We have bought a house in urbanisation Montecid, Alicante. The properties were built 13yrs ago by the Masa Group and are of prefabricated concrete construction. There is an under build which we are hoping to use as a self contained accommodation for visitors.
We intend to fit a small shower room and basic kitchen. This will include the installation of a macerator. We intend to fit a sliding patio door for entry/exit.
Do we need planning permission for this work?
Can you recommend a builder?
Mike and Tracy Pennington.

Oscar Paoli

26 November, 2020 5:21 pm

Hi Mike and Tracy,
Yes, you will need to have a building permission for this work you mention.
Unfortunately we do not have any builders that we can recommend at this time, sorry for any inconvenience caused.
Should you need any assistance with the building permission do not hesitate to contact us at or by phone at 0034 966 703 750.
With kind regards,
Ábaco Advisers


27 November, 2020 9:49 am


Do you have experience in dealing with rustica land and construction permits for earth homes? We are intending to buy a rustica land somewhere in Estremadura and build an off-grid cob house, I am a Mechanical Engineer currently working as a Sustainability and Building Physics Engineer. Would you have legal expertise in the field related to our aspiration?

Oscar Paoli

1 December, 2020 11:30 am

Dear Attila,
Unfortunately not many earth homes but we can surely assist you in the legal process.
You are more than welcome to contact us at or by phone at 0034966703748.
Kind regards,
Ábaco Advisers

Marilyn Hillyard

2 January, 2021 7:38 pm

Hi could you tell me if I need a licence to have a prefabricated aluminium car port erected please, I live in Orihuela Costa on an urbinisation where many owners already have them in their properties.

Oscar Paoli

4 January, 2021 11:26 am

Hi Marilyn,

Thank you for contacting us.

Yes, you will need a building license before installing the carport. Depending on the material it will be a major or minor work. As your will be of aluminum it would be a major building work license. It will also depend on whether the roof is completely covered or only by slats.

In any case, you must respect the setbacks to the street and the dividing walls with neighbours. And if it is a major work, you will also need to comply with the maximum occupancy and buildable meters on the property.

It is important that if you are within a neighborhood community, you ask for permission before starting the works as it alters the aesthetics of the complex.

Should you need any assistance please do not hesitate to contact us at

With kind regards,

Ábaco Advisers