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


6 April, 2021 6:05 pm

Hi, we would like to put up a small wooden one-bedroom cabin in our (large) back garden – will we need planning permission?
And do you need permission to put a caravan or mobile home in our garden?

Many thanks for your help.

Oscar Paoli

7 April, 2021 10:25 am


Yes, it is necessary to have a license to put a wooden shed in the garden since it is a permanent structure. You need to comply with the regulations for buildability, setbacks, maximum occupancy of the plot, height, etc.

The same is applicable for a caravan or motorhome if you are going to leave it fixed on the plot. It is difficult for the city council to know if it is used as a house or it is simply parked. For example, if you move the caravan or motorhome a few meters each year and do not make a concrete platform for it, it can be understood that it is not a permanent element.

Regarding the “mobile home” or pre-constructed houses, the same applies as for the wooden house. As it is permanent, it does need a license unless it keeps elements that allow it to move. Any type of pre-constructed house that is not movable, is anchored to the ground or has the corresponding foundation, will be considered for all purposes as a conventional home.

Hope this information is useful and please do not hesitate to contact us should you have any further queries.

With kind regards,

Ábaco Advisers

Parisa Amirkhosravi

24 April, 2021 6:25 pm

Hi I have a question about get permission and get Spanish passport. What should a man do to get this? If I bought a house helping me to get Spain citizenship? I leave in Iran but I’m planning to get one Schengen citizenship in Europe, can you help me about this? Thanks

Oscar Paoli

26 April, 2021 12:23 pm

Thank your for contacting us. Unfortunately we do not deal with the application process ouserlves, but we would recommend you to speak with our relocation adviser collaborator David Ruiz. He will go through everything with you, timing, documentation and costs. If you wish to contact him directly please send him an email at

With kind regards,

Ábaco Advisers

Andrew and Christine Bean

28 May, 2021 3:38 pm


We are writing to you to ask how much you charge to obtain an “obra menor”.

We live in Catral and had a kitchen and building company in August 2018 to change the existing kitchen into a study and the bedroom next door into a kitchen and we realized that they did not supply us with a licence. We are therefore looking to get this corrected.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Christine and Andrew Bean

Oscar Paoli

31 May, 2021 1:23 pm

Hi Andrew and Christine,

If the works are legalizable, that is, if it has been carried out in accordance with the minimum habitability requirements we could assist you in obtaining the license. We would need more details of the description of the works to confirm, but in the case that it is an “obra menor” our fees would be 200€ + fees and taxes from the town hall (approx 5% of the value of the works).

Should you wish to have more information or to get started with the service you may contact our colleague Jessica Martinez directly at

With kind regards,

Ábaco Advisers

warren hopper

27 July, 2021 7:58 am

do i need planning permission to have a pozo (bore hole) drilled n my land , if so who do i apply to and how. I am in Loja in Granada

Oscar Paoli

27 July, 2021 8:11 am

Hi Warren,
Yes, you will need a permit for this, you will have to visit your local Town Hall and start the application process there.
With kind regards,
Ábaco Advisers


7 February, 2022 12:33 pm

Hola quiero saber si es cierto, que un supermercado, u otro typo similar de construccion, se puede instalar en mi jardin. O sea, que si tengo un jardin, muy grande, y este es requerido por su localizcion,para construir un edificio or supermercdo, mi tierra puede ser ocupada, sin mas no mas.
Gracias si me puedes aclarar esto.

Oscar Paoli

8 February, 2022 9:36 am

Buenos días,
Habría que ver su caso en particular para ver la viabilidad o no de una expropiación de este tipo.
Si quieren más información no duden en contactarnos a través de correo electrónico en el email
Muchas gracias!


20 June, 2022 2:26 pm


I’m thinking about having a aluminium gazebo (4×3) installed in my garden it would be bolted to the tiled patio and have a solid bolted on roof. Do you think I will need planning as I see this as a temper structure?


Oscar Paoli

21 June, 2022 7:53 am

Hi Richard,
Thank you for contacting us.
For any works, you will need permission from the town hall. If it is a fixed roof, depending on the town hall it would be a major work, in that case you would even need an architect too in the process. The best thing is to check with your local town hall.
Should you need assistance with this service do not hesitate to contact us at
With kind regards,
Ábaco Advisers


22 June, 2022 3:01 pm


We are looking at buying a townhouse and have discovered that the property has not been legalised in terms of the bodega and roof terrace / roof kitchen (the property is apparently listed as 3 floors and it is in fact 5).. We are being told that this is quite common and the vendors, while they will apply for land registration (which I assume means that the property would be changed to 5 stories), will not seek retrospective planning permission, meaning all of the risk would sit with us if we go ahead.. Also we believe that permission could only ever be for a store room and not a roof kitchen.

We are struggling to find a path through this and it would be good to understand:
– the scale of the risk to us if we proceed and the chances of having it rejected (and implications from there)
– the likely cost of trying for retrospective planning permission
– if this is the sort of thing you would be interested in helping us with if we go ahead.

Any help, gratefully received!

Oscar Paoli

8 July, 2022 7:50 pm

It is difficult to calculate the risks and costs without more information about the age or magnitude of the works. It would also be interesting to know if the property is within a community of owners.

Also the applicable regulations may vary depending on the region.

I would recommend that you send a specialised law firm to do a more in-depth legal check, as it is a very important step to be guided only by generic information.

Should you need our assistance we would be happy to help, you may contact us at or by phone at +34 966 703 750.

With kind regards,

Ábaco Advisers


27 June, 2022 3:09 pm

Do I need any planning permissions to erect a alumium Gazebo with a solid bolted on roof and the structure bolted to the terrace in the garden? measurements 4m by 3m.

Oscar Paoli

30 June, 2022 11:43 pm

Hi Richard,
Yes, you should contact your local town hall to get this permit.
With kind regards,
Ábaco Advisers

Mike adams

13 January, 2023 3:53 pm

Hi I just want to knock out an internal wall which has five french doors on it, just to make the apartment bigger inside. I know two neighbours who have done the same thing without permission. What do you suggest i do?

Oscar Paoli

16 January, 2023 9:53 am

Hi Mike,
We would recommend you get a building permission both from the community of owners and of course of your local Town Hall to avoid and issues.
With kind regards,
Ábaco Advisers


4 April, 2023 10:11 pm

You wrote:
“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.”
Is it also possible to file an application at the town hall (Alicante, Mutxamel) without an Architect?
We plan on buying an empty urban parcela and build COB buildings there.
All within the allowed 20% ration that we are allowed to build.
What documents would be need for the application at the town hall if we do it without an Architect?

Oscar Paoli

5 April, 2023 9:56 am

If you are dealing with major works you will need to hire an architect in any case. The architect must be a qualified professional and registered with the Colegio de Arquitectos, as the project and plans must be endorsed. Usually you will also be asked for a health and safety study signed by the architect.

The documentation that the town hall will ask for will depend on the type of plot and the works to be carried out. The architect will be able to give you more information and/or the Town Hall. You can also hire us to help you with the legal/documentation if you wish to do so.

Do not hesitate to contact us at

With kind regards,

Ábaco Advisers

Steve Kenny

1 May, 2023 11:43 am

Very interesting. Do you need an obra menor for landscapng?

Oscar Paoli

2 May, 2023 10:41 am

It will depend on the type of works, materials and constructions you are planning in installing.
If you wish more information do not hesitate to contact us at 0034 966 703 750.

With kind regards,

Ábaco Advisers


12 August, 2023 3:27 pm

Hello I am looking at purchasing a finca in Gata De Gorgos (Valencia), the land is rustic so i understand i cannot ever make the property larger than it is, on the cadastral documents the land is listed as rustic/agricultural and the finca is urban/industrial. Is it legal to live in this property? All the building i want to do to it is to put a pair of french doors in, maybe a window or a skylight to let some light in, since it is an industrial property is it likely this work would be permitted? or might they class this as a change of use ? It is listed as a finca (farmhouse) would this just require a license and no change of use or is it likely i’d never be able to live in it ?

Oscar Paoli

14 August, 2023 8:12 am

Hi Megan,
It is difficult to give you an answer without checking all the documents and checking with the legal authorities.
Should you wish to get more information you are more than welcome to contact us at and we will be happy to assist you.
With kind regards,
Ábaco Advisers