Spain Explained

Improve your property, but legally

Last updated on October 28th, 2019 at 03:53 pm.

Perhaps you’ve got your eye on a bargain, or it’s just time to make some changes to your house in Spain. It’s a good time to refurbish property, just make sure that the Town Hall know what you’re doing too.

Jessica Martínez, from our Legal Department, tells us there is no doubt that you can pick up a bargain in Spain. Since the crisis of 2008, the price of many houses here have dropped dramatically and you can certainly get your money’s worth when it comes to investing in a Spanish property.

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However, just a word of caution. Virtually all home improvements must have planning permission. From building a shed in your garden to installing a swimming pool; whether you’re replacing some tiles or extending your patio. Licences are required for the work to legally go ahead.

My neighbours haven’t got one

You’re thinking of refurbishing your property and mention to Mr Smith next door. The conversation goes something like this:

You: I want to add a conservatory to the front. We’ve got lots of outside space that we hardly use at all in the summer. Who put up your conservatory for you?

Mr. Smith: We use ours a lot and it didn’t take long to build. Wasn’t too expensive either. I can recommend the builder if you like.

You: Do they get the planning permission too? Our solicitor says we need to apply for a licence.

Mr. Smith: You don’t need a licence. We haven’t got one and neither has Mrs. Brown at number 54. You don’t want to believe these solicitors. They’re only after making money for themselves.

Be warned! It may well be that Mr Smith and Mrs Brown didn’t obtain a licence for their conservatories, but they should have done. Many people go ahead with their home improvements taking the word of the local ‘expert’ that licences aren’t needed.

It is unlikely that the minute the last stone is laid a representative from the Town Hall will pop up and wag his finger at you.

Spanish Town Halls tend to work a slightly a different way and your conservatory might go unnoticed for many years. Until…

  • You come to sell your property and the sale falls through as the records don’t match the current property
  • There are problems if your inheritors would like to sell
  • You need to apply for a mortgage
  • The Town Hall does one of its checks.

It’s true that sometimes illegal building work has not been followed up. There was even a kind of amnesty that came into place after four years had passed (15 years for works done after August 2014 in Comunidad Valenciana). However, new legislation means that now, in rustic areas, there probably 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.

The builder has got it for me

You, as the owner, are responsible for applying for the licence at the Town Hall. It depends on the extent and kind of refurbishment whether you need an architect’s plan or not. For a larger construction such as a swimming pool or extension then you will be required to have this.

Be cautious again if you find yourself in a conversation such as this:

You: I’d like you to start as soon as possible, although don’t we need planning permission first?

Builder: That’s no problem. I can do that for you. We don’t have to wait.

You: But my solicitor tells me that I have to apply to the Town Hall

Builder: Look, I do works like this all the time. There’s no problem with me making a start. I know the people at the Town Hall, there’s no problem with the licences.

Of course, the majority of builders are reputable and will give you sound advice on this point. However, as in the example above, others are not and be warned if you have not had to be involved in an application. It’s likely that a licence doesn’t exist at all.

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What should I do?

If you are considering going ahead with some home improvements then you must apply for a building licence before beginning the work on your property. If the work has already been done and these conversations ring true for you then you might want to seek retrospective planning permission.

Our legal department can provide a personalised study of the possibility of obtaining the licence that you need. Whatever stage you are at in improving your property, and whatever conversations you’ve had, it’s important to speak to the experts.

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Leave a comment


Regina Boquin

30 December, 2019 10:48 pm

Thank you for your articles. They are extremely informative and useful. Would we need a permit to carry out changes in flats such as a new layout of walls, new kitchen and new bathrooms, providing we do not make changes on load bearing walls? How long does such a permit take, if necessary?

Oscar Paoli

2 January, 2020 11:48 am

Hi Regina,
Yes you would need to apply for a licence for minor works called “obra menor”. The procedure and cost will depend of each Town Hall, but once the paperwork has been presented the licence is issued in approximmately a week or so.

Should you need assistance in the process please contact us at

With kind regards,

Ábaco Advisers

gary fawcett

6 July, 2021 12:33 pm

Hello, helpful article, builders increased the size of my patio (ground floor tiled area), should I have got a licence?

Oscar Paoli

6 July, 2021 2:15 pm

Hi Gary,

Yes, you should have obtained a licence for this indeed.

With kind regards,

Ábaco Advisers


6 August, 2021 10:34 pm


We have a property in Menorca and are looking to take down non load bearing walls on the ground floor to make it open plan and install a kitchen and create a new layout of the walls upstairs and install two bathrooms, is this possible with a Obrar menor

Also, although not a qualified registered builder, my husband is a very capable diyer, and has done many projects in the UK and with the exception of the plumbing and electrical work would like to do the work himself, is this possible, or do we have to use a registered builder?

Many thanks

Oscar Paoli

19 August, 2021 12:33 pm

Hi Caroline,

Regarding the first question, although they they might not seem as load-bearing walls, we would recommend that an architect visits the property to check that they are not structural walls that could cause any damages. If this is the case, the works would be minor works but you will still need to request the license to do the works.

Regarding the second question, if it is confirmed that it is a minor work, the works can be done by your husband. The works could not be carried out by your husband if it is a major work due to the required requirements.

With kind regards,

Ábaco Advisers


27 February, 2022 3:28 pm

I live on an urbanisation in Rojales and my neighbour who is slightly higher than me as we live on a slope has raised our dividing wall it is 3m on our side he has carried out this work without any discussion or agreement with me. Is there anything I can do would he have had to have a minor works license ?

Oscar Paoli

1 March, 2022 3:25 pm


In order to carry out this work, the neighbour should have a Minor Works Licence and also comply with the requirements for materials and maximum height stipulated by the Town Hall. If the wall is higher than the maximum permitted for your area, you cannot obtain the building permit.

On the other hand, if you are in an urbanisation according to the Civil Code and the Horizontal Property Law, the party walls are common elements and therefore to alter them you would need the consent of the neighbours. Unless your own statutes stipulate otherwise.

If they are independent dwellings (not within a community of owners) you do not need the permission of the neighbour as long as it is carried out on their part of the wall or property and that the maximum height and materials dictated by the Town Hall are complied with.

Hope this can be of help to you.

With kind regards,

Ábaco Advisers