Spain Explained

Improving your home – what you need to know

Congratulations on owning a property in Spain! You might now have some ideas for how you would like to improve it. There are lots of options, but you must also be aware of what the legal implications are. In this article we explain what licences you must have and the implications.  

It’s natural that once you have your Spanish property you will want to make plans for it. Perhaps an extension or a conservatory, a swimming pool or just a new kitchen. Whatever your plans, you may not be aware that there are legal implications. If you don’t know what these are and don’t meet the requirements, it can cause you problems in the future.

We have come across cases where the builder who’s been employed has assured the home owner that they have taken care of the paper work and that everything is in order. However, on further investigation this hasn’t been the case. It is the home owner’s responsibility to ensure that the correct licences are available and if they’re not, then this can lead to fines, or even the undoing of any work you’ve completed.

If you are planning some building work, we strongly recommend that you check that your plans are covered by the correct licences. You should also make sure that any extensions or pools are included in the Deeds. This can prevent problems in the future when you sell, if you need a mortgage or when it comes to inheritance.

The licences you need

People are often surprised that you need licences to build in Spain for even relatively small projects. Permission needs to be obtained from the town hall for something as small as raising a wall or paving. Big projects require an ‘obra mayor’ licence and small projects must have an ‘obra menor’.

If you need an ‘obra mayor’, as in the case of an extension or swimming pool, then you will need an architect’s drawing. The overall cost of preparing and planning this project will depend upon how many square metres it will occupy. For smaller home improvements the ‘obra menor’ does not need to be accompanied by an architect’s drawing.

If you haven’t got one

Town halls can send inspectors into urbanisations at intervals to check for any unlicensed building work. We are aware that they have also used aerial pictures to identify significant building work without the correct permission. Swimming pools are particularly visible from the air. It can also be the case that a neighbour denounces someone for not having the correct permission, particularly when the work done has implications for them too.

It isn’t enough to plead ignorance. If you don’t have the licence in place and the omission is identified then there are two possible outcomes:

  • You will receive a fine and must then legalise the situation by applying for a licence
  • You will receive a fine and then discover that the work does not meet urban planning regulations and the building work must be demolished.

The fines in either case can be substantial.

How to avoid this

The best way to avoid either situation occurring is to seek the advice of a professional. It can save a lot of time, trouble and anguish if you appoint someone to make sure that the correct licence is in place from the start.

We also recommend that major work, such as an extension or pool, is declared in the Deed. This gives you additional legal security and prevents there from being a problem when it comes to selling or inheriting your property. If you do want to sell, the buyer will want to purchase a totally legal and registered property, after all. If a mortgage is applied for, the bank will only value the property as it appears in the Land Registry.

If your property is part of a community of owners, you will need their permission to carry out the work. The authorisation normally needs to be granted at the AGM and is accompanied by certain formalities. Your Community Administrator or President will be able to provide you with more information.

The next step

If you are considering improving your property we can provide a free personal study of the possibility of obtaining a licence for the work you have planned. You can contact our legal department: legaldpt@abacoadvisers.com for more information.

See all

It might be of your interest...

Leave a comment

2 comments

Geoffrey Allison

29 January, 2021 8:06 pm

Very useful information thanks

Oscar Paoli

1 February, 2021 2:58 pm

Thank you!