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: for more information.

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Leave a comment


Geoffrey Allison

29 January, 2021 8:06 pm

Very useful information thanks

Oscar Paoli

1 February, 2021 2:58 pm

Thank you!

C. K. Simons

15 May, 2021 7:05 am

L.s. thank you for your interesting articles. I am considering buying a property near Tortosa. It appears that the owners, English, have done a lot of renovating and improvements themselves. Outbuildings, garage, upbuilt, walled swimmingpool etc. It is also bordered to the Ebro natural reserve. It might all be in order but how can I check that myself. I was thinking of employing my own Spannish notary before buying.

Oscar Paoli

15 May, 2021 9:08 am

You can do so by checking what is registered at the notary and land registry, check with the local Town Hall if anything is ilegal or if the property has any infractions, you can check possible building permissions that they should have, etc. Nevertheless we would recommend having an architect with you and of course an independent legal advisor who can assist you in the matter.
Should you need any assistance please do not hesitate to contact us.
Kind regards,
Ábaco Advisers

Bryan and Maureen Bailey

30 June, 2022 4:43 pm

Our property has flooded twice in the last two DANA’s resulting in us losing most of our furniture. In order to stop this happening again we had a enclosed porch fitted over the front door and a glass conservatory fitted across the back of the house where the water would flood and enter the house. the front porch as a floor area of approx’ 1 sq m and the back is about 14 sq m floor area and is over 95% glass.. These were both done purely to stop the house from flooding and in no way to create more space within the house. We were not told by the company (Eurogard) that fitted these that we may or would need a license. I have tried ringing them but up to now have had no reply. We are in the proceeds of trying to sell the house at the moment.
Where do we need to go now. .

Oscar Paoli

30 June, 2022 11:52 pm

Hi there,

Any works, even insignificant, will need a permit from the town hall. Therefore, you do need a licence for the works done and permission from the community of owners should you have one.

As the works have been done we would recommend speaking to a local architect who can assist you in getting this license if possible.

With kind regards,

Ábaco Advisers


30 June, 2022 5:04 pm

If I wish to change the original Windows from timber to BOX & remove security grills & replace with person’s does this require an Obras memory, Thankyou Me G.H.Elliott.

Oscar Paoli

30 June, 2022 11:42 pm

Hi there,
Most likely it will be an obra mayor, but you will be able to get the confirmation from your town hall when asking for the works permission.
With kind regards,
Ábaco Advisers