Spain Explained

Keeping your home improvements legal

Last updated on October 28th, 2019 at 04:31 pm.

Once you have a property in Spain, it is likely that you will find some improvements you want to make to it. Perhaps a new patio, a conservatory or a lick of paint.  If you look at an older urbanisation in Spain it can be surprising to think that the houses ever looked the same. People have built up, down and around their properties, added sheds, built garages, conservatories and extensions. There doesn’t seem to be one property on some urbanisations that hasn’t been changed in some way.

This might give the impression that making home improvements in Spain is down to each home owner’s prerogative. This is far from the case.

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Different types of licence

All home improvements will need some form of building licence in Spain for them to legally go ahead. They are divided into two types:

  • Minor work e.g. changing tiles
  • Major works e.g. building an extension, conservatory or swimming pool

Licences must be applied for from the town hall. If it is a major work then you will need an architect’s drawing in order to get permission. You should be wary of builders who say that they have already obtained a licence on your behalf. Having a licence for home improvements is your responsibility. It won’t be the builder who has to have an extension demolished if the correct paper work isn’t in place.

The community

Another factor you have to consider is the opinion of the community of owners. The community has to be consulted if you are planning to make changes to your property.

Your proposal should be raised on the next agenda and discussed. If permission hasn’t been granted from the community of owners in Spain and the building work has gone ahead you will either have to get their retrospective agreement or restore your property to its previous condition.

No licence?

If for some reason you have completed building work without taking the proper measures then in most cases you can rectify the situation. You can apply for retrospective planning permission to make sure your home improvement is legal.

If you don’t have the correct licences, then there can be problems when it comes to bequeathing or selling your property. The  specifications on the Title Deed in Spain must relate to the property being transferred. This won’t be the case if you have made changes and not applied for a licence or informed the correct people.

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It might look like everyone breaks the rules. However, if your refurbishment is spotted by the local planning department you cannot use this as an excuse. If you haven’t followed the correct procedures you can be asked to demolish your extension or restore your property to the way it was before the refurbishment was made. Not the best outcome for your home improvement plans in Spain.

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brian tozer

30 April, 2014 6:52 pm

I read this with interest as
I read this with interest as we recently have had a pool installed. It may be of interest to know of ‘hidden’taxes. Abanilla, Murcia is our town hall, on application for the building licence we were asked to pay 290euro which we expected.

However we also had to pay 620euro municipal tax (tasa municipal) Our builder who was with us nearly choked! After a terse exchange of words between him and the official which we couldn’t follow, he was very apologetic but said we had to pay or they would not issue the licence.

It seems this municipal tax is spreading. He has done work for others nearby and two other town halls are now applying this tax when building (not just pools) licences are applied for.


30 April, 2014 7:22 pm

Thank you for this. I wonder

Thank you for this. I wonder if anyone else has had the same experience? 

Heather Deamer

1 May, 2014 1:09 pm

I had a local Spanish company
I had a local Spanish company build a small plastic and glass porch on the front of my house, and was told planning permission was not needed as it was a temporary structure. This was not true, I was fined 2,500 euros by Cartagena council and although went to solicitors to try to object to the fine, I had to pay it. The only concession they gave us was they agreed to six one monthly instalments. I would mention that forty four other houses on my estate also had porches on their houses, but I only know of one other fine.


1 May, 2014 5:06 pm

It’s the somehow random

It's the somehow random nature of the fines that people find difficult. We can all see urbanisations where every house is different (I live on one!) and it does give the impression that you are free to add on to/ adapt your home as you wish. As it says in the article, this isn't the case but there doesn't seem to be consistent application of the rules. Having said that, I have also read on other forums where fines are being issued. So perhaps things are changing. I am sorry to hear about your experience, Heather. That's a hefty fine for what seems like a small structure. 


18 October, 2014 8:11 pm

I own a property on a
I own a property on a urbanisation ruled by an expat committee… I have copied what 40 percent of the other owners have done over the last 10 years and added an extra row of bricks to my wall. It is in keeping and I have been told that the materials are all correct BUT that they are not allowing this change and I will now have to reinstate it. Can they discriminate against me while the rest have made this change? surely cannot change a rule once half the community have already carried out changes is made. They say they are going to call the police if I continue?? I feel so angry when it is a 4 inch decorative brick!


21 October, 2014 2:36 pm

Hi Leanne

Hi Leanne

I'm sorry to hear about your troubles. 

All the works on your urbanisation should comply with your community law. Usually the community law can only be changed by a unanimous decision. 

If you have a licence from the town hall for the building work you have had done then the police can't do anything. Another good reason for making sure that you have planning permission. 

If there is a disagreement within the community and it cannot be resolved then it can go to court. If the neighbours haven't abided by the community rules, they can be taken to court too. The same rules should apply to you all. The community adminstrator ought to be able to inform you of your rights in this matter. 

This is a general answer based upon what you have told us here. A lawyer will need to look at your community rules to provide more precise information. I hope this helps a little. 


12 January, 2017 7:13 am

” Can they discriminate
” Can they discriminate against me while the rest have made this change?”

so if you’re caught shop lifiting while others have got away with it in the past its discrimination ? whilst the rules are patently daft in your case simply applying for permission would have have prevented the problem.

Nichola Wake

2 August, 2020 2:22 pm

Purchased a villa in 2011, which already had a conservatory added from previous owner, which was legally done !!
However we are now in process of moving. Architects came to do habitation certificate, of which we received. 2 weeks later they contact us, saying town hall says it’s illegal as law changed in 2014. Architects now requesting nearly €250 to put right……. Why should we have to pay for something that was already in place when we purchased ???

Oscar Paoli

9 August, 2020 8:24 am

Hi Nichola,
Thank you for your message, we would need to see the documentation of your case to be able to give you a straight answer, it is true that the legislation changed in 2014, but if you have a license it should not affect you. Perhaps what the architects intend is that the works be declared in the deed by means of a certificate of antiquity.
Should you wish to get in contact with our colleague Jessica Martínez directly at and she will be happy to assist you.
With kind regards,
Ábaco Advisers

Graham Murray

4 November, 2021 8:43 pm

Can one person object out of a community to stop an alteration,or is it a majority vote.

Oscar Paoli

5 November, 2021 1:35 pm

Depending on what is voted, in some ocassions just one person that objects can stop certain decissiones.
With kind regards,
Ábaco Advisers