Spain Explained

Sell a property in Spain: How to get everything ready

Someone wants to buy your property! It’s a great feeling when you can set the conveyancing process in motion. But have you got everything in place so that you can sell a property in Spain without a hold-up? If you have had building work done on your house you might discover that the sale will not be as smooth as you’d hoped.

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Unauthorised building work is one of the main hurdles for those trying to sell a property in Spain. Perhaps you had a swimming pool added to your home, or an extension built or even a conservatory erected? Any of these types of adjustments to the original plan of the property can lead to a sale falling through if the correct licences are not in place.

Many people are unaware that building restrictions in Spain are actually quite tight. Even small changes to your house specification must be accompanied by a permit. Minor work, such as installing a new kitchen or re-tiling, is classed as ‘obra menor’ (minor work) and for this you need a building licence issued by the Town Hall Urban Department.

Even more vital is the licence needed if you have carried out an ‘obra mayor’ (major work). It might seem obvious that the building of a swimming pool, shed, conservatory or other extension must have planning permission. However, people can be surprised to learn that other building activity such as increasing the height of a wall, paving a patio or even installing solar panels requires the town hall’s permission.

Holding up the sale

The problem of unauthorised building work is usually discovered when the buyer’s solicitor carries out the checks to ensure that the property matches the catastral register and land registry description. In some cases an aerial photograph might be used to confirm that the property on the ground is different to that recorded. It is then up to the vendor to put this right if they wish to sell a property in Spain.

Although, in some cases, it is possible to apply for retrospective planning permission, this is not ideal when you have a purchaser keen to complete the transaction and other properties on the market in a competitive environment. It is one hiccup you could really do without.

Tightening up

The checks on unauthorised building work became even more stringent when the Valencian government approved the LOTUP (urban and landscape planning and zoning law) in August 2014. Until this, there had been an amnesty on building work that was over four years old. The LOTUP introduced tighter regulations that meant that work completed up to 15 years ago could be challenged.

What you must do

If you are wanting to sell a property in Spain but you know that there may be some major work that has not been properly registered then it is important to take action. The last thing you want is a sudden hitch leading to the sale falling through. By approaching a good solicitor you can request an architect’s antiquity certificate depending on when the work was actually completed.

A new Title Deed will need to be signed and the details of the property changed at the Land Registry. If you do not have the licence of works, you will require the assistance of an architect to present an antiquity certificate. The antiquity required depends on the region where the property is located, for example in Comunidad Valenciana you can declare work done through an antiquity certificate for building work completed  more than 15 years ago (4 years ago for works done before August 2010).Due to a recent change of the Valencian Urban Law we can also declare any work done from 2010 to 2014 through an architect certificate (the rule of 15 years is not applicable in these cases). You must also get permission from the community of owners where one exists. Approval for the work must be formally agreed at the AGM according to specific requirements. 

Unfortunately, there can be occasions when a home improvement cannot be retrospectively authorised. This is where the alteration made is clearly outside of Spanish building law. For example, if an additional storey has been built on the property which takes the property beyond the legally allowed square metres of living space. In these cases even more time will be required in order to find a solution.

In most circumstances it is possible to put in place the requirements, but it does take time and if you are putting your house on the market it is important that you confirm that the necessary paperwork is in place as soon as possible. Whatever your reasons for selling, the last thing you want is the process put on hold and your buyer looking somewhere else for their purchase.

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