Spain Explained

What Spanish building regulations mean for your property

Even the most perfect dream home in Spain will need some renovation from time to time. Whether it is anything from glazing a balcony to building a new pool, there are some legal implications that you need to be aware of. Also, if you are buying a property that has had work done on, there are Spanish building regulations that apply before the purchase can continue. 

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Clients constantly ask us about the legal process for obtaining a licence for beginning new works on their homes and for legalising works they have already completed. Here, it is very important that you comply with Spanish building regulations. If not, you could run into problems with the local authorities or town hall and be fined. Having all the licences in order also makes the property easier to sell in the future.

Types of work: Major or Minor 

What is the difference between major and minor works? Basically, if the structure of the building is not modified or extended then that work is classified as minor. For example, a minor work (Licencia de Obra Menor) would include painting the house, tiling or renovating the kitchen. If you choose to put an extension on the property, put a pool in the backyard or glaze your balcony you would need to apply for a major works (Licencia de Obra Mayor) licence

Who is liable for the licence?

It is very important to be aware that even if the architect or builder assures you that the appropriate licences are in place, that it is ultimately you as the property owner that is responsible for their validity. We recommend that you always ask anybody that claims to have the licence to show it to you. Also, you should be aware of other documents that will be necessary before the completion of the process.

Consequences of non-compliance

As explained, it is very important to have all the documents in order for a smooth process. Town halls regularly send inspectors to ensure everything is above board. If they see illegal construction or a construction site without all the corresponding paperwork and licences then they may fine the owners heavily. They may also ask the owners to make the construction works properly legal by applying for the correct permits. If the owner is unable to do this then they have the power to ask the owner to demolish the new works

A potential buyer should ask a solicitor to check the property and any extensions or other work done before purchasing. At the end of the day, the owner is liable for the presence of valid licences and documents. 

What should you do?

If you are planning on doing some work to your property then it is better to apply for the licence in advance, before starting the work. However, if you have been working on the property before applying for the licence then you can still apply retroactively

Regardless of whether you obtained the licence in advance or retroactively the second step will be amending the title deeds. Any major work must be included in the title deeds in order to sell your property correctly and without problems. To proceed, you need two very important documents.

  1. The licence from town hall
  2. A works completion certificate from an architect
  3. Project certificate

Certificate of antiquity

If you are unable to obtain a licence because the planned work does not conform to urban law, then you will need a certificate of antiquity from an architect. This certificate applies if some time has passed since the completion of the work. This is dependent on where in the country the property is located. For instance, in the Valencia region, the work must be at least 15 years old. If this applies to you, then you can use this certificate to “replace” any necessary licence.  

When you have either the certificate of antiquity or the licence with appropriate certificates then you can go ahead with the declaration of new works. Please bear in mind that you will need a certificate of authorisation from your community administrator which must be obtained at the AGM. For this reason, we at Ábaco Advisers recommend that you contact your president or administrator before proceeding.

Finally, when you have your certificates and documents ready you can then go to the notary to make your property conform with Spanish building regulations.

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Apply as early as possible to comply with Spanish building regulations

We recommend you obtain the licence as early as possible to avoid any possible hiccups in the process and before any works are carried out to remain ahead of the law. To avoid any future problems with the sale you should also declare any works in the title deeds of the property. For a personalised study of your case, please do not hesitate to contact us at any time that suits you, and we will offer you a first free consultation without obligation.

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6 comments

susan Holmes

30 August, 2020 7:11 pm

If an extension is carried out without permission and a denouncier is recorded at the town hall and a council inspector inspects and takes pictures of the extension of the building can the owner of the property apply for permission retroactively after the denouncier and council inspection.

Oscar Paoli

31 August, 2020 1:56 pm

Hi Susan,

Yes, you can request a building license retroactively. The city council must grant a period for the owner to legalize or demolish the works.

Therefore, the works are denounced, the city council takes legal action and notifies the owner and then the owner has a deadline to legalize the works. If the works are not legalizable, you will have to demolish them. Otherwise you will be fined and the works could be withdrawn by the city council at its own cost when the time comes.

With best regards,

Ábaco Advisers

david fitzgibbon

11 May, 2021 8:33 am

hi i have a house in the valencia region .the people next door to us are having some building work on their house inside and outside.the problem is they have built a secondary outside garden wall which is higher than the wall which divides the houses and which is blocking our veiws putting our small patio in the shade.our house is a holiday home and with covid we have not been there since last august .have you any advice thanks david fitzgibbon

Oscar Paoli

11 May, 2021 9:34 am

Hi David,
You could check with the admin of your community of owners and with your local Town Hall to check with them what type of works are permitted in your area as well as the hight of the garden walls. If they are above the permitted limits you may claim this both to the community of owners management and/or your local Town Hall.
With kind regards,
Ábaco Advisers

Malcolm Saunders

23 July, 2021 10:10 am

Our house is over 200 years old (an old finca) originally we had 7,000 square metres of land, approx 3,600 urban and 3,400 zona verde. We sold 2,000 square metres of urban land a few years ago. On this land our fossa septico was located, and so we had to install a new one approximately five years ago, also on our urban land. We obtained the necessary licence and paid the tax, there was to be a parking terrace obove the fossa, this was included in the licence. Unfortunately the builder we used for the initial work had some sort of breakdown and abandoned the work after the fossa was installed, but the parking terrace not completed. We now have had the work completed and we thought that all was well. It seems that the fossa has been installed where perhaps a hypothetical road under the PGOU-98 could pass, the only reason this road could be built would be to give access to the urban land located above the house and as I am the owner of this land I do not require access to it. We also installed gate posts and gates after obtaining a licence and paying the tax (we were tired of people driving up to our house), they have also said that these are illegal as they block the hypothetical road and so we had to add a clause in the Nota Simple saying that if they built this road we would remove the gates etc. If they ever built this road it would be an expensive undertaking for them. The land above mine is zona verde and zona verde with proteccion especial. The people in the town hall all think it is ridiculous but they say they have to go by the rules.
What can you advise?
Malcolm, Calpe, Alicante

Oscar Paoli

27 July, 2021 8:15 am

Hi Malcolm,

It is difficult to give a general advice in this case without seeing documentation and knowing more details of the case. What we can say is that if there really is a road approved in the general urban planning plan, it will be difficult to be able to make any modifications.

Perhaps by making a grouping of the plots that road could be dispensed of. All this if you can prove that the only access to that road is to the same plot where it circulates. But we are not sure if the green areas that you mention are of public interest or not.

The issue of the doors that have been installed on the road, are illegal since at the time being it is a public road.

I would recommend consulting an architect who can check the PGOU and the technical options for your case.

Hope this information is iseful for you.

With kind regards,

Ábaco Advisers