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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20 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

colin j dunlop

7 October, 2021 9:45 pm

dear sirs, before hiring you to represent me I need to know the amount of money that can be taken in the form of a fine in valencia when the law is broken by continuing to work after 9pm from new tenant owners whom are working above me until 10 pm¡my budget to hire you is 3k,I will proceed and hire you if you can answer the above,kind regards coin,Denia.

Oscar Paoli

8 October, 2021 11:52 pm

Sorry Colin, unfortunately we do not have the answer to the above query.
Sorry for any inconvenience caused.
With kind regards,
Ábaco Advisers

Nicola Faci

18 March, 2022 1:04 pm

Good morning, can you please tell me do you have to have the building license on display for the public to see or not? I have been told I need to do this . Thankyou .

Oscar Paoli

22 March, 2022 8:56 pm

Hi Nicola,

It depends on the specific municipality and its requirements. What is compulsory is to have obtained it before starting the works. It is also recommended to have it accessible in case there is an inspection at any time.

With kind regards,

Ábaco Advisers

Steve Thompson

4 April, 2022 9:45 pm

We are currently renovating a house in Majorca and want to convert the attic with two bedrroms and a bathroom, different people are saying different things regarding the ceiling heights. What is the minimum height this needs to be to a bedroom and does it matter that these rooms were created over 50 years ago? At the highest point these rooms are 2.6m slopping to around 1.2m so suggesting the roof needs raising seems a lot of cost for little gain?

Oscar Paoli

5 April, 2022 8:21 pm

Hi Steve,
Each Town Hall has their one regulations so we would recommend to contact the Local Town Hall as they will be the only ones to give you the correct answer to your query.
With kind regards,
Ábaco Advisers

Frik

20 May, 2022 6:04 pm

We started work with a legal Obra Major. I believe these have a three month expiry? We did not know this? A year later and we are finishing some works outside, but the Obra Notice has long since been removed. Today an inspector came around and issued a paper indicating ‘failure to display the notice’.
Do you know what the likely result is for this? Any advice?

Oscar Paoli

24 May, 2022 9:33 am

Hi,
The consequences will depend on the town hall itself, as it is regulated by each one. In the community of Valencia the deadline to start the works is 6 months as a general rule and the completion deadline is the one stipulated in the project.

If you wish to do so you can send us a copy of the notification received for us to revise it. Our email adress is legaldpt@abacoadvisers.com

You can also look for a local architect. Your own architect and builder should also be able to help you if you prefer to do so.

With kind regards,

Ábaco Advisers

Tracy Bowen

6 July, 2022 10:19 pm

I own an aprtment within a complex and it is on the ground floor and in deeds it states private garden. What are the rules around making changes to the garden. i.e putting some decking onto the grass area. This will also make it easier for me to enter the property due to disability

Oscar Paoli

8 July, 2022 7:41 pm

Hi Tracy,

You will have to check with the administrator of your community if there are any specific regulations on what can be done, thereafter whatever you wish to to you will have to get the permission from the community and apply for the necessary building license.

Should you need any assistance do not hesitate to contact us at legaldpt@abacoadvisers.com

With kind regards,

Ábaco Advisers

Dale

11 July, 2022 6:47 pm

Hello, I have recently purchased a plot of land in Tenerife. The plot is 3 meters down from road level. So I was aware that I had to build from road level and then stairs down in to a ground floor living area. (Four houses on this road have built on the ground with one floor street level) since the architect submitted the plans to the town hall, we have been told we can not build on the actual ground as it is classed as a basement. What can I do? We bought this land as we wanted a house built on the ground not on pillars. The owner estate agent solicitor notary architect. No one knew this. I had an appointment at the town hall prior to purchasing the land and showed the woman my plans all ok she even told me to build the pool on the rustic once the licence had been granted. The other houses obviously went for licence after 4 years. HELP

Oscar Paoli

26 July, 2022 8:28 am

Hi Dale,

Sorry to read about your situation, we would highly recommend contacting a local law firm who can assist you in this matter, in this particular case it is recommended to have a local lawyer who know the area well and that can assist you in person and in place to be able to solve your situation.
Sorry for the inconvenience and best of luck.

With kind regards,

Ábaco Advisers

Sherry

22 July, 2022 9:46 am

Hi

Yesterday evening we came to our apartment in Barcelona and saw that the neighbors in the building next to us has built a high Wooden fence (2,5-3 meter) which covers all our windows. Do you know if they have the right to do that according to the law? Do you know if someone can help us?
Thanks!

Oscar Paoli

25 July, 2022 4:42 pm

Hi Sherry,
We would have to look for the particular situation in your Town Hall, we would recommdn contacting a law firm in the area that area that can assist you directly with your case.
Wishing you best of luck.
Kind regards,
Ábaco Advisers