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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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


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

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

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

With kind regards,

Ábaco Advisers


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


22 July, 2022 9:46 am


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?

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

jonathan strauss

29 September, 2022 3:16 pm

My neighbour is renovating the villa he has just bought and is converting the garage into a bedroom, the Bedroom wall is also the wall that surrounds my property. Which is close to my villa. When I wanted to convert my garage into a bedroom, which is the other side of my villa I was told it is not possible as it is less than 5m from my neighbours villa.

How come this is allowed and my application was refused

Oscar Paoli

30 September, 2022 2:39 pm

Hi Jonathan,

First of all it would be good to know if your neighbour actually has a permit for the works or not, and if they have one what type of permit he has received. With this you could claim why your was refused in the past.

With kind regards,

Ábaco Advisers


18 October, 2022 1:59 pm


Your aricles are very usefull. Thank you. I found a house I would like to buy, but it turns out the basement is illegal/not declared. What would be my options. Things I came up with myself.
– Run, find another house that is legal.
– Get the sellers to legalize the basement before buying. Is this possible?
– Buy it and legalize it myself after the sale. Is this posible?
What would your advice be?

Kind regards,

Oscar Paoli

18 October, 2022 2:18 pm

Hi Johanna,
The first option if you are still interested in the property would be to get the seller to legalize the basement if possible, it will depend on several factors that should be checked by your solicitor. If it is possible to legalize but the seller does not agree on it, you could do it at a later point but on your cost, we would highly recommend getting this checked by your solicitor.
If this basement is not possible to legalize we would recommend to check what the purchase contract says if you wish to withdraw of the purchase as you might lose any paid amounts if not specified in the contract.
Wishing you all the best, and should you need anything else do not hesitate to contact us at 0034 966 703 750 or by email at
With kind regards,
Ábaco Advisers


24 October, 2022 6:43 pm

good evening
i purchased a property on the Costa Blanca 15 years ago from a local agent, im now selling and the in house solicitor
with the same agent as i used 15 years prior has said the Gazebo in the garden is s not on the deeds and want to charge an additional 1800euro plus 1.5% tax.
as i purchased the property with these items already built shoud i now be charged for this and should it not have been raised 15 years earlier

Oscar Paoli

25 October, 2022 7:53 am

Hi William,
Unfortunately agencies where not as thorough 15 years ago and many of these gazebo and other smaller constructions were not taken under consideration.
With kind regards,
Ábaco Advisers

Arthur Vidder

26 October, 2022 4:00 pm

Dear Oscar,

We came across a rustic property in Mallorca that we fell in love with. The house was built 1995, but after its completion some terraces and a swimming pool was constructed. They are all noted in the deeds now.
However, as the property does not have a cedula and there are some illegal constructions (older than 8 years). The plot is too small by today’s standards (it is 10.000 sqm, has to be 14.000 sqm today) in order to build a legal finca with pool. Can I obtain a new cedula without having to demolish the old illegal constructions? I don’t need to change anyting, but I will need to do maintenance on the constructions in the future.

Oscar Paoli

26 October, 2022 4:07 pm

Hi Arthur,
Thank you for your message, unfornutaly it might be difficult to obtain, but we would have to check all the documentation of the property, consult with the Town Hall, etc, to be able to give you a more correct answer.
With kind regards,
Ábaco Adviser

Claire Walker

26 January, 2023 11:19 am

Please can you tell me if it is illegal to not have a handrail on an internal staircase? Not sure if this makes any difference but the house was built in 2003. Valencia region.

Oscar Paoli

26 January, 2023 3:45 pm

If the house has a building permit, it is assumed that the house is legal without the handrail. It may be that the railing was not required when the house was built. It would be necessary to check the regulations applicable at the time and in the specific municipality the property is located in. Another thing is that the occupancy licence cannot be obtained without a handrail. With the current regulations, you will probably not be able to obtain the certificate of occupancy if the staircase does not have the handrail. We would have to see the staircase and construction details. An architect will surely be able to assist you with this. The occupancy licence is necessary for the sale or change of name of the water supply.
Should you have any further queries do not hesitate to contact us.
With kind regards,
Ábaco Advisers

David Turner

31 March, 2023 2:40 pm

Hi Maria
I bought a casa in Ibiza in 2004. My lawyer failed to do due diligence, just found out i have no building permit. The building is 53 years old, a pool was built in 185 but no other alterations were made since i bought the property
how can i remedy the planning
We have a 7 year rule in Ireland, and can apply for retention of the structure. An amnesty for retentions, was allowed in year 16for one year, i was not aware of this.
can you give me advices

Oscar Paoli

1 April, 2023 12:05 pm

Hi David,
We can revise your case if you wish, we would need to get a copy of the paperwork of your property for revision. You may contact us via email at and our legal department will be happy to assist you.
With kind regards,
Ábaco Adviser


5 June, 2023 11:42 am

Helpful. What are the laws in a development for builders to work. How many hours a day can they make noise? And what are rules for weekends and public holidays? Thank you.

Oscar Paoli

9 June, 2023 10:21 am

This will depend on each town and these times and noise levels will have to be checked with the local authorities.
With kind regards,
Ábaco Advisers

Linda Ince

18 June, 2023 3:29 pm

how close to the beach cliffs edge can a building be erected, in La Gomera? I live in Alojera playa.

Oscar Paoli

19 June, 2023 10:00 am

Hi Linda,
This would have to be checked with the local town hall, if you wish assistance in this process do not hesitate to contact us at
With kind regards,
Ábaco Advisers


22 August, 2023 10:50 am

Hi. We have a townhouse in a community and want to install an ac unit in a bedroom. This means the external unit will be on a low level behind a balcony wall so not on view to the communal pool area.. Do I need permission to do this?

Oscar Paoli

22 August, 2023 11:01 am

Hi Jane,
This will have to be revised with the administrator of the community of owners to get the permission.
With kind regards,
Ábaco Advisers

Carol Matten

18 September, 2023 4:43 pm

We live on a community in a block of 6 adjoining properties. A neighbour has made an underbuild to his small garden and put a terrace on top. Our worry is this underbuild goes up to a retaining wall that our properties depend on to stop them slipping down a steep slope. He got permission from the community to extend his terrace. The underbuild going the length of his garden 5 mtrs. and along the retaining wall 3.24 mtrs. going down in depth .05 mtrs. in the ground. He is now asking for permission at the new AGM to put a door and window into this underbuild to use it for “storage” . The depth of the underbuild from the overhead terrace to the floor is 1.75 mtrs. He was refused permision for the door and window at another AGM with planning permissions to be shown before. The committee are now saying he can do this as he already has permission from a previous AGM. No where in the proposal at this AGM does he say he is going to add door and window but that is the intention the committee has said. We have been told he has the necessary permissions, which is important to us to make sure the wall has not been compromised, but we have not seen any. We have now been told if we want to see them we can go to the town hall to see them. We cannot do this before the AGM. What can we do. The President is determined to get this through as she is a friend of the proposer. We have contacted her and the Administrator and they will not even communicate with us. It is our holiday home and we do not live there.

Oscar Paoli

19 September, 2023 11:02 am

For any building work the neighbour needs a building permit and permission from the neighbours. In addition, if he is extending the house, as it seems to be the case, he will need the permission granted unanimously.

If it is a major work, in principle an architect should be involved and will have checked the structure.

The type of paperwork and documentation to be provided depends on the specific town hall, so we would recommend that you check with them directly. You can always report the works to the town hall to have them stopped or to the police if you think that the works could be dangerous for people (in terms of the structure). You may also take legal action if you so would consider it.

Wishing you best of luck.

With kind regards,

Ábaco Advisers


29 January, 2024 1:13 pm


I bought an apartment in Palma Mallorca with a “cedula habitabilitat”. However, my kitchen was illegally extended by the previous owner many years before I bought it. I am currently changing a window and my neighbour called the police and sent a letter to the Ayuntamiento de Palma accusing me for renovating without a permit (I am just changing a window that was broken). When the inspector will come to my apartment and most likely see the kitchen, can they force me to remove the kitchen that was illegally extended by the previous owner many years ago? I don’t have any documentation of which year they did the renovation of the kitchen.

Thank you for your answer.

Oscar Paoli

30 January, 2024 4:26 pm

Thank you for reaching out with your concern. I understand the complexity of your situation.

In cases of property renovations, especially if they were done without the necessary permits, it can pose challenges. The actions that authorities might take can vary, and it would be advisable to consult with a local legal professional who can provide advice based on the specific regulations in Palma Mallorca.

Generally, authorities may take different measures, such as requiring you to obtain the proper permits for any renovations, imposing fines, or, in extreme cases, asking for the removal of unauthorized constructions. However, the outcome depends on various factors, including local regulations, the nature of the renovation, and the specific circumstances.

I recommend seeking advice from a local lawyer who specializes in property and construction law. They can guide you through the specific steps to take, assess the risks, and provide guidance tailored to your situation.

I hope you find the assistance you need, and I wish you the best in resolving this matter.

Kind regards,

Ábaco Advisers

Adrian Carus

23 April, 2024 8:02 am

we purchased our appartment located in a community 12 months ago. The previous owner had constructed a stairway from the loungs area to the basement below creating two further rooms. He installed plumbing and created ensuites. Effectively two further bedrooms. Our solicitor said this was fairly commonplace and there was no concern even without licences. I have heard that this is not correct and want to make things legal. If I took out the plumbing or enclosed them behind a false wall and used the rooms for storage , would this be okay.,?

Oscar Paoli

23 April, 2024 2:14 pm

Dear Adrian,
Any work, even though insignificant, requires permission from the Town Hall. Very often the lack of knowledge about legal requirements for an extension or reform, may lead to a complicated “illegal” situation, which in the worse case scenario could end up in fines or even demolition. It is very important to know that its yourself, as current owner, who is responsible in case the corresponding licenses are not in place. Unfortunately this happens very often.
Also, it is very important to include the works in the Deeds in order to avoid future problems. It would be necessary to study your case in more detail to see the options you have. However, taking out the plumbing or enclosing them behind a false wall would not restore the legality of the dwelling as the two “illegal” rooms would still exist.
With kind regards,
Ábaco Advisers