Healthplan Spain


Spain's Construction Noise Regulations: Your Rights And Choices Expat Tips

Building works and property expansions are a regular sight in Spain. The country is continuing to experience massive urbanisation. Coupled with a national housing shortage, it should come as no surprise that you will see at least one building site in every neighbourhood.

However, living next door to that building site and enduring incessant noise can be overwhelming. Here's a comprehensive breakdown of your entitlements when it comes to addressing the issue of noisy construction work while living in Spain:

Unravelling Your Legal Entitlements

If you’re concerned about the level of noise being generated from a nearby construction site, and it is affecting the quality of your day-to-day life (by impacting on your ability to sleep, for example, or to work from home) then it’s important to understand your rights. There are set legal noise limits for both urban and rural areas, and exceeding these noise limits, and disturbing your right to have a peaceful home life, are both considered offences. They are deemed a violation of the right to personal and family privacy under the Spanish Constitution.

Understanding noise-related regulations entails an exploration of the 2003 National Noise Law, supplemented by delving into specific regional edicts applicable to your village, town, or city. Regrettably, pinpointing the precise noise disturbance statute violated is not always straightforward, given that the National Noise Law doesn't provide explicit directives regarding residential noise disruptions. Moreover, construction site noise tends to fall outside the purview of state law.

Noise Limits and Regulations in Spain

Construction noise regulations in Spain are aimed at balancing the need for development with the rights of residents to a peaceful living environment. Different regions and municipalities might have varying noise limits and permitted hours for construction activities. For instance, in densely populated areas like Barcelona or Madrid, stricter noise regulations might be in place compared to more rural regions. This variability underscores the importance of researching local ordinances and regulations specific to your location.

Legal Framework

The concept of "derecho al descanso" or the right to rest is well-recognised in Spanish law. This encompasses both nighttime and daytime hours, emphasising the need for tranquillity in residential areas. Noise complaints in construction often fall under these broader principles. This could provide a basis for legal recourse if the noise significantly disrupts a person's quality of life.

As with so many things, the rules regarding construction noise and noise complaints vary from region to region across Spain. Each municipality will set their own environmental bylaws that determine permitted noise levels, and each town hall also regulates permitted construction hours in the area. The search term “ordenanza ruidos obras” followed by the name of your town, village, or city is a great place to start to further your local legislation research.

If your peace is being disturbed late at night then this may be easier to deal with. As a rule, construction works cannot be carried out between the hours of 9 pm and 8 am on weekdays and 9 pm until 9:30 am during weekends or holidays. And if you live in an apartment building then your neighbours should inform you of any construction work they are undergoing by placing a notice in the entrance hall: whilst this can’t minimise the noise, it can allow you to prepare by being out for the day, or investing in some noise-cancelling headphones.

Please be aware that the mentioned timeframes can experience minor variations, usually by approximately half an hour, based on the specific region you are situated in.

Mediation and Dispute Resolution

In some cases, engaging with your local community or residents' association can provide collective strength when addressing construction noise concerns. When a group of residents shares similar grievances, their combined efforts can carry more weight in discussions with local authorities or builders.

Documenting Evidence

When dealing with noise-related issues, evidence is crucial. Keeping a record of when the noise occurs, its intensity, and its impact on your daily life can bolster your case if you decide to escalate the matter legally. Contemporary technology, such as smartphone apps that measure noise levels or record audio, can serve as valuable tools in documenting evidence.

Construction Site Permits

Before construction work begins, builders typically require permits from local authorities. These permits often outline the permitted hours of operation and may include provisions related to noise levels. Understanding these permits can provide insight into whether the construction activity is adhering to legal requirements.

Ongoing Urbanisation Challenges

Spain's ongoing urbanisation presents a unique challenge in balancing development with the needs of residents. The tension between the demand for new housing and the preservation of quality of life underscores the importance of clear regulations and effective enforcement mechanisms.

What to Do if The Builders Are Breaking the Law

If construction noise is driving you crazy, and you are confident that the builders in question are breaching local noise laws and regulations then there are some things that you can do. The following steps, in order of escalation, should help you to get the peace and quiet you need:

Talk to your neighbours: Your noisy neighbours may not realise how loud their building work is, or that it is bothering you so much. Politely asking them to stick to the council’s working hours, or asking if they could schedule some time to ‘down tools’ when you are taking important work calls or when your children are napping, etc, could well be an ideal compromise.

Talk to your community of owners: If the neighbour doesn't respond to your polite request, then the president of your building, or your owner's community, may be able to offer support. By banding together with other owners in your building or neighbourhood, you will have a stronger case to ask the builders to stick to the times set out by law.

Make a formal complaint in writing: Having a paper trail is essential if the situation continues to escalate and you have to go to the authorities. A written formal complaint outlining which noise guidelines are being breached will put you in a stronger position if you need to go to the police.

Visiting the police station to place a ‘denuncia’: A denuncia is a formal complaint, and you can register this by visiting your local police station. Some denuncias can also be carried out online. If you go to the police station, you will need to take your passport and TIE certificate with you, along with as much evidence as possible: time-stamped recordings of the noise, any written complaints, as well as statements from neighbours will all be beneficial.