HEALTHPLAN MAGAZINE

How To Get Planning Permission In Spain Expat Tips

While purchasing your home in Spain is an exciting prospect, it's important to go into such a venture with your eyes wide open. It would be rare indeed to purchase an old country home and not have to carry out some sort of renovation or restoration. For almost any type of restoration work in Spain, you are going to need planning permission, so it is vitally important that you have a clear understanding of the basic requirements, meaning both the law and procedures that are involved, and also the consequences of what will happen if you neglect to gain the relevant permission before embarking on your renovations.

It's always better to think before you buy of course. If you're still at the pondering stage, take the advice of a local architect before you commit. They'll be able to give you an idea about the prices and the time frames involved. Many would-be buyers have found that planned restoration work means that the cost of the property is beyond their reach.

Don't assume you can get away with anything. It's important to realise that in Spain, there are strict planning regulations and the local administrations are enforcing these regulations much more rigorously than they were a few years ago. If you don't follow procedures, the chances are you will end up with a whopping fine and your property may be impossible to sell on. The worst case scenario will be that you will have to demolish your home.

What Are the Licenses You Will Need?

For external modernisation or repair of the building, such as new windows or doorways or external walls, you will need a works license (Licencia de Obra), which is a building license, as well as planning permission from the local town hall (Ayuntamiento).

The building licenses in Spain include:-

  • Licencia de Obra Mayor (Major works licence) which is needed for anything that will change the structure of a house including erecting or demolishing load-bearing walls, building an extension, conservatory or swimming pool
  • Licencia de Obra Menor (Minor works licence) which might be required for conservation or maintenance work, such as the substitution of damaged elements by other identical ones, cleaning and interior painting of walls, or patios or balconies that are not visible from the exterior, as well as plumbing, electricity, stucco, awnings, and interior carpentry.

The Licencia de Obra Mayor has a number of sub types. These include

  • Licencia de obra mayor por nueva edificación (for major works license of new construction)
  • Of "nueva planta" (a completely brand new building)
  • Of "ampliación" (an extension to an existing building)
  • A "Licencia de obra mayor por rehabilitación de edificios" (major works license for building restoration) refers to historical buildings in city centres.

The Paperwork

Once you know which license to apply for, you should take your paperwork along to the town hall. Your architect and your solicitor will help you. It is well worth hiring a decent translator to take with you when you attend the town hall.

You will need:

  • Official application form
  • Payment form for administration fees.
  • An architect's 'Project' form which has been signed by a competent technician and duly endorsed by the corresponding college.
  • The original Certificate issued by the college that accredits the intervention of a Technical Architect or Foreman in the work.
  • A form from the Ministry of public works and the Economy on statistics of Constructions and Houses (to be filled in by the architect of the Project) – both the original form and a photocopy.
  • Your most recent title deed for the property (a simple copy will suffice).
  • An installation license, where the construction to be erected is dedicated to a specific activity.

The paperwork for your minor works license (Licencia de Obra Menor) will include:

  • Standardised application form.
  • Photographs of the house in its present state.
  • Description of the works to be carried out
  • Budget breakdown of the costs involved
  • Health and safety study
  • Plans for the project

Taxation

The town hall uses all the details you provide to work out the amount of tax needed for building approval. This varies between autonomous communities and can range from between 2% to 6% of the total costs of your estimated price.

Other Challenges to Bear in Mind

If your property is near the coast you will need to conform to coastal law. This means the town hall may ask your builder for a report from the Coastal department and the Department of the Environment of the Junta de Andalucía.

If you intend to build a brand new property you will normally have to pay the builder in instalments. Do not hand over the final payment until the builder has provided you with the following documents:

  • 'Fin de obra' this is the certificate from the town hall saying that the building has been completed.
  • 'Boletin' from the electrician and plumber, noting that all installations comply with current regulations. Note: you will have to take these to the local utility suppliers to get a contract for the water and electricity.
  • 'Licencia de primera ocupacion', the habitation license, which is issued by the town hall certifying that the property has been completed according to the plans submitted when the building license was applied for, and is suitable for living in.

LOTUP (ley de ordenación del territorio, urbanismo y paisaje) Laws

Do not be tempted to try and bypass the bureaucratic procedures. If you make your alterations, or build without the relevant planning permission, even if your builder has assured you that it is OK, you run the risk of having your home improvement demolished or you will be ordered to restore it to its original state if it cannot be legalised. Beware too, that where your refurbishment varies from the architect's plan, you face fines and will be forced to correct the refurbishment until it complies with what was originally planned.

Where once there was some leniency, things have changed. It used to be that if four years had lapsed after the building work was completed, the town hall would not pursue any further action. Unfortunately, a new urban law, known as the LOTUP (ley de ordenación del territorio, urbanismo y paisaje), has been approved by the Regional Board, which states that you can be prosecuted if you have carried out any building work without proper planning permission in the last 15 years.

Torrevieja has been quick to enforce the new law, having increased the number of inspections it carries out. In 2014, 500 files were opened and 100 demolitions were set in motion. Fines are quick to be issued, as are orders for property to be legalised or extra building work demolished where it cannot be legalised. In addition, the town hall has appointed a firm to carry out demolitions if they are not carried out voluntarily.

Get Your Deeds in Order!

The good news is that you can apply for planning permission retrospectively, so if you need to, take action now. This is especially important if you plan to sell your home on, as it will be impossible to sell if potential buyers become aware that there has been illegal building work.

The conveyancing process will discover whether there are differences between what you have on your Deed and your property itself. So, before you place your property on the market you should contact a solicitor directly to help you apply for retrospective planning permission.

Updated: 04/07/2017