With difficulties buying and selling property in Spain, more and more people have decided to improve their Spanish home rather than sell it. Extensions, swimming pools, building a new floor or using an under build are popular ways of extending and improving what you have already.
What people don’t realise is just how strict the laws are when it comes to building work and planning permission in Spain. Home improvements are divided into two categories:
* Major works (Obra mayor) e.g. building an extension, conservatory or swimming pool
* Minor work (Obra menor) anything else such as building a balustrade or awning
If you have any intention of carrying out either a minor or a major work on your property then you need planning permission from the town hall. For a major work you will need an architect’s drawing.
It is important that if a builder is involved in carrying out the work that you are sure that the correct licence for building work has been obtained. There have been occasions where a home owner has been told that permission has been granted only to find out later that this wasn’t the case.
If you do not have the proper planning permission in Spain or if there is a licence but the work carried out is different from the architect’s drawing, then you can be required to have your home improvement demolished or at least restored to its previous state.
The new law
A new law has been approved by the Regional Board and is due to be implemented in the Comunidad Valenciana. This is the Lotup (ley de ordenación del territorio, urbanismo y paisaje). It used to be that if you didn’t have permission for your home improvement in Spain but four years had passed since you’d made it, that the town hall was unlikely to take action against you. The new law means that they are extending the period during which action can be taken from 4 to 15 years.
Torrevieja town hall is already increasing the number of inspections of urban properties in 2014. It has been reported that 500 new files were opened last year and these cases were being investigated for illegal building work.
Where the case is proved, home owners must either legalise their home improvements or demolish them if they cannot be legalised.
What you should do
Even if you are not investigated for illegal building work, you are likely to have difficulties when you come to sell or bequeath your Spanish property if the change to the original building isn’t registered on the Deed. Differences between what is specified on the Deed and the property itself will be evident during the conveyancing process and will slow down the transfer of your house.
If you think you might have unlicensed building work on your property then it is important to act sooner rather than later and apply for retrospective planning permission. We recommend that any work done on your property is entered in the Deed before the law comes into force as you may well then qualify for the four year amnesty rather than the 15 years that the new law requires.
Don’t be complacent. Fifteen years is a long time to be unsure whether you can keep your Spanish extension or not. Better to have the correct licences in place and enjoy your improved home here and now.
Information supplied by Ábaco Advisers, specialists in legal and financial advice, conveyancing and taxation with multilingual help centre and nationwide coverage.
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