Building Licence Basics.
Almost ALL building work undertaken on property in Spain involving any changes or building repairs will require one form of building licence or another prior to commencing work. Even theoretically repairing or painting your outside walls, laying paving etc needs to be covered. So its advisable not to start without a building licence or at least to know your position in relation to the law. Don't be convinced by any builder who says 'hey its ok to start work, we will sort it out later'. The licensing laws apply to the property owner not the builder. You will get the repercussions, not the builder. Dont build without the building licence in your hand. Planning laws in Spain are not really any more complex than the UK, but they are certainly more fragmented and completely different, so its safer to know where you stand before you make even the most insignificant changes to property.
Licencia de obras menor (minor works licence)
eg Raising of existing walls or building new up to 1.5m, relocation or addition of gates, fencing, railings. Changes or replacement of windows, doors, security grills, painting of exterior walls, repairs to waste pipes, roof repairs, laying of concrete and terracing, pre building groundwork, advertising signs etc.
Minor work applications are a relatively simple procedure (also less costly) and can cover much basic building work, Obtaining a minor works licence is a relatively simple procedure and with the right advice you can often do it yourself. You don't need an architects project for minor works but advice may be needed how to handle it to reduce costs. Simple drawings may need to be prepared and many people can produce an adequate plan for minor works. However anything of a structural nature will almost certainly require a building licence linked to a detailed architects project or mini project, involving drawings and specifications. Though its advisible to get a minor works licence before work starts it is still possible to do this slightly but not too retrospectively for very small works.
There are many gray areas relating to what can be done with little or no structural component in renovation work under a minor works building licence. A finca say in reasonable existing condition could in theory be renovated this way as a whole series of minor works, if very conservatively described, under one licence. But advice on how to approach this could save money. But this would be subject to the existing structural integrity being reasonably sound and no large adjustments in the basic layout of habitable space as described in the esritura being made. Structural or 'major' roof repairs would also be an area to watch if attempting to use this licencing method. This could save on the expense and red tape of a full project. However, always take advice, as anything deemed structural or involving significant changes will tip the balance at the application stage towards the requirement for a project based planning submission and licence. ie Major works. Though rare, there is also a possibility proposed works may be inspected prior to commencement by town hall officials.
Licencia de Obras Mayor (major works licence or technical project)
eg Installation of pool, building a house or underbuild extension, new garage, reforming a cellar or underbuild, converting a terrace or solarium to habitable space, or a complete new house. We produce all plans and specifications directly, including active liason with the client, this is then submitted as a joint project with our team of Spanish and/or English associates who are all members of the college of architects. We can usually fast track applications through our association with the college of architects. Our total architectural fees can also be up to 40% less than some competitors.
The cost of this licence is
more substantial and dependent on the
degree of works required. You will usually need an architects project for larger works. Almost anything of a structural nature will require a building licence which is linked to a specific and detailed architects project. This involves drawings, calculations and specifications. The project can only be produced and presented by a qualified architect who is a member of the college of architects. Often if there are structural considerations to the project a technical architect (aparejador) is also consulted to equate calculations. At the college of architects all aspects of the project, escritura, land use etc is taken into consideration. They act very much like a planning and building control rolled into one. A visada is produced in the form of a bound folder of drawings and information. This document is used to submit the actual licence application to the local council/area council for final approval. This is a separate stage in the process.
All rebuilds, new builds, extensions or any work involving structural components, eg roof stucture repairs, other than re-slating, will normally require a full or 'small' project, as described above.
The Building Licence (and what it can cost)
The building licence is perhaps the most important document you can have when working on property. Without this, police have been known to seal and blue tape the offending property if work has started without one, items such as building materials, tools and machinery could be confiscated, builders executed, (just joking, registered builders still survive)), and then allowing no re-entry to anyone including owners until the paperwork is sorted out and the fine paid.
The cost of a licence depends on whether you are creating living/habitable space or not. Living space is based on the area of construction in m2, being created. Either a new house or additions if extending. The fee is based on a percentage of the 'projected' nominal building cost and works out in the Marsha region around 6%-7% of this cost although each council actually decides its own level. Building works other than actual living accommodation such as structural work or no habitable space, even if included in a project are often based more on representative costs of actual works, some councils opting for a type of 'menu' of works to calculate licence fees, others may use builders estimates, providing they correspond reasonably to the guidelines or 'menu' of prices hectic. In most developments the habitable space allowed is limited to a percentage of plot area. The calculation rules for this are not always straight forward. Its best to get advice.
Local council Planning and Licensing departments in Southern Spain have recently been really tightening their grip on past and present illegal building. This type of building if you look closely really is actually getting out of hand, read this. The fines can be punitive, costing the owner far more than the original architects bill and the licensing fees, which will still have to be paid anyway. Its prudent to get your licence first, you know it makes sense.
Legalisation of 'existing illegal' Building Work
Informe Tecnico or Projecto de Legalizacion (legalis at ion project) *(d.load architects legal paper .pdf)*
eg When work has been completed without a licence, provided the work would actually have been granted a licence originally its often possible to make a retrospective licence application. Drawings must be prepared and necessary documents drawn up for submission, often a full project application will be needed to be submitted through the college of architects prior to obtaining a correct licence and before official changes can be made to the escritura hectic. There are some grey areas here with the process of legalis at ion and if there is a way to make it happen for you we will negotiate every possibility with your council.
Projecto de Legalizacion If you have changed the layout or structure of your property, then attempting to sell it without the changes being registered on your escitura/certificate of habitation can cause problems and delays. This is because the written detailed description of the property as registered is now inaccurate. This alone can hold up the sale of property until it has been legalised. Banks are also very reluctant to lend on property without everything fully legalised. Because their security may later be compromised if councils decide to retrospectively act on illegal building and issue fines. These fines are always levied on the current owner but the house will also constitute security for the bank. Obviously in the selling process, any changes of structural nature or obvious building work are revealed anyway. So if you have built recently, without a licence, and not yet been caught. Then speak to us about the possible legal solutions available to you, possibly avoiding a potentially painful experience. In many cases legalis at ion is possible. But it can be subject to many factors including habitable space area calculation formulas and boundary clearances rules to name just two.
If there is any possible way to legalise your project we will attempt to find it. The first course of action is always full legalis at ion if possible. Sometimes this may mean that structural changes may be needed to unsafe work already done unless calculations/survey justify the existing structural integrity. If it is impossible to legalise in the normal way then the second option becomes available after a time limitation.
Informe Tecnico & Cadastre Declarations. Extensions and other building works that have been added illegally also have a sort of statute of limitations, but that's if you don't get caught, by precedent this is currently four years until you can safely declare it. What this means is that a registered architect can draw up plans of the building complete with additions, specifications and photographic evidence of the work done. Then he can and produce what is know as a Informe Technico. This document, similar to a small project in content is then used to legally inform your council that the work has been done already, also that it has exceeded the requisite time in elapsed years since its construction. This is possible as long as the work meets certain structural criteria, also that tangible proof of actual building dates can be produced, ie builders receipts etc. When the informe is submitted to the local town council and cadastre, as it is not an actual building license process so a small administrative fee is often charged by the council and it is 'stamped', you pay some back tax if it increases your ibi tax. This ensures legally that for the declared building works at least, fines cannot be imposed in the future. This informe document is also used with your escritura and essentially serves as protection for future owners of the building.
Also buyer beware, if a house has building additions and this is not declared before or on sale date both sellers and buyers leave themselves open to a number of offences icluding tax evasion, also the description of the house is false so in effect untruths are being told to the notary, pretty serious. Also the clock is reset and any additions are now once again the responsibility of the new owner who will have to wait a further four years to obtain any informe unless he can prove it was there before. See above re notary. Why, because at the notary he asks if the escritura is a true description of the property. If this is not the case and lies are told we are in trouble and the description remains on register from the sale date as it was prior to any building additions. For potential buyers this is not good. An informe though effective against fines is not as secure as a full legalis at ion project, the preferred method. Legalis at ion can be done anytime, as long as it's possible to do at all when taking into account all current criteria. The only option open, if building legalis at ion by project is not possible, is to wait and hope that an informe technico is still available as an option. Planning laws do change, and the informe technico can ONLY be implemented after 4 years under present legislation. But during this period fines can land at your door any day, if building work is reported by friendly neighbours, or surveyed by council spot checks hectic. hectic.
Councils need more money, times in Spain are not easy right now. Councils are getting their act together and their lawyers are also being told to be much more intense in their licence evasion prosecutions. Especially, it seems also that non spanish are favourite targets. Money is now being spent on locating property and licensing offenders before the four year limitation expires and certain well known areas as we know have limitless targets, ie. small additions and illegal changes that could become a fines bonanza and new council piggy bank once this process gains momentum. Best to make sure you are legal before it starts to bite. Remember you can be fined up to 60% of estimated building costs plus your own costs. And you will still have to legalise.
Basically just adding patios, porches, conservatories, garages or just glazing in an open balcony can result in licensing problems. But many works are simple minor procedures, with minor works licensing applications basically becoming a simple tax gathering exercise for local government, but with major works it is more complex. We are here to help.
Industrial and Commercial, everything you need, sorted.