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Building or renovating a property in Spain

There are strict planning regulations in Spain. Nowadays, local administrations enforce these regulations rigorously; certainly a big change from just few years ago. Failure to follow the planning regulations can result in fines. If the modernisation or repair of the building requires making external alterations, such as erecting external walls, installing larger windows or new doorways, you need planning permission and a building license from the local town hall. This is called in Spain Licencia de Obra (works license).

There are basically a two types of building licenses in Spain:

Licencia de Obra Mayor (major works licence) is needed for extending the house or changing its structure, or new constructions.

A Licencia de Obra Menor (minor works licence) is required for any minor change to a building, like for, example: Conservation and maintenance work, electrical installations, plumbing, or retiling a bathroom or a kitchen.

Types of Works

There are several types of licenses and the exact classification and documentation needed depends on the local town hall.

Licencia de Obra Mayor (major works licence)

Works that require a technical project prepared by a certified technical architect. Examples:

  • New buildings
  • Any reform or extension that modify substantially the structure or the appearance of the building
  • Any type of underground excavation like for parking or underground extensions
  • Large demolitions
  • Works that require just the signature and the supervision of a technical architect

Examples: Exterior works of renovation, roofs, balconies or anything that is not affecting the building structure; swimming pools and demolition of small buildings

Works that require just the signature of a technical architect. Examples:

  • Retaining  walls
  • Stairs
  • Sceptic tanks
  • Opening of windows

Licencia de Obra Menor (minor works licence)

Works that require only a cost estimation for fiscal purposes. Examples:

  • Interior surfaces and paint
  • plasters
  • Water Tanks in rural areas
  • Reparation of leaks and humidity
  • Construction of fencing and temporary fences
  • Construction of kitchens and bathrooms
  • Demolition and construction of partition walls (less than 50 meters long).

Documentation
In most cases it is the architect or the builder doing the works that will gather the larger part of the documentation. Keep in mind that the list of documents might change depending on thetown halls

For works of type (A)

  • Official application form
  • Payment form for administration fees.
  • Project, signed by a competent technician and duly endorsed by the corresponding college. Including a health and safety study and a detailed cost estimation.
  • Original Certificate issued by the college that accredits the intervention of a Technical Architect or Foreman in the work.
  • 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): Original and a photocopy.
  • Most recent title deed of the parcel to be constructed (simple copy or collated photocopy).
  • License, if the construction to be erected is dedicated for a specific activity.

For works of type (B) and (C)

  • Work description and a cost estimation signed by a competent technical architect
  • Most recent title deed of the parcel to be constructed
  • Original Certificate issued by the college that accredits the intervention of a Technical Architect or Foreman in the work.
  • Official application form
  • Payment form for administration fees
  • Plans of the project

For works of type (D) i.e. Minor works “Licencia de Obra Menor”

  • Standardized application form
  • Description of the works to be carried out
  • Budget breakdown of the costs involved
  • Plans of the project

Taxation

With these details, the town hall will calculate the tax amount for the building approval. This is different in each community, ranging from 2% to 6% of the total costs of your estimated price. The calculation of the precise amount can be complex.

Other issues to consider

Any kind of work will be regulated by the urban planning regulation specific to the area where the building is located. This will dictate for example, maximum building height, percentage of plot occupation and distance from the boundaries.

If you are building or renovating a property near the coastline, your property will have to conform with the coastal law (ley de costas in Spanish) and in this case there will be additional regulations, in particular the protected area (100m or 20m from the start of the beach, depending if the property is in a town or not) and the influence zone (a band of 500m from the start of the beach).