How to know if my property is legal in Spain


Legalising a property without a licence is one of the most common and complicated problems to solve at Arquitectura Legal. Some of the most typical examples would be two flats that have been joined inside, an isolated house on a rural plot, the closure of a small terrace to extend the property or even a flat converted into an office that is decided to be re-let as a home. Moreover, this problem often appears at the most inopportune moment: during a sale or purchase, in the middle of an inheritance or when applying for the electricity supply for our new home.


How can I find out if my home is legal?

Here are several cases that are similar to reality in order to identify whether your home is legal.

I have a detached house that I inherited from my parents on a rustic plot of land. Some time after building it, an extension was made without a licence. We have been paying IBI as urban for more than 20 years. Is my property legal?

1. The payment of IBI is exclusively a fiscal issue. It has nothing to do with the legality of a building. That is a town planning issue. Just because they exist, all buildings are obliged to pay IBI, even if they are illegal. However, paying the tax does not give the owner any rights. An illegal house has to pay the same IBI as a completely legal house. The only difference is that the former is subject to heavy penalties - or even demolition depending on the case - and the latter is not.

2. I also have the title deed signed in front of a notary, is that enough?

Well, I am sorry to have to tell you that the title deed of a property only identifies the owner of that property, but nothing more. Of course, it is good and necessary to have it. But by itself, it has no value from the point of view of urban planning legality.

3. It is a good thing that my parents took the precaution of registering it in the Land Registry.

Although registration in the Land Registry is an important step forward, it is no guarantee of anything. There are many illegal constructions registered in the Land Registry. In order to register an illegal building, if the necessary time limits have expired, only a Certificate of Age and Surface Area is required. With this document, the Notary will issue the Declaration of New Construction and you will be able to register your property in the Land Registry. Surely this should not be the case, but it is the reality. In fact, registration is not even compulsory by law. It is very convenient to have any property registered, as it offers important guarantees to the owner, but, as far as urban planning legality is concerned, it would be just another indication.

4. But then, if we pay IBI, we have a deed from the Notary and my house is registered in the Registry, how can I know if my property is legal?

You need to find out if the property has ever had a Licence of First Occupation. Until a few years ago, the Licencia de Primera Ocupación was also called Cédula de Habitabilidad. All dwellings built according to the steps established in the legislation, on completion receive their Licence of First Occupancy. This means that, according to the Administration, they are suitable to be used according to the conditions of the licence they applied for.

It may happen that at some point you have had the Licence of First Occupancy, but it is now expired. If this is the case, do not worry. Renewing your Licence to Occupy is a very simple, quick and inexpensive process. You simply have to apply for a renewal of the Licence to Occupy and provide the documentation that we will provide you with. Remember that this simplified procedure is only valid for second or subsequent occupations.

How do I know if I have a Licence of First Occupation?

First of all, you can check the original documentation of the property. Most likely a copy of the Licence of First Occupancy will be attached to the rest of the documents. Remember that it can also be called Cédula de Habitabilidad or even Cédula de Habitabilidad de Primera Ocupación. Secondly, you can check the full text of the title deed of the property. In many cases, reference is made to the Licence. If you can't find out anything new either, try requesting information about your property from the Land Registry.

If, after all this, you cannot find any information about the Licence, all you can do is ask at the Town Hall. They should have a copy kept with the original file, although it may take some time to find it. If you have difficulties in any of these steps, you can provide us with a copy of all the documentation you have and we will make these enquiries for you.

What happens when my home has no Licence of First Occupancy?

If your house has never had a First Occupancy Licence, the only solution is to regularise this situation. A Legalisation File must be drawn up. At this point, it is inevitable to face the most delicate point: all constructions cannot be legalised. Furthermore, depending on the seriousness of the case, the cost of legalising a house can be considerable. Each case must be studied individually to determine whether it is feasible or worth the investment.

The next step is to check whether the property to be legalised complies with the applicable regulations. If the answer is yes, you will have to find a registered architect and present a legalisation dossier at the Town Hall. If this is not the case, it will be necessary to study whether it would be possible to comply with the regulations by means of renovation work. If this is the case, a Reform Project and a Legalisation File for the reformed property must be drawn up. Subsequently, both documents will be presented together at the Town Hall. When it is also not possible to comply with the regulations by carrying out renovation work, the only thing left to do is to study the exact reason for this impossibility and assess whether there are alternatives.


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