There are Still Pitfalls to Avoid When Purchasing Land/Property in Spain

Written by Myra C. Azzopardi for with permission to post on my blog.

It would be wishful thinking to suggest that the problems when purchasing land /plots in Spain on which to construct your dream home no longer exist. Land purchasers in the past have bought in good faith to find often-insurmountable hurdles in just obtaining the building licence. Some, who were lucky enough to acquire the much-coveted licence from their town halls, went ahead and built. Many only to find that they were not able to obtain the “end of work” licence or even the “first licence of occupation. Without the final licence a property cannot be legally connected to the utilities mains gas, electricity and water. There are thousands of homes in all regions of Spain, which are still connected to the builders supply.

In Andalucia alone, there are over 300,000 illegal properties. Most of these are in possession of a title deed. (escritura de compraventa) Though these legal documents have been signed at the notary and then often registered at the land registry, (Registro de la Propiedad) and in the case of mortgages, accepted by the bank, they are not proof of the legality of the build. Many only discover this when trying to sell their property. The question here would be why? There are multitudes of answers. Some of the more common are: due to the lack of builders adhering to the planning laws: No licence giving permissions to build obtained, town halls providing building licences in areas not zoned for planning in the general plan, builds which exceed the M2 permissible, plots where the M2 did not comply to the measurement’s in the regional juntas and town halls regulations, The property with a build superior to the plans for which the building licence was granted, regulations not followed for building such a land studies, the home not having obtained the correct insurances, a build on land zones, the town halls complacency especially in the days when Spain was a little sleepy and many more reasons. This has not only applied to individual properties but to large blocks and apartments or houses built within an urbanisation.

Astounding, as it may seem, thousands of homes in Marbella and the municipality became illegal overnight when it was declared that the 1986 general plan was illegal which also affected the the plan of 2010. (Article relating to this can be found in this blog).

Owners, who had bought in good faith and used a lawyer for their purchase, were astounded to find that that properties that they had bought years earlier, were now deemed illegal. Unimaginable as it may seem, plans from the past were updated therefore your planning zone could therefore be considered to be no longer legal building land. These sorts of cases have also arisen where the properties infringed the ‘Ley de Costas’ 1988 and has meant that thousands of beachfront properties have been built on ‘maritime public domain’.

Many owners’ homes remain under threat of demolition. The government have included properties that were built before the law of 1988. These owners are demanding that the state returns the right of private ownership but were only given a concession of 30 years. The government after intervention from Brussels approved a new law in 2013, which amongst other conclusions, has augmented the concession to those existing builds whether these are homes, hotels or restaurants to 75 years. This has not solved anything for these owners who will also find restrictions in selling and allowing their families to inherit. For these properties there is mandatory registration in the land registry. This has been put in place to prevent purchases of these properties and for the buyer to later find out that they only own a concession. There are villages in all areas of Spain where the owners of these properties as they are affected by the demarcation of the public domain in an area owned by the state are living with uncertainties.

Should anyone be concerned by anything written in this blog or wish to have further information, please contact:

Please note: The information provided is based upon our understanding of current legislation. It is not legal advice but is provided freely to enable you to be properly informed. We recommend that if you are considering taking action, you should seek professional advice.

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