What do I do if I buy or sell a house that doesn’t comply with the town planning law?

A property is out of order when it does not comply with the town planning regulations in force.

This situation influences the market value of the property and complicates the sales process. It also limits what you can “do with it”, from renovations to reconstruction in case of serious damage.

But all is not lost, having an out-of-order property is not the end, as it does not imply illegality, it just does not conform to current regulations.

  1.  What is an out-of-plan house?

There are two types of out-of-plan buildings:

a) Legal constructions: A building constructed in a legal manner can become out of order due to recent changes in urban planning regulations.

b) Constructions with planning infringements: Constructions built without the permits and licences required by law, or constructions that have exceeded or do not conform to the characteristics of the licence that was granted.

  •  How do you know if a property complies with the law?

You have two options:

a) You can go to your local town hall and request a town planning report or certificate of non-infringement for the property or plot. Depending on the town hall, this may involve some cost and may take several months to respond.

b) Request a “Nota Simple” of the property from the Land Registry, if no information appears there, the best option to be sure is to go to the town hall to find out the current legal situation of the property.

  • Why can a house be out of planning permission?

3.1.- Buildings that are incompatible with public spaces and facilities.

One of the reasons is that its construction is incompatible with other public spaces and facilities.

For example, a house was legally built a few years ago, but after a modification of the urban planning laws, a road is going to be built on this land.

3.2.- Buildings that do not comply with planning regulations

The second reason why a property may be out of planning is that the building does not comply with the current planning laws.

For example, if the minimum distance between your house and the neighbour is not respected.

  • Problems with houses outside the urban development plan

4.1.- Legal problems

An out-of-urbanisation house is in a kind of limbo, in which the property is considered to have an expiry date, i.e. for the Town Hall the property will have to disappear over time.

For example, if you want to modify the property, the Town Hall will only allow you to carry out conservation and maintenance works. If you want to extend the property, they will not give you a building licence, nor will they give you a licence for any changes to the house that would increase its value, such as building a swimming pool.

If there is a fire or natural disaster, and the house is badly damaged, the municipality will prevent it from being rebuilt.

Licences will only be granted for repairs that keep the house in good habitable condition. For example, repairing a bathroom, as long as the work does not increase the volume of the house or its value.

It should also be noted that the property cannot be registered in the Land Registry as a “normal” home. The Town Hall will be the one to communicate to the Land Registry that the property is out of order with the administrative limitations that this entails for the owners.

4.3.- Insurance and financing issues

If you are going to buy a property out of order, your bank will not give you a mortgage, as they know that the property will eventually disappear, so it will not be a valid guarantee to give you the money.

If you are going to take out insurance for your home, you will most likely not get it for the same reasons.

  • How are these problems solved?

5.1.-Legal advice

There are many urban planning problems of different characteristics, the best option will be to find specialised legal advice

5.2.-Regularisation options

There are some options to legalise your house, but there must be three minimum requirements:

a) The house must meet the habitability requirements established by law.

b) The house must not be affected by easements of general public use (water or electricity installations, water drainage, etc.).

c) The house must not be located on demanial land, i.e. land for public use and public domain (e.g. parks and gardens). If this is your case, the public administration could order its demolition.

Once these requirements are met, there are a series of steps that must be taken to regularise the situation of the property. This is usually a long and complicated process that requires the intervention of a professional.

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