When you have made the decision, for whatever reason, that it’s time to move on, you want to sell your Spanish property as quickly as possible. In this article we look at an unforeseen complication that might hold up your sale.
Once you have secured a buyer for your property you will already be planning ahead what the next stage holds for you. Delays in the sale of your property in Spain are the last thing that you want. However, aside from the usual hold ups that can occur between vendor and buyer, there can be another unexpected hurdle. Unauthorised building works.
It often comes as a surprise to people with property in Spain that relatively small home improvements can require authorisation. If you have made any of these changes to your Spanish property then you should have applied for planning permission:
- Built a shed
- Enclosed a conservatory by installing windows
- Built a conservatory
- Built a swimming pool
- Paved the patio
- Increased the height of the wall
- Installed solar panels
Many people carry out at least one of these on their property at some point. What they don’t realise is that having done this without obtaining permission can hold up their sale. It can be particularly crucial for a potential purchaser who needs a mortgage in Spain as the bank will not lend on a property that is not correctly registered.
Checks reveal unauthorised work
When a solicitor acts on the part of the buyer making sure that a property is legal and problem-free, one of the checks they will make is on whether the property matches the catastral register and land registry description. They do not just rely on what the estate agents and sellers tell them but have a duty to check this out for their client too.
In some cases where there is some uncertainty, an aerial photo might be used to confirm or not whether the property has been changed and whether permission should have been obtained.
If an unauthorised building work is detected then it comes back to the vendor to put this right before the property can be sold. They will be expected to apply for retrospective planning permission, a requirement that can significantly delay the sale of the property.
A surprise to vendors
This whole situation can come as a surprise to the person selling the property. Building regulations have tightened up in recent years and not everyone has been made aware of this. The LOTUP (urban and landscape planning and zoning law) was approved by the Valencian government in 2013. The previous ‘amnesty’ on building work over four years old, no longer applies. The new law means that work completed up to 15 years ago can now be challenged for its legality.
Permission will also need to be obtained from the community of owners. This may simply be a matter of routine as the community has presumably lived with the alteration for a number of years. However, there can be difficulties with gaining the official permission in time, and again this can delay your sale.
Even more worryingly is if there turns out to be a home improvement that cannot be retrospectively authorised. It does sometimes happen that an alteration that someone has made is firmly outside the law. For example when people have built an extra storey onto their property, it can mean that the living space has been extended beyond the square metres of living space allowed. This can delay your sale even further whilst some solution is found.
What you should do
If you own a house in Spain and are considering selling your property you should reflect back on whether you have made any changes that you’ve forgotten about. Even a heightened perimeter fence or wall can need planning permission in Spain.
If you realise that building work has been completed without applying for the correct licence then the measures that should be taken will depend upon whether it is classed as a major or minor work.
If you have had a minor work done (obra menor) then a building licence issued by the Town Hall Urban Department should be sufficient for a successful sale.
However, if it is a major work (obra mayor) the process is more complicated. A new Title Deed will need to be signed and the details of the property will need to be changed in the Land Registry. In order to change the Title Deed, a building licence or an architect’s certificate will be needed along with a certificate from the community of owners consenting to the work.
An architect’s certificate will be sufficient in cases where:
- The work was completed before the 20th August 2010 and is at least four years old
- The work was completed after 20th August 2010 and 15 years has expired since it was done (from 2025 onwards)
The earlier you start to put this process in motion the less time will be lost during the selling process itself. Of course, it might not only be time you lose but the buyer themselves. A good reason to take matters into your own hands and make sure your property is ready to sell.