First occupancy and habitation licences - what's the difference?

Explanation and five point guide

Spanish Law Wednesday, April 6, 2016
First occupancy and habitation licences

They are both very important documents and yet many people haven’t even heard of them, let alone know what the difference is.  Not until they want to sell their property that is. Jessica Martinez explains why they’re so vital. 

Every new property in Spain must be issued with what’s called a first occupancy licence or Licencia de Primera Ocupación. This licence indicates that the property developer has fulfilled all obligations regarding habitation and the property is ready for occupation.

First occupancy licence

There is quite a strict process that operates in Spain to ensure that any commitments that the developer made during the planning of the property are put into operation.  This might include infrastructure around the development or repairing any damage that has been caused.

You should obtain the licence at the time when you purchase your property. If you are wanting to purchase your property with a mortgage, then it will be expected that there is a first occupancy licence in place. You also need it to enable the connection of main services such as electricity, water and telecommunications. If your builder hasn’t secured one then you can end up only having a builder’s supply which is not sustainable in the long term.

Habitation licence

It is important to note that the original first occupancy licence is only valid for ten years. After this time it must be renewed. Once your utilities are in place, you might not see any reason to renew the licence when it expires. You don’t have to. But when it comes to wanting to sell your property or it passing to someone else through inheritance, then another licence will have to be applied for if the first occupancy licence is over ten years old.

The replacement licence is no longer called the first occupancy licence but the habitation licence  (Licencia de Habitabilidad).The habitation licence takes the place of the first occupancy licence and is needed so that the new owner can change the name on the utility bills. You can obtain one from the town hall but will need to have a habitation certificate signed by an architect to get one. If the new owner does not transfer the contracts to his name then they will be unable to make changes to electricity and water arrangements in future. 

A new purchaser will also want to satisfy themselves by seeing the licence that the property fulfils the habitation laws. They will need this when they come to sell the property again. In the current climate buyers can afford to be choosy and will quickly drop any property that looks as though it might bring ‘problems’ with it. Don’t leave it to chance but make sure that you have everything in place.

All is not lost if you discover that you don’t have a habitation certificate. You can obtain another one from the town hall but do have to pay for this replacement. An important detail that a good lawyer should have checked out for you at the time of purchase.

It’s in everyone’s interest that strict laws exist when it comes to approving buildings for habitation. There is a logical reason why both the first occupancy and habitation certificates exist. If you aren’t sure if you’ve got one and think you might need one soon, then our legal department will be happy to help out.

Five point guide to the first occupancy licence

  • Is issued when the builder has satisfied all habitation requirements
  • Is required to prove that the building has been approved for occupation
  • Is required to establish contracts for drinking water, telecommunications and electricity
  • Is required to sell your property if you sell within the first ten years
  • Must be renewed within ten years – it is then called the habitation licence

Five point guide to the habitation licence

  • Replaces the first occupancy licences when they are renewed
  • Is needed in order to implement any changes to water or electricity contracts
  • Is required to sell your property after it has been built ten years
  • Must be renewed within ten years if you sell
  • Replacements can be obtained from the town hall
  • Reassures a new purchaser that the property complies with habitation laws 

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