Legalisation of properties on the Costa del Sol and Costa de la Luz

In Andalusia, until the early 2000s, it was common to build a property without planning permission and then just pay a fine afterwards. Why ask permission when you can ask for forgiveness? The penalty was often cheaper than a proper building permit.

Estimates put the number of illegally built structures in Andalusia at around 450,000 by 2002, especially fincas in inland areas. So what to do with all these houses? It was only in 2012 that the Andalusian legislator decided to allow for the protection of existing buildings so that illegal properties could also be “legalised”.

With the 2002 land reform, illegal construction became a criminal offence. In the case of properties without building permission or those without authorisation, the supply of electricity and water would be cut off after 4 years. The path is clear: Andalusia wants to stop illegal building activities.

As architects, we are authorised to carry out occupancy protection procedures (Declaración de Asimilado a Fuera de Ordenación, also known as AFO or DAFO). This usually consists of a report on the existing building (in the form of plans and descriptions/area calculations), as well as a lot of evidence. A request for protection of the existing building is then submitted to the municipality; if this is granted, the building can be entered on the land register.

However, there are some exceptions. Not every property can be “legalised”. It cannot be legalised if the property is located on protected land, for example. As such, properties that cannot be legalised shouldn’t apply to the municipality under any circumstances. This is because with the application you’re asking the municipality to start a process which, if unsuccessful, obliges them to send you a demolition order. That said, smaller municipalities such as Cómpeta or Sedella don’t want to scare property owners away and (still) allow these orders come to nothing.

Some may prefer the direct registration option, where you go to the notary with a certificate from an architect confirming that the property has been where it is for more than 6 years, and sign a ‘declaración de obra nueva’, along with a ‘certificado de antigüedad’, with which the property can then be registered.

Although this is efficient and moves faster than an AFO, please bear in mind that the land registry offices send this registration to the respective building authorities for examination. If the property cannot be legalised, a demolition order is also possible in this case.

It is therefore highly recommended to talk to the respective municipality/the head of the building authority beforehand and to announce the project/to determine the basics.

We would be happy to do this for you.


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