The lowdown on gaining building licenses

The lowdown on gaining building licences on the Costa del Sol

Many people don’t realise, but any building work that you do within your Spanish property requires a building licence of some kind. These must be applied for and are issued by your local Town Hall. For small remedial works within an existing property which doesn’t fundamentally change the nature of the property, for example changing your bathrooms or laying a new floor, you need a licence called “Licencia de Obra Menor”.

As long as the existing parameters of the property are not changed, this licence applies, up to a cost limit of 60,000€. If the value of the work is over that, or changes are required to the footprint of the property, such as adding an extension, or building from scratch then you need to apply for a “Major works licence” or “Licencia de Obra Mayor”.

If you are constructing a new property or development, you need to ensure that you comply with the urban plans for the area and that the plans are validated by the College of Architects and approved by the Town Hall with the issuance of a building licence proper. It is required that you do not adversely affect neighbouring property owners and you are required to pay up front to cover the building licence and other infrastructure. You also need to sign tree protection and residue removal guarantees to be able to move the application through the approval process.

Are building licences difficult to get on the Costa del Sol?

These aren’t difficult to get, but it is a highly bureaucratic system and the process is time consuming and can be frustrating to most. It speeds things up significantly if you know people within the Town Hall and they know you and how you work, as they will give you a higher priority as they know you understand the process and the system and will have everything they require. You should avoid a process whereby your application file moves to the bottom of the pile because of an oversight of not including a correct plan, or having forgotten to pay a little-known tax.

For the “Licencia de Obra Mayor” there are more hoops to jump through and it’s much more complex. They require more detailed information and plans which are signed off by an architect and a technical architect, so you need the architects on side and working with you to get it done with the minimum impact to your budget and your timescales.

How do the Town Halls compare?

Although the Costa del Sol is a relatively small area there are many different Town Halls, all with slightly different ways of doing things and so where you build or buy will affect how easy it is to get licences and permits through. We find that different Town Halls have varying interpretations of code and also differ on their efficiency level and flexibility. Of course, it depends on the day and the person you deal with, but based on our experience the best Town Halls are Estepona, Benalmádena, Benahavis, Marbella and Ojen. There are more time-consuming issues when dealing with Fuengirola, Mijas and San Roque, so you may need to be a bit more patient than you were expecting.

Marbella’s Urban Plan

Many people are aware that Marbella has been going through a period of change, with buildings which were previously granted licences being reclassified and becoming illegal. This came about because the 2010 PGOU or General Urban Plan was approved by the Town Hall, but not validated by the regional government. The 2010 plan tried to normalise the housing situation following the 2008 crash and planning infringements carried out by previous Mayors and Counsellors and legalise around 16,500 properties which were strictly speaking considered illegal.

Unfortunately, five years later, the regional government legally rescinded the plan in 2015 and went back to the 1986 urban plan. This left individuals and developers in limbo and planning applications taking one to two years to be processed. A completely new PGOU is now being developed and it should be ready in 2022 or 2023, which will hopefully make building in Marbella a lot easier in the future.

How we can help with building licences?

As experienced project developers MDCI have helped over 100 clients to obtain the required building licenses as part of our project management services. We start with a consultation, studying the case and recommending the optimum route to success.

We then manage the whole process from compiling the needed documents and applying for the licences, to chasing up the individual depts concerned. Licences depend on a process that traverses various related departments in the Town Hall culminating in all of them “signing off”. The chasing up and staying on top of it throughout is vital, as if you’re not careful and don’t check, an application can be stuck at one department without you realising and it can delay the whole process. Our team will visit the Town Hall on a regular basis to show their face, check the status and help overcome any bumps in the road, to ensure it moves through the departments as quickly as possible. By speaking Spanish, knowing the system inside and out and becoming familiar faces within the Town Hall, doors open and things are sped up considerably than if a client was to do it themselves.

If you need help with obtaining building licences, or making sure you have the ones you need, please contact us and we’d be delighted to help you get the paperwork in order so you can get back on track.

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