Renovation Works

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Whether you’re considering a purchase or you’ve already got your perfect spot, renovation works should always be planned keeping in mind what each option implies

You will always need a licence when dividing a plot into smaller parcels, carrying out excavations, cutting down trees and large bushes, building roads or any other infrastructures.

You will of course need a licence whenever you are erecting a building, be it from scratch or as part of a renovation, restoration or reinforcement of an existing structure.

You’ll need a license too for demolishing existing works, changing the internal distribution or altering the external appearance of your home. In this case the Town Hall will often ask you for advance written permission from your Community. This is the case when painting your façade, installing glass curtains on your terrace or a pergola on your patio.

Some Communities might not allow for an enclosure on the basis that it consumes any additional construction volume still available on the land, regarded as communal.

The above licenses are required anywhere in Andalusia but check with your Town Hall’s own rules (Ordenanza) for other cases requiring a license. Also existing Planning (known as PGOU) may impose further restrictions to your project, derived from conservation or maximum permitted construction regulations.

Should you be buying with an idea to renovate, you might want to consult your project with an architect first, asking for a Town Hall Certificate of the exact planning situation of your intended purchase.

Once works have been completed you’ll require a habitation license for any new square metres built. This is called Licencia de Primera Ocupación and is granted (supposedly) after the visit of the Town Hall inspector making sure the new space is fit for its purpose.

All licenses carry a tax, currently at about 4 per cent for renovations.

You’ll be asked to apply for a Licencia de Obra Mayor, if erecting new structures (in Marbella only if the built area exceeds 20m2). However you’ll always need a construction project signed by an architect or an engineer.

For other works a Licencia de Obra Menor will do. Should they be very simple, you won’t need a construction project: a concise (but complete) description of what you intend to do is enough.

Some Town Halls (such as Marbella but not Estepona, Benahavís or Ojén) have a super-simplified procedure called actuación comunicada by which if you haven’t heard from the Town Hall in 15 working days, you may go ahead. If not, standard waiting time is three months, with one year to start works and three to complete them.

In all cases, should there be a risk of labourers falling from heights above two metres, you’ll need to present a health and safety assessment, prepared by an engineer, architect or technical architect (aparejador). You want to make sure they visit your works as construction develops, and sign off that all security measures are in place.

Keep in mind that when contracting directly your renovation works, as so often is done, you’re legally your own developer. This means you’ll be liable for any accidents at work, should you have failed to make sure the right safety measures were taken.

When asking for a license that doesn’t require a complete construction project, you’ll need to present your builder’s estimate, provide the exact location and describe your works in writing (this document is called Memoria).

It’s highly advisable you present drawings and photographs, an acceptable proof you built according to your license. Having a licence to build one thing and then doing something completely different is legally equivalent to not having a licence. This is the case too with licences given against the law or Planning rules.

When Planning changes, all licences are put on hold and building works are stopped, until authorised again, on a case-by-case basis.

Make sure you keep receipts of all payments made as well as certificates of terminated works, as well as all your invoices. You’ll need these to offset against your capital gains tax when selling or to make any claims.

By law, all constructions are guaranteed during ten years for any structural defects and during three years for any faults affecting the functional aspects of the construction (such as leaks or insulation, including those against noise). Decoration and overall finish are guaranteed for one year.

Finally, should you have enlarged your property, you’ll want to declare it in a Notary’s deed (escritura de obra nueva), recording it in your name at the Property Registry.

Words Cristina Falkenberg

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