It is common to find buildings and properties in the Valencia region that do not comply with existing regulations and may therefore be illegal. This can lead to unwanted situations, including court orders for the demolition of the building or the discontinuation of water, electricity, gas, and telephone services. As a result, legalizing homes on undeveloped land (suelo no urbanizable) is a very relevant real estate topic in the Valencia region. It is estimated that there are between 300,000 and 400,000 buildings in an irregular or illegal situation in the territory of the Valencia region.
At any time after the completion of construction, the government can request the owner to “apply for the appropriate urban planning permit within two months or adjust the construction works to the conditions of the urban planning permit.” If this permit is not applied for within the specified period or is denied, the government can order:
- The demolition of the building;
- In the case of unauthorized demolition: the reconstruction of what has been demolished;
- In the case of illegal parcel divisions: the regrouping of parcels, possibly accompanied by clearing of roads, deforestation, dismantling of installations, or dismantling of fences.
These tasks must be carried out by the owner, who will also bear the costs. If the owner does not carry out these “legalization works,” Article 241 of the LOTUP (Ordenación del Territorio, Urbanismo y Paisaje de la Comunitat Valenciana) specifies that fines can be imposed until the remedial measures are carried out or that these tasks can be carried out in an alternative manner at the expense of the interested party, among other measures. Currently, the law provides for fines ranging from €3,001 to €30,000 for serious violations and from €30,001 to €1,500,000 for very serious violations.
After the changes brought about by Law 1/2019 of February 8, 2019, the LOTUP was amended. This means that owners of properties without permits on undeveloped land (suelo no urbanizable) and thus in an illegal situation have the opportunity to legalize their rural or undeveloped land. However, certain requirements must be met, including obtaining a permit for minimizing environmental impact.
Requirements for legalization
- The property or attached structure must have been built before August 20, 2014;
- The property must be for residential use. The new regulations do not apply to warehouses or recreational plots;
- The building must not be under an irrevocable court judgment. It’s important to note that cases that have not yet concluded with an irrevocable judgment do not fall into this category. Even in the hypothetical case where a demolition order has been issued through administrative authorities, it can be halted thanks to the new regulations;
- Obtain the permit for minimal environmental impact in the Valencia region (la licencia de minimización de impacto ambiental).
The essential documentation always required for such procedures can be summarized as follows:
- Descriptive report;
- Substantiating report;
- Building report;
- Substantiation of compliance with regulations;
- Photo report;
- Graphic documentation;
- Material cost estimate;
- Solvency certificate;
The first step is to go to the competent municipal authority and submit a declaration justifying the situation of a detached building. A detached building is not included in the Special Plan for Minimizing Impacts (el Plan Especial de Minimización de Impactos).
Next, apply for the Individual Declaration of Territorial Impact Minimization (la Declaración Individualizada de Minimización de Impacto Territorial). When making your request, you must submit documentation showing that it is not possible to include the property in the aforementioned Special Plan (el Plan Especial de Minimización de Impactos). The municipal council will then decide on the individual situation regarding territorial impact. This declaration must include specifications about the (demonstrable) circumstances of the building. This documentation is essential to later obtain the legalization permit.
Once you’ve obtained the declaration regarding environmental impact minimization, you must do the following:
- Conduct an environmental impact assessment and planned measures to minimize it;
- Carry out a landscape integration analysis;
- Prepare a basic plan that provides an updated description of the construction, as well as any necessary work to comply with Article 197 of Law 5/2014 of July 25, concerning Spatial Planning, Urban Development, and Landscape in the Valencia Region (Ordenación del Territorio, Urbanismo y Paisaje de la Comunitat Valenciana).
If work is needed to reduce the environmental impact, it must be completed within a maximum period of 4 years.
Term of limitations; expiration… What is it?
- On urbanized or urbanizable land (suelo urbano o urbanizable), it is possible to declare buildings without permits that were completed before August 20, 2010. The entry into force of Law 5/2014 was on August 20, 2014, so the FOUR YEARS that the previous urban planning legislation established as the statute of limitations have already passed; works completed after that date are now subject to the 15-year statute of limitations established by said Law 5/2014;
- On undeveloped common land (suelo no urbanizable), it is possible to declare buildings completed before August 20, 2010, as stated above; but works completed after that date fall under the regime of non-prescription as per Law 5/2014;
- On PROTECTED non-urban land (suelo no urbanizable protegido), only buildings completed before February 1, 2002, can be declared, because with the entry into force of the previous Valencian Urban Planning Law (Law 16/2003 of December 30) on February 1, 2006, which already established non-prescription for protected land, the FOUR years of the prescription period of the legislation in force until that date had already passed.
Benefits of legalizing your property
First and foremost, your peace of mind will increase because you’ll know that your property won’t cause any problems with authorities when it comes to opening a file, imposing penalties, or even requesting you to vacate your house, cutting off utilities, and potentially even demolition. Additionally, your property may increase in value with the possibility of renovation and remodeling, as well as access to the real estate sector for sale, rental, and more.
Common cases requiring legalization
- If the owner wants to rent its property within the framework of the law;
- If the owner plans to sell its property, and it is not legalized, it must be legalized first, as well as when applying for a mortgage or leaving it as an inheritance;
- To register the property in the Land Registry, formalize a deed of ownership, or perform a similar procedure;
- To resolve violations of urban planning regulations, initiating the application for a municipal permit “posteriori” (after completion of the work). In other words, it is the reverse process of the normal course of action and what is legally established;
- To apply for a subsidy for home renovation;
- For altering utility services (electricity, water, gas, telecommunications, or other services) when you don’t possess a certificate of habitability.
What if I encounter one of these situations or if the government requires me to legalize it before I had planned to do so?
Don’t worry. In this case, or if you have doubts about your voluntary legalization procedure, please don’t hesitate to contact Lex Foris International Law, so that we can study your case and assist you further.
Rafael Montes Velástegui