Given the over-development on many coastlines in Spain, you might be surprised to discover that there’s a Coastal Law (Ley de Costas in Spanish) in place. It has strict regulations on ownership and use of the coast and directly affects private properties built in the area. As a result, if you buy a home on the coast, you may find there are certain limitations on what you can do with it. To explain them, this article answers questions about buying a property in Spain affected by the Coastal Law.
What are the aims of the Coastal Law?
The first legislation was introduced in the late 1980s as an attempt to protect the Spanish coastline from over-development. It also intended to stop private ownership of beaches and coastline in Spain.
The law has since seen several modifications, the most recent in 2013.
Which areas of the coast does it affect?
Under the terms of the legislation, the Spanish coastline is divided into two areas: a public domain where no private ownership of land is allowed and mixed domain where private ownership is restricted. Generally speaking, the closer you are to the shore, the more restrictions on ownership you’ll find.
What’s the public domain?
Any element within the public domain (dominio público) belongs to the state and private ownership is not allowed. On the coast, it includes the following:
- The beach.
- The highest point of waves in the worst recorded storms.
- The highest point of the coast where the surface (sand, shingle or pebbles) has no effect on protecting the coastline.
- Any area reclaimed from the sea.
What’s the mixed domain?
This area is clearly separate from the public domain by a demarcation line (zona de deslinde) and in turn, divided into two sections:
- The first 100m from the demarcation line is the protection zone.
- The next 400m is known as the zone of influence.
This useful map shows the types of demarcation lines on the Spanish coastline.
How does this affect property built on the coast in Spain
Property built before 1988 already has a concession for use, originally granted for 30 years and extended for another 30 when the concession expired in 2018.
Property built after 1988 or properties with extensions added after 2018 also have a concession for exclusive use, usually for 30 years.
Under no circumstances can the concession last for more than 75 years. However, the law allows owners to have the right to occupy the mixed domain.
Are the requirements for title deeds different for property in Spain affected by the Coastal Law?
No, they are the same as those for any property.
What’s different about the sale of this type of property?
The title deeds will state whether the property:
1. Has an existing concession granted by the Spanish authorities under the 1988 law.
2. If it’s included in the coastal area in part or entirely under the terms of the 2013 modification to the law.
How does the sale work if the property has an existing concession?
In this case, the buyer purchases the right to exclusive use of the property subject to the concession.
What happens if the property doesn’t fulfil the requirements of the Coastal Law?
If the property, in part or entirely, occupies part of the public domain, it will be demolished at the end of the concession.
Can you transfer or inherit a concession on properties affected by the Coastal Law?
In this case, there are limitations, as follows:
- Transfer of concession when both parties are alive is only valid if the Spanish authorities are satisfied that the new owner fulfils the conditions of the concession. This authorisation must be obtained before the transfer takes place.
- Inheritance of concession is permitted provided that the heirs notify the Spanish authorities of the death of the original owner and their inheritance of the property. Notification must be made within four years of death, otherwise the concession will be terminated.
Are there any parts of the Spanish coastline that are exempt from the public domain regulations?
Yes, there are several areas that do not form part of the public domain despite their coastal location. This is because of their particular situation or because the properties in them have received an administration amnesty. They include:
- Costa Blanca (Alicante province) – Serra Grossa and the Puerto de Santa Pola.
- Costa Brava (Girona province) – Empuriabrava, Platja d’Aro.
- Costa del Azahar (Castellón province) – the town of Xilxes
- Costa del Sol (Malaga province) – Pedregalejo and El Palo (Malaga city).
- Huelva coastline – Ría Punta Umbría and Caño del Cepo (Isla Cristina).
- Pontevedra coastline – Moaña.
- Valencia coastline – Oliva.
What should I do if I want to buy a coastal property?
Given the complexity of the Coastal Law, expert legal advice is essential. If you’re thinking of purchasing a home close to a beach, get in touch with our professional team for a free consultation.