As is the case in most countries, Spanish law regulates additions and modifications to façades, protecting the rights of owners and neighbours. As a result, you cannot simply open up a window or add a balcony to your façade without consulting the regulations first. Likewise, your neighbour must also bear them in mind when carrying out work that affects light and views.
In this blog post, we look at your rights regarding lights and views as a property owner and a neighbour.
A little legal background
Before we examine the regulations themselves, it’s worth explaining how the law views the relationship between neighbours. The property that wishes to make changes to the façade is called the dominant property (dominante in Spanish). The neighbouring property, with the potential to be affected by the changes, is known as the serving property (sirviente in Spanish).
Regulations for adding lights and features affecting views focus on the type of wall and distance between the two properties. In many cases, what you or your neighbour are allowed to do is based on whether the wall is separate from your property or shared by it (known as a party wall (muro contiguo in Spanish).
Rights to add light
The owner’s right to open up a wall to bring more light into his home depends on the type of wall between the two properties.
If it’s a non-party wall (i.e. is not joined to the neighbour’s property), the owner may open openings in the wall to obtain more light in the house. The neighbour has no right to oppose this action.
However, the neighbour does have the right to close the hole if the wall becomes a party wall unless:
- A public road separates the two properties.
- The owner and neighbour have a prior agreement about the openings in the wall.
- At least 20 years have passed since the owner opened up the façade.
Article 580 of the Spanish Civil Code clearly states that no owner may open a window or hole in a party wall without the consent of the neighbours sharing it.
Regulations for the openings
The openings made in the façade to allow more light into the property must meet the following requirements:
- The hole may not be more than 30cm².
- It must be covered by an iron grille (rejas in Spanish) or wire mesh.
Rights affecting views
Under Spanish law, an owner may add windows or balconies to a façade even if they affect the views from neighbouring properties. However, the owner must comply with legal regulations, as follows.
- The window or balcony must be on a non-party wall.
- If the view is direct (i.e. the window or balcony overlooks the neighbouring property in a straight line), there must be a minimum distance of 2m between the owner’s wall and the neighbouring property.
- If the view is not direct (i.e. you have to turn your head to see the neighbouring property), the minimum distance is 60cm.
If the wall is a party wall, the owner must obtain prior consent from the neighbours before adding the window or balcony.
Use of translucent material
The regulations above refer to openings and windows that allow direct light into a property. However, if the owner wishes to create a hole or window using translucent material such as frosted glass, the regulations are different. This is because Spanish law regards the apertures as walls rather than windows or openings.
Openings or windows built with translucent material are permitted on non-party walls with no restrictions. There are also no limitations on minimum distances. However, the material used must be resistant and solid and not allow a clear view of neighbouring properties.
Get professional advice on your rights
As you might expect, the rights to add light and windows to a façade are often the cause of conflict among neighbours. If you wish to make an opening in your façade, make sure you follow the pertinent regulations before you start the work.
Or, if you have a neighbour who has made an opening that directly affects your property, get in touch with our legal team. They’ll be only too happy to offer the right advice for your situation.