One of the long-running problems in the Andalusian house market is the existence of tens of thousands of illegal properties. Despite numerous attempts over the last two decades by the regional government to solve the issue, some 327,000 homes have remained outside the law.
However, the most recent decree, issued in late 2019, aims to solve the problem for once and for all. In this article, we look at the new Andalusian law on illegal properties and its implications for homeowners.
Why are there so many illegal properties in Andalusia?
The proliferation of most illegal buildings took place up until the end of the property boom (2007) when the demand for properties led to mass construction throughout Andalusia with little regard to planning restrictions. The frenzied activity meant that the regional authorities did not have enough means to control the construction work.
For their part, town and village councils who are responsible for issuing building licences and ensuring regulations are met, either turned a blind eye or did not have the means to monitor the situation.
As a result, illegal properties sprang up all over the region including in protected areas and remote countryside.
How many Illegal Properties are there in Andalucia?
The regional authorities do not have an exact figure because there are no comprehensive records. However, estimates place the number of illegal properties in Andalusia at over 327,000. The largest number are in the province of Malaga with 68,600, followed by Almeria province with 55,265 and Granada with 52,927.
Why did people buy Illegal Properties?
In some cases, the illegal properties were built by developers or individuals who were fully aware that the construction was illegal but took advantage of the blind eye turned by local councils. In the case of foreigners, most buyers acted in good faith and purchased unaware that the property was built illegally.
They had no knowledge that of the property’s legal origin or the limits imposed by regional legislation on its situation.
Owners of illegal properties found themselves in a sort of legal limbo. They were also unable to do anything to change the legal status of their homes because building work had been finished more than six years earlier.
What were the previous Andalusian laws on illegal properties?
In 2002, the regional government passed a law imposing strict regulations on where and what you could build outside urban planning limits for towns and villages in Andalusia.
The law also included severe sanctions for homeowners not meeting these regulations.
The lack of control over illegal building led to the proliferation of such homes throughout the region and the government passed two new laws in 2012 and 2013 with modifications in both 2016 and 2018. However, none provided a satisfactory solution to the problems facing homeowners and the environment.
What does the new law aim to do?
The declared objective of the new law is to minimise the effects of illegal properties on the scenery (visual impact), environment (sustainability impact) and resources such as water supplies. It aims to do this in a simple, clear and flexible way.
What are the effects of the new law on individual properties?
Under the law, illegal properties have a new status known as AFO (asimilado fuera de ordenación in Spanish), which means that they are integrated outside usual planning regulations. They belong to a Special Plan (Plan Especial) that opens the doors to regulating the legal situation for thousands of properties in Andalusia.
What about groups of illegal properties?
The 2019 law also regulates groups of illegal houses and allows them to form a combined development, known as urbanización in Spanish without having to wait for new town planning regulations (PGOU in Spanish) to access utility supplies. This process typically took nine years.
Under the new law, with council cooperation, groups of illegal properties now form part of the Special Plan and as a result, getting electricity, water and gas from municipal supplies should take between 12 and 18 months.
Are all illegal properties included in the new law?
No, the new law has some exceptions such as:
• Properties situated in protected areas.
• Homes located within 100m of the coast.
• Properties with a definitive legal sentence (i.e. with no room for appeal).
What about properties in areas susceptible to flooding?
While the new law does not exclude homes on flood plains or in areas prone to flooding, it obliges homeowners to carry out costly work on their properties to prevent flooding in the future.
What can I do to start the procedure to legalise my property?
You should request that your local council adheres to the new law. Once this is done, you may request access to utility supplies.
Can Costaluz Lawyers help me?
Yes, we are specialists in helping foreigners solve problems with properties in Spain. We are on hand for advice on how to proceed with your illegal property in Andalusia under the provisions of the new law.
Get in touch to find out how we can help you now.