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What can you build on rustic land in Andalusia?

Since we have many clients asking for a plot of land to build their dream house in Andalusia or searching for a ruin to restore, we would like to explain in a series of articles what possibilities remain and what clients need to investigate to make sure they do the right investment. We would like to make it very clear that simply applying for a license to build a house on a rustic plot is no longer possible.

Restoring a ruin in Andalusia
In 2002 a new law (LOUA) came into place restricting building on the countryside in Andalusia. Although still not everyone is aware of the effects, this law has had a major impact on building on rustic land (suelo no urbanizable). Over the years new specifications have been published, the last one in January 2013. In this article we will explain the different classifications of land, the type of building that is permitted and the process to follow to obtain a building license.

Classification of land in Andalusia

The first thing to look into is the type of classification. On rustic land you can find a variety of classes. Roughly it can be divided into:

  • Rustic land with special protection forthcoming out of laws, for example land of archeologically or historical importance.
  • Rustic land with special protection based on environment or planning. Natural parks are a good example here
  • Rustic land with a rural and natural character and no special protection
  • Rural settlements forthcoming out of a rural function.

If the land is classified with some kind of special protection building is out of the question.

Restoring a ruin in Andalusia

What if the land has a ruin on it? This is the dream of many, finding a beautiful old ruin of a cortijo to restore it bit by bit, bring back its old glory and add today’s details of quality to live in comfort. e are afraid that those days are over as well. If the ruin is registered in the cadastre and the land registry you will have some possibilities, as long as the ruin is still ‘habitable’. Habitable means it needs to have a roof and the main walls are still up. If this is the case you can apply for a license to restore what is there, not 1 m2 more! And beware, if the ruin is located on land with some kind of protection it might be denied.

What building is allowed?

Next to restoring old buildings there are two exceptions in the law for new buildings. The first one refers to buildings necessary for the agricultural purpose of the land and the second one refers to building with a public use.

Agricultural buildings: The law mainly refers to warehouses, store rooms, stables and sheds, necesary for the agricultural activity on the land. There used to be a loophole for houses as well. The farmer and his family have to live somewhere was the idea of some cleaver lawyers. The Andalusian government however has stopped these projects. Only in the case that you are running the farm professionally, you can justify that the farm is your main source of income and you can justify that you have to live on the land a license can be granted for a house. Almost all of the requests in the last years have been denied.

Buildings for public use: This chapter gives possibilities to build a rural hotel, a B&B, a casa rural, a museum, or any other building that is open to the public. Keep in mind that the classification of the land is a restricting factor here as well. Furthermore the purchaser has to be aware that if the license is granted it will be granted for that specific purpose only and for a specific period of time. The applier will have to leave a substantial deposit at the local town hall as a guarantee that the owner will restore the land in its original state at the end of the period. Also this guarantee can be used to demolish the building if it doesn’t comply we the permitted use.

And what about extending existing buildings? If the original building is located on rustic land with no special protection, has been build with a license and has been granted the license of first occupation you could in rare cases apply for a barn, stables or shed. Extension of the residencial area is not allowed.  The local regulation will define the maximum volume. The general rule is a maximum of 1% of the plot size.

How to apply for a license?

If we’re talking about restoring an old house or extending an existing house you can apply for a license at the urban planning department. You would have to present a plan from an architect and a series of other documents to be checked at the town hall. In the case of the agricultural building or a building for public use you would first have to present a project (proyecto de actuación) in which you explain your intentions and justify the buildings. This plan is normally drawn up by a specialist. It has to be approved by the local government, who will then send it off to the Andalusian Government for approval. Once approved you can apply for a license at the planning department. This process will take a minimum of 3 months yet we would advise you to calculate with at least 6-9 months. Many projects are denied. This is not an easy process!! Agricultural projects are only approved if you can prove they provide a proper income. And in tourism projects (public use) is has to be justified that it will serve the area.

Final Advise

Always, always, always ask your lawyer to check at the local town hall what the possibilities are for building. We do not doubt that the intentions of the vendor are good yet he might not be well informed about the latest changes in laws and regulations. Please do not hesitate to contact us for more information. We can bring you in contact with competent lawyers who have experience in assisting clients to purchase rustic property.

Anita Schmidt 24-10-2013 Villas & Fincas News