Guide to Building in Spain

Understand the rules and regulations in relation to building in Spain…

Disclaimer: The content of this document is provided for guidance only, and while every effort has been made by the author to ensure the accuracy of the information and translations contained, no liability can be accepted for any errors omissions and inaccuracies, or for the opinions expressed herein.

Type of Planning Zones

All properties in Spain fall into one of two categories of planning zone:

1. Rustic (Rural) plots (suelo rustico)

The rural land law governs the building rules of rural sites. (LEY 10/2004, de 9 de diciembre, de la Generalitat, del Suelo No Urbanizable.)
Some rural land is protected, all plots fall under one of the two following criteria:

  • 1. Suelo no urbanizable protegido. This is special, protected land which cannot be developed for residential homes.
  • 2. Suelo no urbanizable común. This category has no special protection and can be developed for residential houses for private use.

The development rights and restrictions of a rural plot in a común:

  • Plot size: minimum 10,000m2
  • Maximum building size: 2% of the plot size
  • Floors: 2
  • Height: 7m.

For example: with a 12,000m2 plot you can build a villa with 240m2 in the ground floor and 240m2 in the first floor.

Special Restrictions:

All rustic plots have aesthetic restrictions with each planning zone having different regulations. Normally you have to build a typical regional-style building. For example you would not be given permission to build an Ibicenco (Ibiza-style) house in Valencia.

2. Urban plots (suelo urbano)

These are urbanised, serviced plots with access roads, water, and electricity. Each planning zone has its own rules although normally the plot size limitation is between 800m2 and 1,500m2, with the “brut habitable” space being about 20% of the plot.

The Certificado Urbanistico

In each town hall you can ask for a certificado urbanistico of the plot you want to buy. This is a document signed by the agency of urban planning which confirms the type of plot, the occupation purpose, building space and type of building. When purchasing a property, this is the document that informs you of all the development possibilities of the property. Note: It is advisable to not buy a plot without this certification.

Building Permits

A licencia (building permit) must be obtained before the construction of any building can begin, regardless of whether the structure is to be used as a dwelling, or whether or not it has foundations. This same permit is compulsory for any work carried out on an existing building where this work would; change the usage, exterior appearance; modify the volume, or where extra storeys would be created. (Note: you need a building permit for a prefabricated wooden house.)

There are two types of building permits:

  • 1. Permit for minor works: (Obra menor) walls, terraces, and barbecues.
  • 2. Permit for major works: (Obra mayor) new buildings, alterations, and demolitions.

To obtain a building permit for minor works, you need simply request a licencia de obra menor at your Town Hall. Normally this should include a small description of the work to be undertaken and an estimation of the costs. This is so that taxes can be calculated. The tax is paid in advance of the job and is normally calculated at around 4 to 6% of the construction cost.

To obtain a building permit for major works you will need:

  • 1. Technical dossier (proyecto) created by an architect registered in the Spanish architecture college
  • 2. A technical architect (aparejador), normally chosen by the architect. The technical architect is the site manager in official control of the building site
  • 3. A builder

All three of these professionals have to sign the application.

Submitting the solicitud de licencia

The application is submitted either in person or by registered letter to the local alcalde, where a receipt (recibo) will be issued; the application is usually processed within two months of receiving the registered letter.

A letter of notification will be sent following the submission with the application number. After an examination confirming that the correct information has been presented, details of the request will be posted in the Town Hall. The application will be verified for compliance with the building rules. A tacit approval may be assumed two months from the date of submission and the permiso de construir (building permit) will normally be delivered within that time.
Please note that each Town Hall works independently and therefore, there may be regional variations on this procedure.


The building act LOE of 5th November 1999 (Ley de Ordenación de la Edificacion), considers all parties involved in the construction of the building to carry some responsibility. Without prejudice to their contractual responsibilities, the individuals or legal entities that assist in the building process are liable to the owners and third party buyers of the building or any parts thereof, should the building be divided.
In the contract all responsibilities and the duration of all said responsibilities should be stipulated.

Courtesy of Benjamin Ritter von Linprun Architect COACV