EDITION: December - February 2012


Texto: Anja Sämann-Gutschick y Armin Gutschick


When someone is thinking of buying a piece of land to build a house on it, it is quite logical that they first want to know if they can in fact build there, and how much.
All local Councils have a Town Planning (Urbanismo) department where they attend such enquiries. By specifying the location of the plot of land, information about the building regulations can be obtained, which will define the details of the building allowance that a particular piece of land is subjected to.
By making an appointment with the municipal architect, he or she will clarify any doubts and, above all, will advise on whether any changes in the town planning regulations are expected. It is important to bear in mind that details such as the words “urban land” which appear in the Property Registry do not offer any guarantees. These classifications are not binding and will not stop the Council from changing the coding of the land from “buildable” (urbanizable) to “protected” (zona verde). Also, it is advisable for such issues to find additional assessment from an architect and a lawyer.
In fact, the information about the legal viability of a building project that Councils provide before the land is actually bought does not imply any commitment on their part. You will receive an answer from the Town Planning department (and each municipality takes however long it feels like to get through these requests) with a certificate of urban classification, but you cannot be sure that, when you present a request for a license to build, permission will be awarded. The reply to a prior enquiry has a merely informative status, while the specific project needs to be presented and properly evaluated afterwards.
Even if the information provided by the Town Planning department does not fit in or surpasses the municipal authority, any decision by the Council that refers to building permission requests will have to adhere completely to the legal framework that is valid at the time, since, otherwise, the awarded license could be illegal. For all these reasons, it is usually an advantage if the land one wishes to buy already has a valid building license. If the license does not yet exist, a sensible option would be to negotiate a purchase contract that is conditional on the license being awarded before the sale is carried out.
If the license to build on the plot of land already exists, it is essential to check whether it is still valid, since the validity of such licenses is for a limited period. If it has expired, there is the possibility of obtaining an extension.
Finally, a few words about the taxes implied when buying a piece of land. These differ according to the specific case: you need to pay either the property tax and/or the value added tax. This will depend on whether there is a license to build, and on who the seller is: a physical person or a legal entity.