EDITION: October - December 2014

A way to legalize your country house

By Bufete Frau
Homeowners of non-complying buildings in the Balearics now have the legal tools to regularize their properties. The Balearic Government has promoted the Planning and Land Use Act (LOUS), which came into force this year and that offers as a principal measure in the tenth transitional provision, the opportunity to legalize constructions on rural land within three years. The central axis of the LOUS is the simplification and rationalization of planning as well as urban management and development in order to facilitate certain planning regulation actions but also to be more forceful with illegal actions. The law aims to make a comprehensive regulation of urban development, which would include illegal constructions on rural land.

According to data from the Land Use Plan, it is estimated that about 30,000 buildings are non-complying in the Balearic Islands; about 28,000 in Mallorca and about 2,000 in the rest of the islands. However, one should keep in mind that this law does not lift the ban on illegal development but is structured on the principle of sustainable development, i.e. respecting environmental and economic aspects.

To better understand the complexity of the regulation and the steps to be followed to legalize a dwelling on rural land, the law firm Bufete Frau clarifies all doubts that may arise concerning this legislation. One of the most frequently raised questions is about which constructions can be legalized and which cannot. The LOUS offers the possibility of legalizing those built on protected land included in the Natural Areas of Special Interest prior to the Natural Spaces Act of 1991. That is, constructions on rural land may be regularized, the house as well as terraces, basements, swimming pools or other elements that are integrated into the property, which the government cannot sanction because they do not have a file open on urban planning, nor can it have it demolished for having prescribed the infringement, eight years after it was built according to the current Urban Development Act. To calculate whether the fine has been prescribed, the date of entry into force of the LOUS, on March 29th, 2014 is taken as a reference, so that constructions on existing rural land prior to March 29th, 2006 can be legalized. For example, a property on rural land with a house and a swimming pool, the latter non-complying: if you want to legalize the pool, you will have to prove it was constructed before March 29th, 2006 or before 1991 should you be in a Natural Area of Special Interest.
Once you have verified that the building meets the requirements, you must give prior notification to the city or town council in which your home is one day before starting the minor work, simple technical work, and fifteen days prior to starting major works. Supervision will be the responsibility of the urban planning areas of the town or city councils and both the municipalities and the island councils can perform inspection tasks but it will be the municipal Department of Urban Planning which may order the suspension of the works for not complying with planning law, i.e. by failing to previously notify the city council. It should be noted that with this advance notice or express license for minor works, the owner must submit a complete plan of action that must include the general conditions of environmental and landscape integration, graphic documents, description, construction budget and justification of compliance with these requirements through an affidavit. The law firm Bufete Frau recommends seeking the services of qualified personnel, a law firm and an architect to begin the necessary feasibility studies aimed at legalizing your construction, as the affidavit is to be signed by competent technical personnel.

The implementation of these improvement works, in addition to the fees required by the regulations of new buildings for obtaining the certificate of occupancy, provides that it will incur a penalty payable to the council of 15% of the cost of the execution of the construction legalized if it is processed the first year, which is the term given by government; 20% if it is regularized the second year and 25%, if it is done the third year. Execution time to legalize constructions affected on rural land should be fixed in the renovation project affidavit, signed as stated by competent technical personnel and accompanying the essential requirement of advance notice. In no case will the deadline to legalize be more than two years. Once the regulation is enforced, time is against you for legalizing your pool, garage or basement that today does not meet the planning requirements. The opportunity is now. •