Buyers and sellers are often faced with the question ” Is my house on Urban land? ” and the answer will greatly influence the value, timing and even if the property is sold or not.

WHAT IS URBAN LAND?

Spanish Planning law clearly defines Urban Land as that which has completed urban infrastructure. Urban Infrastructure means paved access roads with surface drainage, pavements (sidewalks), street lighting, water and electricity supply, and a mains sewer system. All these must comply with regulations related to minimum sizes and technical characteristics appropriate for their location.

WHY DO SO MANY URBAN SETTLEMENTS HAVE INCOMPLETE URBAN INFRASTRUCTURE?

Unfortunately, many urban settlements and urbanisations are older than the national laws that regulate the urban land and the municipal urban planning regulations. To explain, and in a way give a certain legalurban-planning status to this situation, councils define these settlements as part of the urban land, but without urban infrastructure or incomplete urban infrastructure. The local plan defines the missing infrastructure needed to be completed in each urban area. As a result, private owners are considered to have responsibility for completing the urban planning of the municipality, and are requested to assume the costs and works of creating the missing infrastructure.

The other circumstance where incomplete urban infrastructure can occur is when an urbanisation is part built and the promotor and building contractors, personally and/or their companies, become bankrupt, but buyers have moved into their individual dwellings.

WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES TO BE TAKEN ON BY PRIVATE OWNERS?

In settlements where the urban infrastructure is incomplete, private owners can be confronted with two possible scenarios.

  1. In the first scenario, a developer owns the majority of the land and decides to complete the infrastructure for the settlement as part of a real estate promotion. The rest of the owners affected by this promotion, won’t have a choice, and will be required to assume the corresponding costs in relation to their percentage of participation in the settlement, according to the surface of the land they own and as detailed in the Title (Escritura). In some cases, owners must give part of their own land, in order to enlarge roads or build the missing pavements, which can be a reason why Title and Catastral site areas can differ. This can have a double disadvantage of bringing the road closer and perhaps even reducing the distance between the house frontage and the road below the minimum permitted, making it appear illegal. Due to this ‘Fuera de Ordenación’ situation, it could restrict rebuilding in the event of fire or the like, and restrict mortgage valuations in the future.
  2. In the second scenario, the owner decides to do works on his property, which will affect the original volume, size, surface, drain installation or structure; usually known as ‘Obra Mayor’(major works). In order to grant the building license, the council will require the owner to assume the cost of the missing urban infrastructure to be completed in front of his property. The costs of initial Urban Infrastructure works are not assumed by councils.

WHAT IS THE CONCEPT “FUERA DE ORDENACIÓN”?

A literal translation of the concept is “out of order”. Regarding urban planning, the concept defines the status of buildings, constructed according to older rules, prior to the existence of any urban development regulation or, in the case of buildings in completed urban settlements, not complying with the current regulations. In these cases, the use of these buildings is allowed if they comply with the general use of the area. An old industrial building will not be allowed in a current residential area, but an old residential building is allowed to continue being used in this function, even if it does not comply with the current regulations. Maintenance works, as long as the functionality of the building is preserved, are allowed, but never ‘major works’.

WHAT IS THE USUAL CONFUSION WITH THE CATASTRO?

The Catastro is the department of the tax authority in charge of setting real estate values to be used to calculate taxes. For that reason, this administration has recorded every land and building in the country. For the Catastro, all kinds of built constructions are considered urban, even if they are located in non-urban land. But the Catastro condition of Urban is not the same as the legal and planning condition for a piece of land to be defined as Urban.

We strongly advise all buyers and sellers to have legal support from a Lawyer and technical support from a Building Survey. Changes to Land or Buildings, should not be completed without a survey, including the planning urban status of the building, a certificate describing the building, habitability conditions including its age, and an urban report issued by the council. In the cases of buildings “out of order”, a certificate issued by the town hall granting that it has no open file of urban infraction.

Adapted from the Article by our Guest Author – Javier Leonardo Rímolo, Arquitecto, of Rimolo & Grosso – https://www.arquitectosperitostasadores.com/