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General aspects

TLA lawyers have been for more than 15 years  dealing with transactions and cases of properties in rustic land areas in all the Spanish territory. From Catalonia (Tarragona and Barcelona), Valencia Region (Castellón, Valencia and Alicante – Costa Blanca), Murcia, Almeria (Almanzora Valley), and Malaga.

As result of our wide experience, and the acknowledege of different regional normatives, we have prepared a guide to follow for those who have the intention to buy a plot/land in rustic-countryside areas of Spain, with the project to build a house on it.

If you are buying land or a property in the countrise, such as a farmhouse (cortijo), it is essential to find out if it is placed in an area where urbanization is allowed (in this case it is called a “finca urbana”, or “suelo urbano” ) or where urbanization and residential developments are not allowed (“finca rustica” or “suelo rustico”).

Land in Spain is classified in several types:

1. Uban land  – “Suelo urbano

This is a land in which it is authorized to build with derterminate specificactions contained in the “Development Plans” of the city, or area (Plan General de Ordenación Urbana PGOU), or in specific zones of urbanization called “Partial Plans” (Planes Parciales) etc.

This land uses to have all the facilities and requirements to live there in high density of population, like the proper water and electricity supplies , connection to mains sewage system, parks and green areas, sports, educational, hospitals, etc.

Urban Land or “Suelo Urbano” is the one that we use to find in cities, villages, or urbanizations, and used to have the proper access by roads, with pavement, pedestrian areas, streets, commercial areas, health centres, schools, hospitals, sports, etc.

2. Non Urbanizable land – ” Suelo no Urbanizable” 

“No Urbanizable” is a type of land where it is not possible to develop any industrial, residential or commercial land, because is destinated to determinate protected uses, mainly connected to the forest, agriculture, and others. So, in these type of land, other uses as residential, industrial or commercial are very limited, restristed, and not always allowed.

Inside the “Non Urbanizable” land, we find a classification in sub-types of land, depending on the use allowed, and the level of protection:

Rustic land” is the name that usually is adopted to the Suelo No Urbanizable Comun in Spain. In other words: areas where urbanizations cannot be developed, which is being destined to agricultural use, it is allowed other uses as construction of residential properties, or industries, etc, always respecting determinate normative and conditions.  

3.- Urbanizable land – “Suelo Urbanizable” :

This is the type of land where  it can be developed in the future with urbanizations, commercial areas, industrial parks, etc. in the future. So, in case a public or private construction project is approved, then the area can be urbanized.

Steps to follow for building a residential house in rustic land 


Talking now about “rustic land”, this is a land where the main use allowed is to “agricultural”, or to be used by farmers to develop an agricultural activity.

But, in this land, excepcionally, it is authorized to build new constructions with residential use. These constructions must be in a very low density of construction, trying to avoid to create high density constructed areas which could create “urbanizations in facto”.

So, is very common to find that only when the land has a minimum size (5.000 m2, 10.000 m2,  or 20.000 m2 etc.), you are authorized to build there a construction, also called “cortijo”, “villa”, “masía”, chalé”, “chalet”, “hacienda”, etc.

In the Spanish rural or countryside areas is quite common to find houses built over plots with smaller sizes than the one required to have building rights (houses built in plots with less than 10.000 m2 for example)  This is because these buildings were built before the new  regulations entered in to force, or, simply, that they were built without respecting the laws, so, they are considered now as constructions “Fuera de Ordenación” (out of current normative). This is the case of properties built long time ago, which now do not fulfill the current normative. These kind of properties can be perfectly legal now, but subjected with some restrictions of use (the most important is that the house ante the rest of existing constructions on the property are respected by the administration, but they cannot be extended, and it is not authorized to build new constructions on that plot).

So, if your intention is to develop a project for building a hous in “rustic land” areas,  you should first check in the legal authority (mainly the Town Hall , Council = “Ayuntamiento”), which are the specifications, requirements, and limitations, that you can have to build there.

1.  First step: To confirm if the project can be developed  

The “Building License”, or “Building Permit”, or “Construction License” (Licencia de Construcción, o Licencia de Edificación, o Licencia de Obra Mayor).

As we pointed before if your intention is develop a project in one of the “rustic land” areas,  you should first check with the local authority (mainly the Town Hall or Council = “Ayuntamiento”), or, alternatively, consulting and getting the advice of lawyers specialists in construction and in rustic developments.

So, before to pass to advanced steps of the process, it is essential that you obtain the proper information about the local regulations and limitations of the area, and the possibillities to develop and execute your project. As well as in other countries, the authorization o your project will be formally approved when obtained the  “Building License”, or “Building Permit” from the Town Hall.

So, the First Step is to know if the local normative authorizes the construction of a house on that plot.

Very important: Water and electric supply

As explained above, mains water and electricity supply, and the sewage service, are items that are guaranteed to citizens who lives in urban areas “suelo urbano”. But in rustic land is out of urban areas, and frequently out of the main points of connection to mains water and electricity.

In fact, the Town Hall has not any obligation to supply main water and electricity in rustic land areas. Only in urban. So it is very important to study carefully the possibilities to get water and electricity on the selected plot.

 For example: If there is mains water and electricity supply near the land, and it can be connected then, there is not any problem.

But sometimes it happens that the closest point of the electricity or water connection is far away. So, it means that, in order to be connected, you need to pay high costs and the expenses to bring the supply to the property.

Only consulting local electricians and plumbers, or local builders, you will have the necessaty information to confirm the possibilities of supply and connections of water and electric to that plot.

So you must have this into account from the beginning of the process, before to move forward with the purchase process.

It is always possible to get water from an internal deposit tank installed at the property, and from the typical Spanish “POZOS” = WATER WELLS. In the same way, it is possible to obtain electric from solar pannels, or eolic ” wind power”. But, not always these kind of supplies are authorized by the local Town Halls to give authorization to build. So, this information must be taken into consideration in the very early steps of the purchase/building process.

So, We advice that before BUYING  the plot, or to make any decision over the transaction, bear in mind to have a PRELIMINAR STUDY OF THE PROJECT consulting with local lawyers, architects, builders, or the construction technical staff from the Building Department of the Town Hall (Departamento o Concejalía de Urbanismo).  This will make more secure the investment because,   after all,   you will have a concrete idea and acknowledge about the conditions and limitations to build in that plot, before to proceed to buy the land. It is more than recommendable that to make a study by a Solicitor expert in construction and,  if possible, consulting the architect who will develop the project and the construction.

Also, in that premilinar study ask your lawyer to confirm not only the specific building rights on the plot, but also to discover what other developments are planned on that area, for example new roads, highways, train line,  industrial parks, commercial areas, or even an urbanization.

This information can be obtained from your lawyer with meetings at the Town Hall, studying of the local normative, and also obtained from the Town Hall with a document named “CÉDULA URBANÍSTICA”.

Once you know exactly the type of building authorized to be built in that land,  then you must contract the services of an architect to develop the PROJECT OF CONSTRUCTION, or BUILDING PROJECT.

In the building project, your  architect must adapt your ideas and preferences to the specific regulations from the Town Hall in that area. So, your architect will guide you throughout this process, informing you about the different possibilities to transform your “ideal house” in a construction fulfilling the regulations of the area.

The most important thing is to have every detail specified by your architect. Have your architect go through the plans in as much detail as you can stand. Try to visualize what the views from different windows will be, and what size beds the guestrooms can handle etc.

In simple words: Try to obtain from your archtiect as much as information about how the final house will be. Try to furnish and live in the house while it’s still on paper. You may not be on-site to catch things that could annoy you for years to come, like a window that’s off centre in a bedroom, or skylights that aren’t exactly above where the bathroom sinks will be.

Once the project is complete, then your Architect must be present to the Building project to the local Town Hall at the Building Department (“Departamento de Urbanismo” or “Concejalía de Urbanismo”). With the application of the Building License, you have to pay a municipal tax, Impuesto sobre Construcciones, Instalaciones y Obras, which is applicable to all developments which need a building license (whether one is applied for / granted or not). This tax can vary from 2% to 4% of the cost of the construction, depending on the Town Hall of your area.

Then, they will study how suitable is your project to the specific conditions or limitations in the area.

If your project fulfills normative, and fulfills with the regulations and requirements to build on in that area, then they will authorize you to build there with the proper “Building License” or “Building Permit”, so you will be entitled to build there exactly the same property as presented to the Town Hall with the project.

2.- Second step: Construction process

Please, click below to get detailed information about construction process,  when you decided to develop your construction project in Spain.

Construction process when building a house in Spain for your own


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