When buying a house in Mallorca, one mistake can make the difference between the house you’re buying being legal, legible or having to be demolished.
I like to think that sellers don’t try to trick the buyer. What happens is that the regulations are extensive and complex and it is easy to get confused. That is why the situations I am going to describe now I have called them simply CONFUSIONS.
1.- IF A HOUSE HAS A HABITABILITY CERTIFICATE, IT MEANS IT’S LEGAL.
FALSE. I have heard this statement hundreds of times and it is completely wrong.
First, because the Habitabitability Certificate (Cédula de Habitabilidad) only certifies that the house is suitable to live in.
The confusion arises because if a house is built today, the certificate is not obtained until the promoter obtains the end of the municipal work. This document is issued by the Town Hall after having checked that the house has been built with a licence and that the construction coincides with the licence granted. This means that if it is not 100% legal, it cannot be obtained.
Now then. A house built (even if it is 100% illegal) before 1987 can still have a Cédula de Habitabilidad and will continue to be illegal.
A recently built house can have obtained the Cédula de Habitabilidad and then suffered an illegal transformation and therefore is illegal (and has a Cédula de Habitabilidad).
2.- ILLEGALITIES ARE ONLY A PROBLEM ON RUSTIC LAND.
FALSE. It is true that the biggest problems are on rural land, but there are also illegalities in the urban area.
A sloping tile roof converted without a licence into a plain terrace (which happens frequently) will impede getting a reform licence.
A gallery or closed porch to extend the kitchen is also an illegality.
3.-THE PROPERTY HAS A CERTIFICATE OF NON-EXISTENCE OF AN URBANISTIC INFRINGEMENT FILE. SO, IT’S LEGAL ¡¡¡
FALSE. This certificate is issued by the Town Hall. What they do is look at the computer and certify that there are no proceedings open against that property. But it should NOT be confused with the certificate of non-existence of infringement. This second certificate is issued when the municipal technician visits the house, compares what has been built with the licenses granted and certifies that everything is legal.
Because it is confusing (and has been used to mislead more than one buyer) some municipalities have stopped issuing it and only provide a certificate of current status. This means that they will see the property and certify what is there.
4.-IF THE CONSTRUCTIONS ARE RECORDED IN THE PROPERTY REGISTER, ARE LEGAL
Well, I understand that it seems logical that what is properly registered in the property registry is legal, but it is not.
Until a few years ago anyone could go to a Notary, make an inscription of new work ( called Obra Nueva) stating that they had a house and then the Property Registrar would register it in the Land Registry without asking for a plan or a licence.
In this case, the construction appears today registered and yet it never had a license.
Nowadays it is not so easy anymore; when someone goes to the Notary to declare a new building and does not have a license, the Notary warns in the deed of the lack of license. The property registrar informs the administration that a construction without a licence has been registered.
If the construction is more than 8 years old and the right to order demolition has expired, it is registered and the authorities do nothing because they can no longer do so.
A house that is illegal is registered.
5.-LEGALIZED BY THE LAPSE OF TIME. PRESCRIPTION IS THE SAME AS LEGALITY.
This is my favorite and it’s related to the last one. The prescription.
The administration loses the right to order restitution to the current state (demolition if not legalizable) after a few years.
But this does not mean that the construction has been legalized by the passage of time.
It is illegal but the administration cannot order demolition. Perfect, isn’t it? No, it’s not. You will never ever get a license to reform something illegal. So it will either fall down or have to be repaired or renovated without a license. At that point the prescription period starts counting again.
Since 2018, illegal constructions on rural land are no longer subject to the statute of limitations. Never.
6.-EVERYTHING BUILT BEFORE 1956, IS LEGAL
That’s not true.
What happens is that everything built on rustic land before 1956 is legal even if it is in a protected area (where the use of housing is not allowed) or the minimum plot to build is not met.
However, uses cannot be changed even if the volume is legal. A stable or storage room, even if built before 1956, is a stable or storage and cannot be transformed into a dwelling. If this is done without authorisation, the use is not permitted.
7.-ANY HOUSE BUILT ON A RUSTIC PLOT OF LESS THAN 14,000 SQUARE METERS IS ILLEGAL.
This is not true either: 14,000 metres is the minimum plot but there have been transitional rules which at certain times allowed licences to be issued.
On the other hand, for some years a law called the amnesty, allowed to legalize all those constructions built without license that did not have open files of infraction. Therefore, a house built on a plot of land of less than 14,000 meters could have been legalized during this period.
Apart from what has been explained. Any construction on a rustic plot of less than 14,000 square meters is highly suspected of being illegal and only by checking the licenses can one know.