The Andalucia Land Law Explained

November 2nd, 2008

Brought in to control urban growth and the increase in countryside properties, the Ley del Suelo has spread confusion throughout southern Spain. It has also dashed the hopes of countless Britons and other foreigners intent on retiring to the sun and tending their own little patch of land.

Illegal building had been tolerated in Andalusia. The town halls levied a fine of 5 per cent of building costs for a completed property and issued a permit. Under the new law, fines go up to 400 per cent of building costs, and properties can be demolished.

The aim of the new law is to prevent building on rural land unless it is for agriculture or tourism. It doesn’t matter whether you own five acres or 5,000 – you can’t build a new house. The only exception is that you can redevelop the site of an old property, but you’re restricted to the existing dimensions, and other restrictions may apply. And to add to the confusion, there seem to be different interpretations of the law in different provinces, or even towns.

This law, in force since 2003, is aimed at ensuring urban developments are contained within set rules and rural developments are limited to protect the countryside. Fines have been increased from between 1 and 5 per cent of construction costs to 12 per cent of market value. Even suppliers such as water and electricity companies can be fined for working on sites that don’t meet the requirements of the law.

In rural areas, no building is permitted on land unless for agricultural or residential tourism. New houses can be constructed on the site of existing ruins as long as there is a roof, and only a dwelling house for the farmer is permitted. The law does not cover agricultural buildings. Legal challenges have been brought against the law by Torremolinos council and others on the Costa del Sol have indicated they will follow suit.

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