It is a normal practice to make building extensions on your property, or major building works, such as a swimming pool or a garage, where planning permission required, although it isn’t unusual to be made illegally without planning permission, which can result in them having to be demolished or the owner incurring huge fines.

The Spanish Property Registry, which is similar to the UKs Land Registry, and likely, one of the safest in the world, and concerned mainly with the ownership of property, recording all deeds of sale that have been notarized and inscribed in the register and property rights are protected by the Courts.

Besides, there is another other property registry, so called, Catastro, concerned with the location, physical dimensions and accurate description in terms of measures, boundaries and classification of a property in Spain.

Catastro produces accurate information about the property including plans, maps, and aerial photographs. This information is used by the Town Hall to calculate the Council Tax, so it is truly important they have the full descriptions of your property, to avoid fines for not reporting any alterations on your property. They handle information gathered from  aerial pictures, to update the catastral information of properties, and report owners when there are items does not match with the information they have from deeds.

When selling your property and transferring the title deed, boundaries and measurements in the deed are accurate, as well as at the Catastro Office.

The purchaser’s lawyer will check out that the property is correctly described in the deeds before purchaser may proceed to buy, so your deeds better must contain by then descriptions of the amount of land (if any), boundaries, built areas, and any other alterations of the property.

Properties are quite often inaccurately described in the deeds for a number of reasons. You or your previous owner, could have carried out building work, such as a pool, store rooms, or just bricked a terrace, and not have registered these changes in the deeds.

Properties must be accurately described in notarised title deeds, and fully inscribed in the Land Registry, and all copy of the deeds reported to Catastro. If there are any illegal features that are not described in the existing deeds then you will need to legalise and update your deeds.

We may find different reasons why this may have happened:

  1. The changes were illegally carried out without building permission from the town hall.
  2. A building license was granted by either way, you were not advice to carry so, or you just did not bother to afford the cost to update your deeds at a Notary, pay the taxes and register this at the Land Registry.

In the first case, you must keep record of the license, or a copy could be requested to the Town Hall, to justify the discrepancy between the physical reality of the property and the deeds, and then this can be used to update the deeds when you complete and sign before Notary.

In the second case where the changes were carried out illegally then the process becomes somewhat more complicated to resolve, and you will need to liaise with your lawyer to receive legal advice and find the best way to have the alterations legalised. Your lawyer will need to visit the planning department of the town hall to clarify what is and is not legal, and what can be legalised if necessary. It is very likely that he will need to coordinate this with an architect to carry out this check, as they have good knowledge and understanding of planning regulations.

It is possible to legalise some alterations by the time being, and normally after 4 years without any fines as consequence of no complaints from neighbours or orders from the town hall to be demolished. In this case, Land Registry normally accept after 8 years to inscribe the alterations when an arquitect issue a certificate stating the works are older than the 8 years. This is the so called, Certificado de antigdad.