Many Brits find it daunting moving to Spain and it´s not just the language barrier, often we assume that Laws will be similar to our home country. Many disputes arise between neighbours due to land boundaries and the “legality” of some constructions. Spain´s history and traditions play a large role in the passing of legislations, they did not have a democratic government until the early 1980´s so when implementing new legislation, they had to factor in how to deal with houses which were already built before this coalition was formed. This has caused Spain to have three types of construction under Spanish law: “Legal, Illegal and a-legal”.
Here are some examples to help you understand the differences.
A construction is legal when it has been built to modern legal standards with plans and projects supplied by the corresponding architects, structural engineers or topographers and with all the required permits from corresponding Town Halls, District Councils and public works offices, even forestry and environmental departments if required.
A construction is illegal when it has been built in these past 40 years without the above permissions, permits or not following the adequate building regulations.
A construction can be classed as “A-legal” if it was built before 1983, even if it did not have planning permission or permits so long as it was not built on protected land, in a potentially dangerous position: for example a dry riverbed, nor poses a health and safety risk to the neighbours such as an open cesspit or is structurally unsound and could for example potentially fall onto a neighbouring property.
There are some constructions and alterations which even though built without the architects plans and Town Hall permits, depending on the age of the works carried out, these can be “Legalised” and turned from Illegal builds to A-legal, through a reasonably simple process. Properties which are a-legal can often still be a good purchase on the understanding that you have seen independent advisors to do the adequate searches both on the property and the area.