One of the most common misunderstandings when buying a house in Mallorca, or anywhere else in Spain for that matter, is the belief that a Certificate of Occupancy (Cédula de Habitabilidad) is the equivalent of an Urban Legality Certificate (la legalidad urbanística).
Upon further investigation, you will find that this false equivalent is not only wrong, but is often used to create a false appearance of legality.
As a cautionary measure, be skeptical of anyone that told you the Occupancy Certificate guarantees full legality of a property. This statement, whether it’s simply out of ignorance or intentionally misleading to quickly sell a property, is bound to lead to problems. In some cases, sellers and agents deliberately suggest this false equivalence. The motive is rather simple: obtaining an Occupancy Certificate is much easier than getting an Urban Legality Certificate and they don’t want to make you, the buyer, aware of this.
Don’t be tricked into buying a risky property. The authorities in Mallorca are increasing their efforts of prosecuting illegal builds. With this in mind, buying a house without the proper certifications will undoubtedly result in unforeseen consequences.
I’m offering you the opportunity to test my expertise with a free risk report of your future property purchase.
What is the Occupancy Certificate and what is it used for?
This document certifies that the property meets the minimum living condition requirements. This certificate is standardized by Decree 145, established on November 21st in 1997. Without this certificate, even basic services, such as water or electricity, cannot be contracted.
With that said, a house can still meet the basic legal requirements for health, hygiene, and liveability, but not be legal from an urban planning standpoint. On the reverse, a property can be legal from the urban planning standpoint, but not meet the minimum requirements for habitancy and, therefore, not possess the Occupancy Certificate.
It’s important to remember that the Occupancy Certificate does not certify urban legality of a property. This not only applies for Mallorca, but all of Spain.
WERE THIS CONFUSION COMES FROM?
With a simple Google search, you will find endless amounts of information stating that the Occupancy Certificate is fully about legality. In actuality, this certificate only concerns the health and safety measures of a property. The Occupancy Certificate is entirely unrelated to the Urban Legality Certificate.
To provide an example for clarity, say you have gas installed in your home. With this, you get a gas installation certificate. Does this mean that you instantly get an Urban Legality Certificate? No, because they’re absolutely unrelated. The same philosophy applies for the Occupancy Certificate.
Why is there a confusion between the Occupancy Certificate and legality?
In certain cases, you cannot receive the Occupancy Certificate if the house is not also deemed legal. For this instance, it would be after the build is finished and an Occupancy Certificate would have been obtained when proven that the property was built with a license, thus making it legal, at the time. This is a very rare circumstance and is certainly an exception to the rule, rather than the rule itself.
In what cases do houses in Mallorca have an Occupancy Certificate, but are not in good, legal standing?
- If there is a property that was constructed with a license and city council approved an Occupancy Certificate for said construction, then the property is in good, legal standing, but once any renovation is done without proper licensure, the property becomes illegal.
2. The house had an existing Occupancy Certificate and a license for renovation was obtained, but then the renovations exceeded what was permitted with the license. The Occupancy Certificate still stands, but the property is in violation.
3. The house was built without a license and is considered illegal, but there are no open violation files and there weren’t any major renovations after March of 1987. Because of a change of laws after this particular date, it’s possible for there to be an instance where an Occupancy Certificate exists despite the property being illegal.
All of this is to say, the Occupancy Certificate does not mean that an Urban Legality Certificate exists. The Occupancy Certificate only regulates the living conditions of the property.