THERE are many property professionals in Spain that do an excellent job airbrushing the considerable risks associated with buying rustic properties. Clearly, planning regulations in any country must be adhered to and failure to do so will invariable result in costly consequences.

Spain is no exception to this general rule. The attractions of buying a keenly priced rustic property are obvious to all but you must arm yourself with detailed information on the legalities of the property from an independent professional before taking the plunge. Taking some simple steps could be the big difference to enjoying your time in Spain.

Fully legal rustic properties in Spain are the exception rather than the norm. It is the duty of the purchaser to make proper enquiries as to the nature of the property that he or she is buying.

The problem is that there are some unscrupulous estate agents who rely on sharp practice to get their deals over the line. Such agents will back up their “Nothing to worry about…nothing to see here…” approach with abusive contractual clauses stating that the buyer is aware of the rustic status of the property and accepts the urban, judicial, and physical characteristics of the property.

Clearly such clauses impose great limitations on the buyers come back once they finally discover the true legal ramifications of their property being “Rustic”.

Rustic is land is not zoned for residential purposes but is instead zoned for agriculture, forestry, nature reserves, flood plains etc. It is otherwise known as Non Urbanizable Land or “Suelo No Urbanizable”.

Buying a home on rustic land will immediately expose the purchaser to a series of risks that must be explored by an independent legal professional and fully understood by the purchaser prior to entering into the purchase contract. It must be understood that as an owner of a rustic property you will simply not be afforded with the same protections extended to owners of Urban properties.

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“Beware of big rural property pitfalls”, warns Martin Hayes

Most typical dwellings built on rustic land having a plot size of less than 10,000m2 have been built illegally and or without planning permission. Strict legislation was passed in 2014 that increased the statutory period that town halls has to take disciplinary proceedings against illegal builds from four years to fifteen years. No such time limit applies to Protected Rustic Land. Disciplinary actions can result in a considerable fine and or a demolition order.

In the case that the rustic property has been completed for the requisite number of years resulting in the town hall being “statute barred” from opening disciplinary proceedings, the property will not become legal but will remain as being outside the applicable planning regime (“fuera de ordenacion”).

In the case that town hall decides to Urbanise the area changing the status of the property from rustic to urban, urbanization costs would be payable directly by the owners of the affected properties. It is not untypical for urbanisation costs to range from €20,000 to €60,000 or more depending on the size of the plot and the extent of consolidation works required.

Payment facility schemes may or may not be put in place by the local town hall. The upside is that the value of the property will increase but the there is always the risk of having to assign part of the property to allow for mandatory infrastructure and green areas.

Quite apart from the above, rustic properties are more exposed to being subject to compulsory purchase orders in the event, for example, that infrastructural or public works are planned for the area.

Properties that are “fuera de ordenacion” are also subject to certain restrictions mainly that the only works permitted are to maintain the existing structure. No planning permission or licences of any kind will be granted while this status persists.

In addition, such properties will generally not be eligible for a habitation certificate meaning that if the power connection is cut off it may be impossible to get reconnected.

Banks are increasingly more wary about giving mortgages on rustic properties. This may have the effect of making the property harder to sell in certain market conditions therefore potentially adversely affecting the property’s resale value.

With these properties, there are doubts as to whether insurance companies will pay out in the case of the total destruction of the property in the case of fire or other such devastating event. Likewise, the local town hall may prohibit such properties from being rebuilt.

Every buyer will have their own set of personal circumstances and risk profile determining whether or not they can absorb the risks associated with purchasing a rustic property. In all cases, it is fundamental that a careful and complete investigation of the rustic property is undertaken independently so that the purchase proceeds on the basis of a fully informed decision.

If you need legal assistance in English please contact Martin Hayes directly.

For information on Swan Partners visit www.swanpartners.es

For information specifically relating to expat services please see www.martinhayes.es

SWAN Partners C/ Pizarro, nº 1, 4º-15ª. 46004 Valencia (Spain) + 34 96 334 89 83

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