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Law change could benefit 30,000 rural Andalucía homeowners

Many existing or prospective owners of properties in Andalucía may be interested to learn of the recent modification to the region's planning laws that could benefit as many as 30,000 rural homes, according to the property rights association AUAN.

Wednesday, 20th July 2016 saw the Parliament of Andalucía approve a bill to alter three articles of the region's planning laws - LOUA, or Ley de Ordenación Urbanistica de Andalucía - to allow the regularisation of isolated residential properties located on illegal land divisions (parcelaciones urbanisticas) on non urbanizable land (suelo no urbanizable).

The PSOE, PP and Ciudadanos political parties all voted in favour of the modification, while Podemos and IU abstained, resulting in a combination of 88 votes and 19 abstentions.

What does the legal alteration mean for property owners?

AUAN - Abusos Urbanísticos Almanzora NO - has said that an estimated 30,000 houses in Andalucía that contravene planning legislation could benefit from the change.

The law will come into force in August, enabling affected homeowners to apply for an AFO certificate to request the confirmation of the legality of their homes. This document officially declares a property to be assimilated in the planning regimen of 'fuera de ordenación', a category assigned to properties that are accepted by the authorities despite not conforming to current planning regulations.

Owners of homes that were built on rural land not identified for development over six years ago will now be able to add them to the civil register, or Registro Civil, in addition to contracting mains electricity and water, on the condition that their property is not located in a special protection area or area at high risk of flooding.

A wide range of reactions to the new law

AUAN president Maura Hillen commented: "This change is the result of nine years of work by our association and it will deliver real and immediate benefits to our members. Nearly all of them will eventually be able to obtain electricity, water and paperwork for their homes."

However, Hillen also called for "more measures to speed up the legalisation of these houses", adding that she welcomed the indication from Rafael Márquez, the General Secretary of Territorial Planning and Town Planning of the Junta de Andalucía (regional government), that there would be further reform if necessary.

The legal change was also welcomed by Philip Smalley, President of Save our Homes Axarquía, who expressed his delight that after the vote, families could now "put an end to the uncertainty that they have had to endure."

But not all response to the news was positive, with Patricia Navarro, speaking on the behalf of the PP, describing the change as "light years away from what Andalucía needs", adding that her party remained committed to "fighting to legalise the [other illegal] properties."

Meanwhile, Mercedes Barranco, the Podemos representative at the Andalusian Parliament, criticised the law as not going far enough to solve the wider problem that it sought to address.

José Antonio Castro, for the left-wing IU party, said that his group had abstained on the basis that a much more comprehensive approach to urban planning was needed, adding that "with these patch-ups we can only achieve a part of what we need to do."

Greater certainty for those buying Marbella properties

Hillen explained the relevance and importance of the legal change from the perspective of those contemplating the purchase of property in Marbella or elsewhere in Andalucía: "When this law comes into force in August, every property in Andalucía completed after 1975 will need an AFO certificate or a licence of occupation in order to guarantee compliance to the planning regulations. This carries obvious advantages in terms of greater legal certainty for prospective buyers."

She added, however, that the new law did not amount to an amnesty or solve all possible problems: "The house needs to comply with various administrative and physical requirements – all at the cost of the owner, of course. But it allows thousands of houses to exit a legal limbo and puts an end to the anguish of thousands of purchasers in good faith who bought these houses in the past. We are very proud that our efforts have not been in vain."