For decades the owners of an estimated 327,000 homes in the region of Andalusia have found themselves trapped in a legal vacuum because their house or apartment had been built illegally, leaving them to face an array of problems such as no paperwork (deeds), no permission to connect to services such as water and electricity and, in some well publicised cases, facing the threat of or actual demolition of their property.

Many thousands of expats, buyers in good faith, fell into this trap when buying their dream home in the Sun and thus became hostage to their own home for over a decade at the mercy of planning officials who have attempted, mostly without success, to shoehorn irregular houses into a highly regular and extremely lengthy planning process.

However, at last the regional government run by the PP and Ciudadanos parties, with the support of the Vox party, has introduced legislation which creates a framework for the regularisation of, it is estimated, the vast majority of these properties.

The legislation know as the Decreto-ley 3/2019, de 24 de septiembre, de medidas urgentes para la adecuación ambiental y territorial de las edificaciones irregulares en la Comunidad Autónoma de Andalucía, or Decree containing urgent measures for the environment and territorial adaptation of irregular houses in Andalusia, came into force on 26th September.

The new legislation allows all owners of an irregular home, except when the property is  less than 6 years old, on protected or flood risk land, or when it is subject to ongoing planning infraction proceedings, to apply to their town hall for their property to be granted the status of assimilado al regimen de fuera de ordenacion (AFO). With this status the property can then legally access services if available and it also facilitates the registration of the property at the Land Registry.

For many of those affected this offers an immediate way out of the legal vacuum in which they have lingered for many years.

The Decree also provides town halls with a new tool to put order on irregular estates without having to wait an average of nine years for a town plan to be approved.  The new, so called, Special Plans, allow town halls to fast track the provision of infrastructure to problem urbanisations outside of the general and very lengthy town planning process.

Whilst some would classify the decree as an amnesty, and it is certainly ambitious in its scope, the costs of an AFO and the special plans must be met by the homeowner. The homeowner must also ensure that measures are in place to minimise the impact of the house on the environment.

Gerardo Vazquez, legal advisor of the AUAN, and spokesperson of CAJU, a national coordinating body for associations seeking justice in planning matters, states that “the Andalusian government is to be congratulated on working on this issue in record time. It is brilliant to see such a firm commitment to change matters. To me it is a breath of fresh air in planning matters.”

Maura Hillen, the president of the homeowners campaign group AUAN (Abusos Urbanisticos Andalucia NO) welcomed the decree. “It has been a long and difficult road for homeowners and I am glad that the recent change in the government of Andalusia has brought new impetus and new eyes to this issue and I thank them for listening to concerns and proposals. he decree is not a magic wand solution but it is a practical and workable one which gives the majority of our members a way out of a situation that was not of their making.  I am happy with that. The rest is up to homeowners to study their options and act accordingly.”

Photo (left to right)

– Carmen Crespo, Minister for Agriculture, Junta de Andalucia – Marifran Carazo, Minister for Development and Territorial Planning, Junta de Andalucia. – Juan Manuel Moreno, President of Andalusia – Gerardo Vazquez, Spokesperson and legal adviser to AUAN – Maura Hillen, President AUAN – Tony Downing, Albanchez Residents Association – Brian Reade, AUAN