The First Occupation Licence in Marbella (LPO or Licenca de Primer Ocupacion)

Importance of the First Occupation Licence (LPO)

The LPO Marbella First Occupation LicenceOne of most important permits that any property should have is a licence from the town hall that it can be occupied.

This licence is referred to in Spanish as a “Licencia de primer ocupacion” or Licence for first ocupation.

Once any construction is completed, be it an apartment block or a single villa, the promoter will have to apply for the first occupation licence to the town hall.

The town hall will then undertake the necessary checks to ensure that the building has been completed according to the regulations in the planning law and, if so, will issue the licence.

It is only with this document that you can then connect the property to the relevant services such as water, electricity.

Furthermore the land registry will require the LPO in order to register the property in the land registry.

The other importance of having an LPO is that it is requirement of the Junta de Andalucia in order for an owner to rent out his property for holiday lets, being less than 2 months.

Self Declaration – Since 2022

The above said, given the frequent delays in obtaining an LPO, which meant that new properties had to wait often months before they could be connected to the electrical and water supplies etc., since 2022 the Marbella town hall has allowed the promoter of a property to make a self declaration that the property complies with the relevant plannings laws thus speeding the whole process up.

Of course, the town hall reserves the right at future date to inspect the building to ensure that it complies.

Properties that do not have an LPO

There are quite a number of reasons that a property does not have an LPO, some of them perfectly legal and others problematic.

Properties Prior to 1986

The LPO only became a requirement after the middle of 1986, so any property constructed before this date is not necessarily illegal because it does not have the LPO.

Properties Outside of the 1986 Town Plan

The only current valid town hall plan dates from 1986.

Whilst some later plans were enacted and used as a  basis for new developments, they have subsequently all been ruled as invalid.

This means that properties that were built after 1986 in areas that are were outside of  the 1986 plan, even if they received the LPO, would no longer be valid.

We are currently waiting for a new town hall plan that will hopefully legalise these properties in this unfortunate situation.

Properties that do not comply with the Planning Regulations

Quite a number of properties, especially developments, were constructed in the 1990′ and 2000’s that did not comply with the planning regulations at the time, even if they we built in areas within the 1986 plan.

For example the promoter may have built more properties than allowed or more floors than allowed. These properties, even if they did receive the LPO, would have had it revoked.

What is also important to consider is that, on developments, the LPO is given by phase, so it is quite possible for some phases to have the LPO and others not.

Cedulad de Habilidad

Prior to the LPO a Cedula de Habilitdad (a form of living certificate) was issued; however, it was issued at a time when there were only paper copies, so many of the original copies have since been lost.

It is possible that the town hall has a copy in its old archives but there is no guarantee and, unfortunately if the document cannot be found, then it is as if it was never issued.

LPO Equivalent Certificate For Properties between  1975 & 1986

The Marbella town hall can also issue a certificate that is the equivalent to the First occupation licence, for properties that were built between 25 May 1975 and 27th July 1986, that meet certain requirements.

This certificate has become necessary because of the legal requirement for owners to be in possession of an LPO in order to rent their properties out for holiday rentals.

This left many owners of properties built before 1986 in a catch-22 situation as, whilst their property might be legal, since the LPO was only issued after 1986, they do not have an LPO that they could show, so they cannot rent their property out.

This document is called the “Certificación Administrativa Sustitutoria” or substitute Administrative Certificate and is designed to solve this issue.

Applying for an occupation licence

For older properties that do not have an LPO, the other alternative is applying for a one. In the case of a villa, it would need to meet today’s planning laws although it may requires changes to the property to bring it up to date with new planning laws.

For apartments and townhouses it maybe more complicated, as the licence may depend on other buildings and facilities within the development being compliant.

What if the property should have a First Occupation Licence?

This is an important question that cannot be answered simple given the numerous reasons that it may not have one.

The major problem that we face at the moment is that the only valid town hall plan dates from 1986, which is insufficient to meet the current needs of the Marbella area and consequentially there are many properties have issues simply because they are outside of the 1986 plan.

The town hall are currently working on a revised plan, but there is no fixed date for it to be approved, it is hoped that it will be finalised at the end of 2025 or beginning of 2026, but this can not be guaranteed.

The hope is that, once the new plan has been approved most properties that currently fall outside of the requirements of the 1986 plan will be within the requirements of the new plan.

Given there are some 18’000 properties that fall outside of the requirements of the 1986 plan, it is clearly on the top of the priority list.

That said, you can also apply for a “certificado de no infraccion urbanistica”. This certificate issued by the town hall states they they do have any open case against a particular property for any planning infraction. This may be sufficient for many buyers; however, it is not the same as a 1st occupation licence.

It  is crucial to engage the services of a lawyer for the conveyance as they will be able to find out, if a property has issues, exactly what the reasons are and the severity. For example there is a world of difference between a property that is located in an area that will more than likely become part of the new town hall planning zones to one that will still be outside of even the new plan.

Do People Buy Properties That Have Planning Issues?

Most buyers, understandably, want the paperwork for a property to be perfect, but given the history of Marbella, we have to deal with the fact that many properties have problems yet buyers do buy them. .

These properties are bought and sold as some buyers decide that they are willing to take the risk, often on the hope that the situation will be resolved with the new town hall plan.

But, of course, planning law issues is also one of the main reasons why purchasers withdraw from a purchase.

This is why it is very important to take legal advice, as the situation of each property is different, in order to decide whether you would be willing to buy a property with planning issues or not.

AFO (Asimilado a fuera de Ordenación)

Finally, there is also the possibility to apply for an AFO certificate. Given the number of properties that have some sort of issue this certificate was designed to give owners of properties that do not comply some legal certainty regarding the status of their property.

It is particulary used in rural areas where there are countless properties that do comply with planning laws

In essence it is a certificate that states that, whilst the property is outside of the planning laws, the town hall is aware of it and will no take no action and to translate the Spanish “Asimilado a fuera de Ordenación”, the property is “assimilated even though it is outside of the planning regulations”. This is particularly important if you are looking for a mortgage as banks should accept this certificate as proof that the property has been “legalized” as far as town hall is concerned.

That said, properties that have an AFO are subject to limitations on any further changes that can be done to the property.

This is understandable as the AFO is a concession to allow a property that is technically does not comply with planning regulations to exist and is not a certificate that it complies with planning regulations.

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Note : The above is for information purposes and does not constitute legal advice. Given the constant changes in the regulations and complexity of the different changes, I would advise that any buyers consult with a lawyer before entering into a contractual agreement to purchase a property.



    Ricky Bache
    Estate Agent
    B.Sc Economics
    (HEC Lausanne )
    Asesor Credito Hipotecario
    (UPV Valencia)
    Tel : +34 609 50 22 44


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