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Illegal build in Spain leads to prison

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The authorities in Spain have had issues with illegal planning permission over the years. For decades many people ignored the requirement to obtain planning permission and built properties anyway without planning permission – either extensions and swimming pools or even whole properties. Some people obtained planning permission but built more than they were allowed to – typically they built too many bedrooms or a property that was bigger in square area than they were allowed to. 

The Supreme Court

Over the years the authorities in Spain have been clamping down on illegal builds to try and bring a stop to this practice. The authorities have made examples of high profile individuals to try and discourage other people from carrying out such practices. The actor Antonio Banderas, for example, had issues with his beachfront holiday home in Malaga back in 2008. Antonio Banderas didn’t illegally build that property but the previous owner did.

Most of the time when there is illegal building the authorities have taken a very similar approach. The owners will receive a fine and may be ordered to pull down the illegal part of the building. However, a Court Decision that has just come out in the Court of Tarragona has just gone much further than we have previously seen in sending out a message to people not to build illegal properties in Spain.


The case centres around a property owned by business woman, journalist, TV presenter and pianist Mari Cruz Soriano who built an illegal property in El Perello in Tarragona. She actually obtained planning permission for the property but that planning permission only allowed her to rebuild and restore a property that already existed on the site. Instead she built a whole property on land which was categorised as “non urbanisable” and built a property that was bigger than the footprint of the property that had previously been on the land. The old property was completely demolished and the new property constructed.

What is interesting in this case is that the Court ordered a custodial sentence of 18 months on Mari Cruz Soriano for building an illegal property and also ordered the same penalty to the served by the ex-Mayor of El Perello who also acted as the builder of the property. This is a significant change in attitude by the authorities and is a massive message to anybody who is considering building a property illegally in Spain or who has already built an illegal property.

If you have a property in Spain that is completely or partially illegal and would like to know more about what options are available to you and whether it is possible to legalise you property then you can contact our specialist Spanish legal team.

Disclaimer – International legal issues are a complex area of law and this information is no substitute for independent legal advice on an individual basis taking into consideration your personal circumstances and legal requirements. This information is provided to provide general information only and was correct at the time of publishing. The legal position in relation to international transactions can change frequently and this page may not have been updated following any changes in the law. You should therefore not rely on this information and should seek legal advice in relation to your personal circumstances.