When it comes to renovations, the type of work you need a permit for very much depends on where you live. Each ajuntament (town hall) in Catalunya has their own urban planning and building regulations, which affect individual properties as well as the town as a whole.
Before starting the process to apply for a building permit, you should consult the Serveis Tècnics department of your town hall to check if your plans comply with local planning and building regulations. Serveis tècnics can tell you which type of permit is required, if any, and advise you about the documentation you need to obtain before submitting your application.
As a general rule, if you want to increase the size of your property, for instance with an extension, you should apply for a major works building permit (llicència d’obres majors). The documentation that must accompany your application varies from town to town, but the minimum you can expect to provide includes the application form (imprès de sol·licitud), available from your ajuntament, a photocopy of your DNI or passport and a projecte visat, which is a file stamped and signed by an architect who is registered with the Col·legi d’Arquitectes de Catalunya. The projecte visat includes the architect’s technical plan and design report, detailed drawings, location plan, site specifications, photos, a health and safety study and an estimate for the total cost of the work.
The licencia de obras mayores is also applicable when building a new property (obra nova) and for a change in use of an existing property, for example from a home to business premises. For both of these you will need to provide additional documentation.
When you want to do renovations that do not increase the overall size, but change the layout of your property, for instance kitchen renovations that involve erecting or knocking down a wall, you need to apply for a llicència d’obres menors (minor works building permit). In some places, the documentation for obras menores is the same as for obras mayores, but in others it is less.
Some municipalities require a major works permit for any work that affects the structure of the building. If you live in a communal building (e.g. a block of flats) and want to make structural changes, such as knocking down a load bearing wall, you’ll need to get permission from the other residents before submitting your application.
There is a fee payable for both types of licencia de obras, which amounts to around three to four percent of the overall cost of the works (depending on the town hall). There is usually a wait of two to three months between submitting your application and receiving permission to start work for obras mayores and obras menores with structural changes.
In some towns you need to apply for a comunicació d’obres menors or assabentat (notification) when doing minor interior works, such as tiling, laying new flooring or plastering walls. Check with your ajuntament if there is a fee payable. You can usually start the work on submission of the relevant form, which is the same as for licencias de obras menores with no structural changes.
Each type of permit has conditions and a maximum time for completion, but if it’s looking unlikely that the works will be finished on time, you might be expected to inform your ajuntament and in some cases apply for an extension (pròrroga).
Other types of works that may need a permit include changes to the façade of your building, such as replacing external windows and doors, particularly if the replacements differ in size, colour or material to the originals. In some rural areas and for listed buildings (catalogat), you may find there are restrictions to the type of changes you can make to your property
NB. This article was first published in Costa Brava Resident magazine in June 2007