Purchasing a Vilamoura property with no historical planning approvals? – Property & Real Estate – Expats Portugal Community Forum
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Purchasing a Vilamoura property with no historical planning approvals?

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Topic starter
(@tobywatkins)
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Joined: 10 months ago

I have placed an offer in on a property in Vilamoura which has been accepted. After a survey it has come to our attention that there is no history of planning permission.

The only plans available to us are drawings from 1981 and the property is vastly different now. I have been told by the solicitor and the estate agent that this is quite common in the Portugese property market. I am wondering if anyone has seen similar situations and can advise me on this? 

I believe that you now need a licence to rent your portugese property so will the lack of approved plans affect my ability to rent the property?

Is it possible to apply for this planning approval retrospectively?

Any help or advice at all is welcomed!

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(@thomasribatejo)
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Joined: 6 years ago

How old is the property itself?  Is it from 1981, or is it rather earlier?

What your solicitor/agent are telling you is true - it's quite common - but it doesn't mean it's right, and won't be a problem.  If the "only issue" is lack of actual correct plans, that's not of itself a problem - the issue is, has what has been done/changed been subject to relevant permissions?

Firstly, ignore (politely) the advice of anyone with a vested interest in the sale (agents, seller, etc), and make sure your solicitor is not one provided/recommended by the agent.  (I may be reading your message wrongly, but it sounds like the solicitor is more relaxed about this than I'd expect them to be...)  Then, get your solicitor to investigate - this is a basic element of their work for you - with the registos (in terms of land type, building licensing, etc) as well as the câmara - they should know what to do, in any case!

In practice, you might be able to buy it, live there, and have no issues - but you cannot rely on that, a change of approach by the local council could see enforcement, and that'll be against the owner at the time (which could be you!).  Additionally, if you need licensing for anything (Alojamento Local, for instance - which is often more subject to inspection/licensing than longer term rental) or if you yourselves want to apply for permission for something, it could then be flushed out, and be a real headache.  Or it could be an issue for a future buyer, when you come to sell.

If any aspects of the buildings are "illegal" (ie not approved, if they could be subject to it) you should use your solicitor to oblige the seller to sort this out, as in most cases, it's easier for the seller than the new owner to do this.  If they sellers won't. this may be because they know what a headache it'll be for them... so proceed with caution.

 

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Community Member
(@tobywatkins)
Joined: 10 months ago

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Posts: 3

@thomasribatejo Firstly – thank you so much for your help here . The original build was in 1981. A developer managed to buy two plots and developed one (larger) property on them. The property was bought from this developer and has been owned for two years by the current seller. There are some plans from 2005 showing the addition of a swimming pool but the layout of the property is very different from 1981 and larger in some cases where a car port has been added.

Our solicitor is not relaxed about it in the legal sense – their answers have been very black and white and they are not trying to sway our decision as such. The risks that they explained to me are identical to the ones you have mentioned and actually they are investigating with paper copies at the council offices this week. I asked if a lack of up to date plans were quite a common thing and they said unfortunately yes.

 I would still be interested to hear if the forum have seen similar situations themselves, or perhaps if anyone has bought a property and then successfully had planning granted for it retrospectively.

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Ask our Expat Consultant
(@thomasribatejo)
Joined: 6 years ago

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Posts: 435

@tobywatkins I'm pleased I misinterpreted the solicitor's view 🙂 and it sounds like they'll get to the bottom of what matters.  Internal layout changes generally aren't a big deal (although future licensing might require changes to otherwise unventilated kitchens/bathrooms, for instance).  It's very rare, in fact, to find valid plans, even for recent places, which is a real frustration - but the lack of them is not, of itself, a problem, as something can be legal without plans existing, based on the relevant textual documentation.

Bear in mind that, unless someone else's positive experience (if one is shared) of retrospective planning is for a very similar property and set of variations/issues and in the same câmara municipal, it is no real guide to your chances of success.  Whilst most underlying laws/regulations are national, local implementation is very, very variable; and what another municipality has done, or even precedent locally, are not generally valid arguments.  This is not to dismiss others' experiences, of course!

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Community Member
(@tobywatkins)
Joined: 10 months ago

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Posts: 3

@thomasribatejo Thanks again Thomas. In the UK there are certain types of property indemnity policy that can be bought by the seller in order to safeguard against future losses incurred due to specific conveyancing issues. Have you heard of this kind of policy? This may help us reduce some of the risk.

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Ask our Expat Consultant
(@thomasribatejo)
Joined: 6 years ago

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Posts: 435

@tobywatkins I am familiar with them in the UK, but have not come across them here.  Litigation to resolve issues customarily takes years here... so I wouldn't rely on an option of that kind, nor with having any comeback on anyone involved in your purchase.  This is part of why it's so important to get everything sorted up front.

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(@hartmill)
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Joined: 15 years ago

Some friends of ours purchased a property about 16 years ago. They used a lawyer and were assured that all documentation was correct. Three years ago they decided to sell. Their new lawyer checked and there was no habitation licence. The final documents on some changes that had been made before they purchased had not been signed off by the engineer. It has taken just over 3 years to sort this out!!!

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