Licence proceeding in a nutshell

By Bart van Linden [email protected]

Bart van Linden is a director of Exclusive Algarve Villas, a local real estate company focused on selling high end properties and investment related real estate throughout Portugal.

Building on a plot of land will depend on a licence granted by the local municipal authorities through a proceeding that will analyse and validate a construction request, which must comply with the zoning rules, limitations and restrictions and with general civil and construction laws.

When planning to buy a plot of land for construction, the very first priority one should have in mind is to verify at the local municipal authorities how the land is classified, which restrictions are in force and how much construction area will be allowed.

For assistance on getting this information, either an architect or a lawyer is in most cases called for.

This information is usually given through copies of maps and plans, a meeting with the technical department of the city council, and the lawyer or architect’s interpretation of the applicable zoning plans.

These elements are useful to help in the decision to buy the property and should be enough if the licence proceedings are intended to start immediately after the purchase.

However, the gathered information is not immutable. Zoning plans may change – although not overnight – as the technical department of the City Council’s opinion may.

In properties located in areas where a lot of construction restrictions exist – shouldn’t be the case of allotments, resorts or urban areas – it is advisable to ensure that the construction conditions for the property will remain for the needed time to start up a licensing proceeding with a project.

The law establishes a mechanism called the Prior Information Request (in Portuguese Pedido de Informação Prévia). In relation to a licensing proceeding, it works as a preliminary and simpler proceeding, where the municipal authorities are asked to confirm the construction viability of a given property according to the specific intentions.

This proceeding may be more or less complex (thus taking more or less time), depending on the intentions of the interested entity, the location of the property and type of project.

It may demand the appreciation of other entities beyond the municipal authorities, such as environment authorities, health authorities, among others. 

One can apply for such information without being the owner of the property. Any interested person may submit it, although the interest in the information must be justified.

To set up such a request, the assistance of an architect is required and the additional assistance of a lawyer is recommended. The documents that must be submitted may vary and technical drawings needed.

In a regular Prior Information Request at least the following elements will be necessary: a summarised description and clarification of the intended construction; all the local zoning maps in force with the property duly identified; the intended building implantation blue prints defining the volume, height and fence walls; photographs of the property and identification of the local infrastructures.  

The information given pursuant this request will be binding for the City Council (and all the other authorities that have appreciated the request) within one year (which can be postponed for one further year), meaning that if a proper licence proceeding is submitted before the deadline, the municipal authorities will be bound by the contents of the said Information.

Independently of whether a Prior Information Proceeding has been requested or not, to construct a new building, a licence will be required.

The licensing proceeding is naturally more complex and will require more drawings, documents and elements, and the applicant of a licence must be entitled to act upon the property – in most cases the title owner.

This proceeding will be aimed at getting the approval from the competent authorities of the intended construction, which must comply with all the applicable rules, limitations and restrictions in force.

Needless to say, the assistance of an architect is required, and of a lawyer recommended, who will guide the applicant through gathering the required elements, which typically include:

• Documents that prove that the applicant may act upon the property;

• The land registry statement of the property;

• a summarised description and clarification of the

intended construction;

• all the local zoning maps in force with the property

duly identified;

• The architect’s project;

• The total construction cost estimate;

• The calendar of the construction works;

Once the architectural project is approved, the speciality projects (such as electricity, structures, plumbing, fire prevention, etc.) must be submitted.

Subsequent to their approval, a construction licence will be issued. Once the building is constructed, the authorities will inspect it to assess that it followed the scope of the granted licence and then will issue the dwelling licence.

To contact Bart van Linden, please call 282 353 019, 912 826 969 or email [email protected]