A COMPLICATION for registering your tourism activities lies in the regulations surrounding licensing. These are essentially identical to the requirements for any tourist hotel complex. Licensing begins with technical plans, as well as a safety project.
• Câmara Municipal (local council)
– approval of architectural and
– approval of any structural
– issuing of tourist utilisation
• Direcção-Geral do Turismo
– input of architectural and
– approval of the name of
– determination of classification
and maximum capacity.
The plans originally submitted when requesting building permission for the property, are a good start. However, certain minimum criteria must be met in accordance with legislation, which may lead to certain adaptations and alterations to these drawings. Licensing costs vary enormously from council to council and can range from 50 to 500 euros.
To cut a long story short, obtaining a licence can be an expensive, time consuming procedure, requiring perseverance and patience. It goes without saying that if unauthorised changes and additions have been made over the years, these irregularities will need to be sorted out before permission is granted.
In this regard, it is easy to imagine three possible scenarios:
1) All in order: The original technical plans meet requirements and the project can be approved without modifications. There should be little delay (around two months).
2) Minor irregularities: While the overall picture looks promising, a few problems may need to be solved. Delays can vary enormously from câmara to câmara and fees and/or fines may be the order of the day.
3) Major problems: Here we may be looking at something like an illegal swimming pool or an unauthorised addition. While the snags will eventually need to be resolved, they may well kill the licensing process at this stage.
You will need to have a safety project drawn-up, which includes plans showing the location of fire extinguishers, smoke alarms, emergency exits and the like. The project must be prepared by a technical engineer who is specifically trained in this area. One more expense.
Whether fully appropriate or not, the casa turística (tourist apartment/house option) may be one of the few that is open to you. Not all câmaras have adopted the same regulatory solutions.
If your activity is strictly commercial in nature because you place the property with a commercial tourist accommodation agency, for example, and intend to let it on a year-round basis, you will need to gear up for the Moradia Turística licence. On the other hand, if you plan a mixed usage, blending private use with occasional lets, then the guest house option (hospedagem) may be more appropriate. However, not all câmaras have adopted this legislation. Loulé and Portimão, for instance, are two notable examples of Algarve councils with very limited choices at present.
Condominiums and closed developments
A major problem area for changing from the standard habitation licence to a different form of commercial or semi-commercial permit can exist in condominiums and closed developments. In a nutshell, these urban compositions currently require the approval of fellow owners to modify usage. If all of the flats in an apartment building are designated for private residential purposes, with all of the other owners having bought under this understanding, there needs to be unanimous consent for one individual owner to alter his or her usage permit. Alternatively, the local council may also need to approve the change if a whole development was originally designed for private use only. Needless to say, this potential requirement could be a nightmare.
Next:The guest house – a Hospedagem
• Dennis Swing Greene is an International Fiscal Consultant for euroFINESCO. Private consultations can be scheduled at our offices in Guia (Albufeira) and Lisbon (Chiado). In the Algarve, call 289 561 333 or in Lisbon, 213 424 210 or e-mail: [email protected], or on the internet at www.eurofinesco.com.