The AFO Certificate in Spain, Andalusia
What does AFO or DAFO stand for?
The AFO certificate (also called SAFO and DAFO depending on the region) is a special regime created in Andalusia – Spain in 2012 to normalise properties built illegally on rural land. Before the DAFO certificate was created, only in Andalusia 300,000 houses were estimated to have this outlaw status. In practice, this meant owning a property which had been built without owning the obligatory licence from the Town Hall. The truth is, in the majority of cases the offence will have already prescribed although it will not be possible to demolish the property. This situation had been leaving many homes in Spain in a sort of ‘no man’s land’, as they could not be legalised neither knocked down. What was even more worrying: this stopped many homes from accessing normal water and electricity supplies. For this reason, the Junta de Andalucia created the ‘AFO certificate’, which is the acronym for ‘Asimilado al régimen de Fuera de Ordenación’, established by Decree 2/2012 (10 January).
When is the AFO certificate necessary?
The DAFO certificate can become necessary for anyone owning a property built in the countryside in two cases, that is:
- when the owner is about to sell the property
- when the City Hall requires the owner to legalise the property.
In the first case, the potential buyer can urge the seller to apply for the AFO certificate as a means of legalizing the property. To obtain the AFO certificate, there will be some costs involved, such as getting an architect to write a project, paying taxes to the Town Hall (depending on the property value), checking the water and electricity supplies, the septic tank and solar panels, although this may vary according to the town .
At this point, both parties will have to negotiate and decide who covers these expenses. In most cases, the seller will agree to bring down the price, so that the buyer takes charge of the AFO procedure upon completion. The main reason for this is that the AFO procedure can often be slow and bureaucratic. In other cases, the expenses will be divided equally (50% to 50%). Nevertheless, it is also possible that the seller refuses to pay these costs, especially if the sale price is very low. In other words, every case is different and must be treated individually by a law specialist.
Once the AFO, DAFO or SAFO is issued, the property will be completely normalised. Although it won’t be possible to demolish the house neither to extend it beyond its current limits, you will be officially allowed to perform maintenance works in it.
Requirements to apply for a DAFO certificate in Spain – Andalusia
First of all, the property for which the DAFO is requested will need to meet certain requirements, including:
- the completed building must be older than 6 years
- it should not be built on protected land (to be analysed depending on the year it was built)
- it should not be built inside the area of an urban settlement
- the wastewater system will also need to be adapted
Please note that the fact that the property already appears in the Property Registry in the Cadastre does not make it legal.
How to apply for the DAFO certificate
The DAFO procedure often varies depending on the local laws, but the most common requested documents are:
- evidence of ownership
- technical documents proving that the house is safe and habitable
- proof of the year it was built
- proof of the fee payment to the Town Hall
On average, the cost of applying for a DAFO / SAFO can range from €10,000 to €15,000, although also in this case it can change based on the size, year and village where it was built.
What if several houses are built within the same land plot?
The DAFO or SAFO procedure also considers the possibility of dividing a land plot to include two or more buildings and obtaining separate deeds. However, these buildings must have been finished more than 6 years ago and cannot be built on protected land.
Can the Town Hall request a DAFO ?
Yes. The Town Hall has the obligation to offer citizens a clear legal framework and must therefore clarify the legal situation of all properties located within their area of competence. Thus, if there is any suspicion of a property with illegal status, it is obliged to request a proof of legal compliance from the owner, that is, a DAFO certificate or an urban planning license (licencia urbanística).
Important update regarding the AFO procedure
The Junta de Andalucia has announced the preparation of a new decree for managing illegal constructions, which is expected to improve the current status of these buildings. More details available here. Any updates published on 2019 – 2020 regarding this law and the AFO certificate in Andalusia- Spain will be posted on this page.
Francisco Criado Rodríguez is an English speaking architect , holding a degree from the University of Seville (2000). He currently works as a technical advisor in planning and building for several towns within the province of Málaga. His own architecture firm offers design, building, legalisation and DAFO-certification services for new constructions.
*The information provided in this article is not intended to be legal advice, but merely conveys general information related to legal issues.
Picture: Pixabay, free-licence
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