The Cédula de habitabilidad or certificate of occupancy is an often overlooked but critically important form of documentation needed to live in any home within Spain. Contrary to popular belief, this certificate is necessary before moving into any home; otherwise, you may risk fines. The good news is, the Cédula de habitabilidad is relatively easy to obtain, and we’ll walk you through why it’s important, the different types available, when you’ll need it, and other essential information relevant to the process of obtaining it.
What is the Cedula de habitabilidad?
The certificate is an official document that confirms that a home meets the basic conditions to live in and is entirely legal in every respect. An authorized technical architect must inspect the property, ensuring that the building complies with a selection of sanitary, dimensional and safety requirements.
The Cédula de habitabilidad is necessary to connect basic utilities such as electricity, gas, and water. Generally, the certificate is valid for up to 10 years; however, this can vary depending on the type you’re applying for or where your property is within the country.
The Cédula de Habitabilidad is a document that assures that a particular home gathers all the minimum and necessary conditions of living. In the case of Barcelona, it uses Catalan law to determine this. It does not imply the legalization of the construction concerning its suitability for the use of the home or concerning urban regulations.
This document is, essentially, mandatory for every home, with the few exceptions that will mention in the following paragraphs. In other words, to live legally in a home, you will be required of this particular document. As mentioned before, consider that this is just an example of Catalan law (applicable to Barcelona). Depending on the law applicable to every particular territory in Spain, there might be differences. We can help you with more information on the particularities of this Cédula de Habitabilidad for your property. Contact one of our legal experts at SpainDesk.
Get help from property lawyers in Spain
The different types of Cedula de habitabilidad
There are three critical variations of this certificate that directly correspond with the property’s age or a particular stage of building. Logically, the law establishes stricter standards of enforceability for new homes. At the same time, the requirements for pre-existing dwellings, as of August 11, 1984, in the particular case of Barcelona, are more exiguous, as well as it establishes an intermediate regime for homes after August 11, 1984 and before the entry into force of the Decree that regulates the Cédula de Habitabilidad.
See the differences between the three primary forms of this document:
- Cédula de habitabilidad de primera ocupación (certificate of first occupancy)
This type of Certificate of Habitability must be requested with all newly built homes. As previously mentioned, with newly built homes, the required conditions have been more modern and exigent, making it the most demanding type of certificate.
- Cédula de habitabilidad de primera ocupación por rehabilitación.
This document refers to a home product or result of an intervention or rehabilitation process. It is necessary when there are renovations or reforms that can substantially modify the original setting of a home. This is the case, for example, of homes where there has been a redistribution of the original spaces.
- Cédula de habitabilidad de segunda ocupación (renewal of occupancy certificate or second occupancy certificate)
This part is about an already built and previously inhabited home. It is the type of document that existing dwellings must request when the First Occupancy Certificate has expired. Essentially, it is more of a renewal of the initially granted certificate rather than a new one.
What information needs to be included in the application?
The requirements to process the documentation depends on the region. Next to this, the version of the certificate you need also will have an effect. The following information is crucial to include in any application:
- Location: The address of the home in question.
- Functional surface: Any surface that we can use or walk on within the interior of a home (floor space, built-in wardrobes, counter space, etc.).
- Distribution: Which are any rooms or areas within the house.
- Occupancy threshold: This is the maximum number of people who can legally be in the building simultaneously.
- Identification: The identification should be from the authorized technician who conducted the inspection.
When is the Cédula de habitabilidad mandatory?
This documentation is required in virtually every situation involving a place of dwelling. While there are rare exceptions where this may not be considered mandatory, as a general rule, it’s safe to assume it’s completely necessary unless advised otherwise by a legal professional.
Let’s break down the four key scenarios where this certification would be required:
Renting an apartment or property
In any housing rental contract, it’s compulsory that the certificate be included in the documentation and provided to the new tenants. It’s important to note that a home without any Cédula de habitabilidad is not considered a home/place of dwelling and legally cannot be made available for residential use.
If you rent a home without this certification, there could be potential consequences for both parties involved. For example, the tenant will be unable to register for or connect basic utilities and services, and the government could subject the property owner to significant fines and legal hurdles. If you want to know more about renting out your property, we suggest you also read about rental income taxes in Spain.
Selling an apartment or property
If you’re involved in selling a home, you must obtain the Cédula de habitabilidad. There are very few circumstances where this may not be immediately required to process the transfer of ownership; however, without an explicit exemption, the seller could be subjected to high fines. The buyer may experience a range of difficulties in the future. We’ll identify the key exemptions from the certificate a little further down.
Requesting a mortgage.
For any mortgage or bank loan to be granted, there are several requirements that the person requesting the mortgage must meet. In Spain, it’s essential to have the Cédula de habitabilidad for your property. It’s important to remember that this certificate is necessary for the property in question to be considered a home legally. Hence, it’s impossible to discuss relevant mortgage or home loan rates without this documentation.
Living in a property
While there are several situations where people attempt to live in properties without the Cédula de habitabilidad, it is unlawful and puts them at risk of many complications. We’ve compiled the main consequences you may have when you live without the necessary certification.
- Inability to register and set up basic utilities and services (such as water, gas, electricity, etc.)
- Potential to be faced with a range of severe fines and penalties.
- Inability to register for home insurance or apply for bank loans and mortgages.
- Potential for eviction followed by limitation of access to public resources.
Exemptions from the Cédula de habitabilidad
There are very few circumstances where the certificate would not be considered mandatory. For example, if there was an agreement not to deliver the document in the sale of a pre-existing property, it could be for the following reasons:
- The buyer may have plans to renovate or demolish the property.
- The intended use of the property may differ from that of a home.
- The certificate may be processed at a later date for a range of justified reasons. However, it will be necessary to present the application for a registered occupancy certificate. This will prove that the housing conditions are optimal for obtaining the certificate.
Remember, this is only an example applied to a sale of a property, but each case (renting, requesting a mortgage, etcetera) has got its different exemptions. If you are unsure about the exemptions that apply to your situation, it’s always best to consult with a real estate lawyer for clarity.
Who is responsible for the Cédula de habitabilidad?
In a rental property scenario, the Cédula de habitabilidad is the sole responsibility of the person who holds the property deed. They’ll be required to request it and pay for it.
In the sale of a property, the seller is generally expected to handle and pay for the certification process. However, in some situations, both parties may agree that it becomes the buyer’s responsibility to obtain the certificate.
What happens if I don’t have the certificate documentation?
Unfortunately, it can be relatively common to be sold a house or apartment without the Cedula de habitabilidad, which is often the case with uninformed buyers.
If you’re still going through purchasing a home, prioritize addressing the certification with the current owner to avoid any future complications.
When you cannot find your certificate or never received one, you can check with the Town Hall; they might provide a copy. If this proves unsuccessful, you’ll need to apply for a new one immediately and pay for the replacement.
Important processing information
How much does the Cédula de habitabilidad cost?
The overall cost of the certification can change based on the situation. However, two key things to consider are the standard rate to be paid to the local town council for processing the application and the architect’s fee for the inspection.
For example, the current cost of applying for the certificate in Barcelona is €42.60. This price is for the Cédula de Habitablidad de Primera Ocupación. However, this amount is subject to change based on the region you’re applying in, and the specific certificate you need.
How long does the application take to process?
On average, it may take a month or less to receive an official response on your certification status. However, the length of time for approval depends on the region of Spain you’ve made your submission.
If your situation urgently requires the Cédula de habitabilidad, a sealed request of the certificate may be sufficient instead of the physical documentation in many instances.
Can I get a duplicate of the certificate?
Absolutely! To request a duplicate of the certificate, you need to contact your local town hall with documentation proving you’re the legal owner of the home in question or nominate an authorized representative.
Please note that there is no need to process an additional application so long as the certificate is still considered legally valid for the property.
Is this certification the same in every region of Spain?
Depending on your location within the country, the application process, requirements, costs, timeframes, and more may vary. While the general process is mandatory in most regions, others like Aragón and Castilla la Mancha do not require it. In other areas, only the Cédula de habitabilidad de primera ocupación (certificate of the first occupancy) may be necessary. It can also happen that the Cedula de Habitalidad carries a different name in a region. In any case, it’s essential to review the legal requirements based on the region and consult with a legal professional if you’re unsure.
Buying, selling or renting a property in Spain is complicated and a little overwhelming at times. Our dedicated team of real estate and property lawyers at SpainDesk are available for guidance through the Spanish legal system. We can handle everything from registrations to advice on legal proceedings. Contact us today to book an appointment with one of our property specialists.
Get help from property lawyers in Spain
Disclaimer: Information on this page may be incomplete or outdated. Under no circumstances should the information listed be considered professional legal advice. We highly recommend seeking guidance from a legal expert if you lack extensive knowledge or experience dealing with any of the procedures outlined in these articles.