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AFO Certificate – Do I need to apply for it when buying rural property in Andalusia?

The AFO (also called SAFO and DAFO depending on the area) is a special regime created in 2012 to normalise illegally built properties on rural land. Only in Andalusia 300,000 houses are estimated to be outside the law. That means: being built without owning the obligatory license from the City Hall. The truth is, in the majority of cases the offence will have prescribed and the property cannot be demolished. This situation had been leaving many homes in a sort of ‘no man’s land’, since they could be neither legalised neither knocked down.

What’s even more worrying: this stopped many homes from accessing water and electricity supplies. For this reason, the Junta de Andalucia established the ‘AFO’, which is the acronym for ‘Asimilado al régimen de Fuera de Ordenación’.

When is the AFO certificate necessary?

Owners of properties in the Andalusian countryside may be obliged to apply for the AFO certificate in two occasions, that is:

  • when the owner is selling 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 legitimise the house by applying for this certificate. There will be some costs involved, such as getting an architect to write a project, paying taxes to the City Hall (depending on its value), checking up on the water and electricity supplies, septic tank, solar panel, etc. These may vary according to the city or town within Andalusia.

At this point, both parties will have to negotiate and decide who will pay for these expenses. In most cases, the seller will bring down the price, so that the buyer takes charge of the AFO procedure upon completion. The reason for this is that the AFO procedure can sometime be slow and bureaucratic. In other cases, the expenses will be splitted in two (half and half). Finally, it is also possible thar the seller refuses to pay these costs, especially if the sale price it is very low. In other words, every case is different and must be treated individually by a law specialist.

If your house is older than 6 years and it wasn’t built in a protected neither in a flood-prone area. you can apply for the AFO certificate at the Town Hall. Once the AFO, DAFO or SAFO is issued, the property will be completely normalised. It won’t be possible to demolish the house, but you will only be allowed to perform maintenance works in it. However, it won’t be possible to extend the house beyond its current limits.

Source: Flickr

Our general advice is to find a good solicitor who can check the status of the property. A specialist will be able to give you an estimate of how much the AFO procedure can cost. In this way, you will be able to get a clearer idea and decide if you will proceed with the purchase or not.

If you want to continue reading about the legal aspects of buying property in Spain, we suggest having a look at these sections:

Checklist For Buying Property In Spain

The Cost Of Buying Property In Spain

Renting Out Property In Spain As A Foreigner

The Pitfalls Of Buying Property In Spain

Rent Or Buy In Malaga – What Works Out More Profitable?

Which Are The Best Places To Buy In Spain?

The Cadastral Value in Spain

For Sale By Owner In Spain – How Reliable Is It?

Legal & Tax Help is a group of English speaking lawyers and solicitors specialised in Spanish property law. We are based in Malaga, and provide legal and accountancy services throughout the entire Costa del Sol.

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