The fact that a house appears in a nota simple DOES NOT make it legal

Raymundo LarraĆ­n Nesbitt, April, 21. 2023

Marbella-based Larraín Nesbitt Lawyers has over 20 years' taxation & conveyancing experience at your service. We offer a wide range of 50 legal and corporate services. Our team of native English-speaking lawyers and economists have a long track record successfully assisting expats all over Spain. You can review here our client’s testimonials.

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A common mistake buyers, estate agents (and even some lawyers) make is that they take for granted that a rustic villa that appears at the land registry is fully legal, when it is simply not the case.

It is important to note the Spanish land registry does not carry out any planning controls on a  property – that is not their job. What the land registry does is lodge the content of a deed witnessed by a notary public, that is all.  The notary also does not carry our any planning control whatsoever on a property - it is also not their job.

So frequently, people who own rustic plots, build a house on it illegally. To give it semblance of legality, they involve a notary and the land registry. The notary witnesses a new build deed, which is then lodged at the land registry to update the property description. When one applies for a property report, the property does in fact give an appearance of legality. But it is only that, an appearance, enough to fool most people, except a lawyer that digs deeper.

Only a lawyer knows how to verify a property is in fact legal. 

This is not an example, this is a true case that happened to us a few months back. On running a due diligence on a rustic title, we verified the lavish villa that had been built breached local and regional planning laws and was in fact illegal. Moreover, there was a ruling to demolish it. The seller was pushing the property at a huge discount for 'health reasons'. Whoever becomes the new owner ‘inherits’ the planning illegalities. Had our client bought it, she would now face a demolition order- at her own expense - besides losing hundreds of thousands of euros in her failed investment. But it doesn’t end there, she would also have had to face criminal action on the planning breach, as she would now be the new owner taking on the mantle of legal responsibility.

The Spanish Land Registry (and notaries) have their own limitations; they are not lawyers and at no time one should (mistakenly) assume they do a lawyer's job. This is when a seasoned conveyance lawyer steps in, saving the day. We saved our client from making a very costly mistake and even facing criminal charges (on owning an illegal construction in protected land).

Don’t take chances with your life savings, hire a lawyer on buying or selling property in Spain.

Lawyer’s fees are 100% tax-deductible anyway.


At Larrain Nesbitt Abogados we have over 20 years’ experience buying, selling, and renting properties. We are also specialized in immigration & residency visas. You can contact us by e-mail at, by telephone on (+34) 952 19 22 88, or by completing our contact form to book an appointment.

Larraín Nesbitt Abogados, small on fees, BIG on service.

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