Smaller pools, less living space – Mallorca introduces new construction regulations for fincas

Spring 2020 – Mallorca’s economy suffers massively from the effects of the Corona Pandemic. At the end of May came the desired, positive signal from Madrid – at the latest from the 1st July foreign tourists can enter the country once again. Hoteliers, restaurant and bar-owners can breathe a sigh of relief, at last light at the end of the tunnel.

Around 40% of the gross domestic product of the Balearic islands is at stake if the tourists fail to arrive. With at least 20% of the GDP the building industry is the second biggest economic factor, but now this segment is also being severly restricted, not only by the pandemic but also by a new law from the island government which came into force on the 25th May 2020. The ‘decreto Ley 9/2020 de medidas urgentes de proteccion del territorio de las illes Balears‘ severely constricts the construction possibilities in rural areas.


Protection of nature and resources at the expense of the developer/owner

Those wishing to fulfill their dream of building their own finca in Mallorca always had to comply with strict building regulations. The plot specifications for a new building in a rural area, depending on the municipality and category of the land in the territorial plan of Mallorca, was from 14.000 up to 520.000 sqm.

Now, however, the left/green coalition has set its sights on the size of house and pool. For one thing to conserve water resources, but more importantly to reduce the disproportionate oversizing of detached houses (viviendas unifamiliares) in rural areas (rústico) – allegedly motivated by touristic rentals, to a “proportional, appropriate and reasonable level”, as required in the foreword of the journal of law.

The era of the extensive finca ensemble with huge pool is over for the present, as the new building regulations considerably restrict the constructed areas.

The era of the extensive finca ensemble with huge pool is over for the present, as the new building regulations considerably restrict the constructed areas.

The formula ‘a large building plot means a large house’ is no longer valid in Mallorca. Five or six bedrooms in the main house, guest houses, and maybe two pools on 50.000 sqm of land?

Those times have passed under this government. A maximum of only 900 sqm of enclosed space is now allowed, before it was 1.500 sqm. This corresponds to a maximum of 300 sqm constructed space with an average room height of 3 metres. It is also new that this maximum of converted space now includes the total of ALL buildings (including, for example, a garage) and no longer only the main house.

Construccion and ocupacion – the difference

Spanish building law differentiates between constructed area (construccion) and occupied area (ocupacion). The covered or constructed areas includes all covered buildings, ie. not only the interior rooms but also, for example, roofed terrace areas, permanent carports etc. The constructed area is usually identified in real estate exposes – the living space with balconies etc. which is often shown in other countries and only proportionally calculated, is not a common factor.

The occupied area (ocupacion) includes not only the area of the ground floor of all buildings but also all sealed areas of the land. This includes, therefore, the terrace bordering a pool but also the pool itself. The building material used is not important – wooden planking counts as does the stone perimeter.

 In the past, up to 3% constructed area and up to 4% occupied area was allowed in rural areas. From June 2020, both areas will be further restricted uniformly throughout the island, with a maximum of 1.5% construcción and halved ocupación, namely a maximum of 2% of the land area. In some zones particularly worthy of protection, even lower coefficients apply (1.0% Construcción / 1.5% Ocupación), making a maximum of 2% of the plot area. In some zones considered to be particularly worthy of protection even lower coeficients apply (1% construccion / 1.5% ocupacion).


Pools limited in size

Particularly for foreign investors a finca without a pool is an absolute ‘no-go’, but Mallorcans also appreciate a refreshing dip at their second home in the country. A census carried out a few years ago by the University of the Balearic Islands counted 40.000 pools in Mallorca alone, a number which has probably risen in the meantime. The high demand for water due to evaporation in the summer has been a thorn in the government’s side for some time, and during the dry period in July/August it is forbidden for house owners to top up their pool. There was even a rumour that some municipalities would no longer issue building permits for pools.

The new legislation is, in this respect, a compromise. Pools will continue to be allowed but will be restricted in size. The maximum area allowed is now 35 sqm and the capacity is limited to 60 cubic metres. This means that most standard pools with 8 x 4 metres are still possible, but those dreaming of a second children’s pool will be unlucky, as only one pool per building plot is now allowed.

Calculation example newly-built finca

Anyone now purchasing a 20.000 sqm building plot can no longer build on it up to 450 sqm constructed area. This is now restricted to a maximum of 300 sqm, distributed over all types of buildings. The ocupacion amounts to a maximum of 400 sqm as opposed to the 800 sqm formerly possible.

Real estate experts at Porta Mallorquina have illustrated the changes from 2019 to 2020 by using differing plot sizes (green tables), and have created a typical newly-built property with a residential house, a covered veranda (porch) and a pool with surrounding terraces, built on a plot with the currently still valid minimum size of 14.000 m2.

Before and after - The new building regulations restrict both the constructed areas and the size of the pool in rural building projects in Mallorca.

Before and after – The new building regulations restrict both the constructed areas and the size of the pool in rural building projects in Mallorca.

This calculation example shows that purchasing a large plot of land, e.g. of 50,000 sqm, in order to increase the development possibilities (constructed area = construccion) no longer brings any advantages compared to a plot of 20.000 sqm.

”Those seeking a finca with 5 to 6 bedrooms for family and guests will have to rely upon existing properties”,

determines Timo Weibel, managing director of Porta Mallorquina. Basically he welcomes protection of the countryside and resources in Mallorca, but can not understand why the government is introducing these new measures now, during the time of the Corona crisis when people are seeking more living space rather than less, and when the construction industry along with the entire economy is looking at a very insecure future.

”It makes no sense that two houses with 3 bedrooms each on 20.000 sqm of land could save more resources than a large house with 6 bedrooms on 50.000 sqm”.

The demand for large properties is not only high amongst foreigners, Mallorcan families also tend towards generous space requirements for their families on their country estates. Added to this, the amendment to the law reduces the value of properties owned to a great extent by locals, so that at a single stroke the assets of a great number of Mallorcans is reduced drastically. Apart from that a large number of local companies in the construction industry, whose employees are often normal to low Spanish and Mallorcan earners, will be economically effected.

Finca prices are likely to rise

Owners of large country estates which were legally built and, optimally, have a touristic rental licence can, however, be happy with the situation then these types of properties in Mallorca will now become even scarcer. The real estate experts at Porta Mallorquina expect that the prices for fincas in attractive locations will continue to rise, so those who are considering buying should decide soon as prices will not become cheaper. Timo Weibel is convinced that this is the case.

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