Presumption of licence explained

It often happens that permits are not known for older buildings. Or that it is difficult to find out the exact permit situation. However, this does not mean that nothing more is possible. Under certain conditions, the building will be able to enjoy the presumption of licence. This article provides more explanation.

The origin of the presumption of licence

The first urban planning law dates back to 1962. From this point on, in principle, a permit was required for erecting a structure. However, this requirement was often not complied with. There were also few checks on this. Or the municipality did not yet have an outlined procedure for applying for a permit.

All this makes it often difficult to prove the correct history for old structures. For this reason, the presumption of licence was introduced. If a structure meets certain conditions, the building is then considered to have been erected on the basis of a valid permit.

The importance of the presumption of licence in a licence application

The presumption especially plays a role when converting or rebuilding a building. Can you not prove that the building was already authorised or is presumed to be authorised? Then you should apply for a regularisation permit for the entire building.

Read more about regularising a construction offence here.

Presumption of licence and zoned dwellings

The presumption also plays an important role in permits for zoned dwellings. For such dwellings, one can only obtain a permit if one proves that the building is mainly licensed. As these are often old dwellings, the presumption may offer a solution here.

Here is more information on what is possible with a zoned property.

Two types of presumption of authorisation

Depending on when the building was erected, the regulations distinguish between two types of presumption of authorisation:

  • For buildings erected before 22 April 1962 one speaks of a irrefutable presumption of authorisation. This means that no rebuttal is possible anymore.
  • For buildings erected between 22 April 1962 and the first entry into force of the Regional Plan, the presumption is refutable. For example, for the Antwerp Regional Plan, the first effective date is 9 November 1979.

In the latter case, limited rebuttal evidence is still possible. The presumption can be rebutted on the basis of an official report or a non-anonymous objection. This must be drawn up within five years of the construction being erected or placed.

The conditions for the presumption of authorisation

In applying the presumption, providing sufficient evidence an important role. You will have to prove that:

  • the building was established before a certain date.
  • the building still present in this form today.

This could be based on (aerial) photos, invoices, etc. In principle, you are free to do this.


Presumption plays an important role when applying for permits for older buildings. This is because for these buildings, the permit situation is often unclear. The presumption also plays an important role for zoned buildings. After all, to obtain a permit for such a building, you will have to prove that it is mainly licensed. The presumption of authorisation can then provide a solution for this.

Whether you can use the presumption of licence depends on whether there is sufficient evidence that the building as it stands was erected before a certain date. However, this is not always straightforward.

Do you have questions about the presumption of licence or how to prove it? If so, please feel free to get in touch.

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