Urban planning research in Portugal

When buying property in Portugal, a number of checks are necessary. This article will explain the different steps of a town planning survey in Portugal. The focus here is on resale properties and villas.

The first step: the urban development plans

First, we review the urban layout of the plot and surrounding land. This involves looking at the colouring of the regional plans. Then we put the plot's colouring alongside the local rules. What are the local building restrictions? What type of constructions are allowed and under what conditions? For example, a house may be located in a nature reserve, but was still built in accordance with local requirements. In short: in this step, we map out the applicable rules for the property.

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The second step: the urban planning file

The second step consists of screening the urban planning file. On the one hand, we inquire with the seller about all works carried out in the past. Here we check whether the then owners followed the correct procedures. This usually concerns the installation of a swimming pool, the construction of a garage or carport, the extension of a terrace, etc. On the other hand, we will consult the municipality's archives. What is the licensing history? When and for which structures was a certificate of conformity issued? Are aerial photos available?

Once we have a clear picture on this, we will check how the property was registered in the land register. The cadastral data determine the cadastral value of the property and thus the annual taxes. With every new construction, the owner has a duty of notification. Based on that notification, the administration increases the cadastral value. In the past, people often "forgot" this declaration. Therefore, we check whether all (licensed) constructions correspond to the relevant registrations?

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If there are differences between the actual situation, the licensed situation and the land registry entries, the next step is necessary.

The third step: survey by surveyor/architect

When we strongly suspect illegal constructions based on the previous steps, the engagement of a surveyor/architect is recommended. This expert then visits the property and prepares a detailed site survey. Based on this report, we can identify any illegal constructions.

Finally, what solutions are possible?

Once there is a clear picture of illegal constructions, we can see to what extent regularisation is possible or desirable. In practice, construction violations are often time-barred. And usually the municipality will stipulate conditions before allowing or advising positively on regularisation. We then include these points in the compromise. Or possibly a regularisation is simply not possible.


An urban planning study in Portugal is a crucial step when buying resale property. After all, it is important that you fully understand the consequences of any construction violation. Sometimes these impacts are limited. Sometimes they result in a serious restriction on further building possibilities. You may even risk infringement proceedings. In exceptional cases, the municipality can impose a 10-year sales ban. You would therefore do well to be sure in advance.

Are you considering buying property in Portugal? Here you can find more information on the purchase process.

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