Habitation license explained

Many purchasers of property in the Algarve are confused by the requirements for a residential property to have a license when it is sold. There are different types of habitation license, and in some cases exemption certificates can be used in place of a license. We will explain the three different documents that are needed when selling a property.


Habitation license

The habitation license (sometimes called a utilization license) is a document issued by the local council, that confirms that at the time of inspection the property was in accordance with the construction project approved by the council.

The information contained on the license varies from council to council, and also varies depending on the age of the license. Older licenses often contain very basic information, whereas newer licenses have much more detailed information.


Exemption certificate

Some properties are given an exemption, and do not need a habitation license. This is because the property was built (and has not been altered) prior to the introduction of construction regulations. The relevant date varies from council to council, and whilst you will often hear this type of document referred to as a "pre-1951 certificate" some councils will issue these certificates for properties built at later dates, well into the 1970's.

In some cases the caderneta predial (more information in relation to this document can be found here) is used to prove that the property pre-dates 1951. 


Retrospective declaration

Just to make matters a little more complicated there is another type of declaration which is also valid. In some councils (Faro and Loulé both comply with this) houses built prior to the introduction of detailed planning rules (PDM in Portuguese) but later than 1951, can obtain a declaration that they are correctly licensed.


We are often asked questions in relation to licensing of properties, here are some of the most common queries.


If I have a license is the house legal?

Not necessarily. Unregistered alterations could have been made to the property since the license was issued, and if this is the case then the license is no longer valid. 

To ensure that a house is in accordance with the license you should ask for a copy of the registered drawings which are held by the council. These can then be compared with the house "in the flesh".


I have a license but the house has been altered? Can I buy/sell the property?

This is not an unusual situation. You must declare this to all parties, and as long as all parties to the transaction accept this you can transfer the property. 


How long does a licence last?

A habitation license is valid as long as no alterations have been made to the house.

A pre-1951 certificate remains valid whilst no alterations have been made to the house, but it is good practice to request a recent certificate when selling a property.


Why does the estate agent want a copy of the license to list my house?

A (good) estate agent will always want to check the legality of your property before they start to market it. This is, in fact, a legal obligation in Portugal.


If you have any questions relating to habitation licenses in Portugal, please send an email to richard@azul-properties.com