Explanation of the usucapion procedure as a fair and legal title to acquire a property.

What is usucapion? Usucapion in Spain is a way of acquiring ownership of a property through its continued possession. If we go to the etymology of the term, we can clearly understand its meaning: usucapion comes from the Latin words usus (use) and capere (acquire).

That is, if a person of legal age and legal capacity possesses an object without being its owner (normally real estate but it can be applied to any property) for a certain time, and under specific circumstances, through usucapion you can become the owner of said object.

It may happen that this object did not have a previous owner (typical case of unregistered land) or that it had a previous owner who, for whatever reason, would have allowed his right to expire.

Types of usucapions

The Spanish Civil Code establishes two types of usucapions: ordinary and extraordinary.

Ordinary usucapion requires a shorter prior possession – twenty years – but in return it entails two requirements: that the possessor acts in good faith and that he holds a fair title. We will expand on these concepts later.

The extraordinary usucapion requires a greater possession – thirty uninterrupted years – but in this case the two requirements that are requested in the ordinary one would no longer be necessary. Precisely for this reason and despite its name, the extraordinary is much more frequent than the ordinary.

Usucapion procedure in Spain

Obviously, to acquire a property or land through usucapion it is necessary to initiate a judicial procedure.

In this type of procedure – we are thinking of extraordinary usucapion, which paradoxically is the most common – the probative cornerstone is usually the one that allows proof of possession of more than three decades, which must also be uninterrupted.

We must focus on finding evidence that we owned that property more than thirty years ago, and that we also currently occupy it. We can use the payment of the ibi tax (tax on real estate paid every year), utility bills (water and electricity supply), invoices, etc.

If the Judge finds that we have enough evidence and we have proven the right, we will have a Judgment that will allow us to register our property in the Land Registry.

If this is your case, please contact us so we can help you register the property

The touristic licence is a permit that the city council grants so you can rent your property as a tourist accommodation and allows you to advertise it in tourist rental websites or if you would like a touristic company to rent it for you.

When is the rental considered touristic? (Art. 65. LAW 15/2018, June 7th, Generalitat, tourism, leisure, and hospitality in the Valencian Community)

Tourist accommodation refers to complete properties, which allow tourist use. This is any real-estate property that’s immediately available for repeat rentals to tourists for tourism, leisure, or holiday use.

Repeated rental is considered to exist when one of the following circumstances occurs with respect to the property:

  1. a) It is advertised for tourist use by companies managing tourist accommodation.
  2. b) It is made available to tourists, regardless of the period it is booked and if services of the hospitality industry are provided.
  3. c) When tourism marketing companies are used.

Basically, it is touristic rental when the property will not be the main residence of the tenant.

Which requirements does the property need to fulfil for touristic license?

  • All bedrooms and living room must have direct exterior ventilation.
  • Be fully furnished.
  • All the windows must have blinds to darken the light.
  • Have basic utilities for comfortable living.
  • Safety measures.
  • A book for complaints must be available for the tourists.

The documentation necessary and requirements changes from town to town.

In Alicante for example, you are only allowed to rent to tourists in very specific areas of the town and only if the property has direct access or is in the ground or first floor to not to disturb the neighbours.

In addition, you can only rent full properties and not just rooms.

You will need an architect to help you with a report to present it in the town hall so they can authorise the tourist rental. The process can take 2-3 months.


After Brexit, UK residents become non-EU foreigners and therefore they must apply for the military authorization to buy a property in certain areas of Spain. The areas included in the military protected area are Torrevieja, Orihuela (Alicante), Cartagena, Mar Menor area or Mazarrón (Murcia) and others like Galicia or the frontier with France or Portugal.

This obligation is regulated by the Law 8/1975, and the Royal Decree 689/1978. Although this law is considered outdated and many professionals in the area consider that it must be repealed, the law is in force and we have to bear in mind that now it also applies to UK residents that were not included in the past.

This military authorization has to be granted before signing the new Title Deeds (before completing the property purchase) and the Notary and Registrar have to request it. At present, the delay to get this authorization can be of 3 to 6 months.

The application form has to be presented in Barcelona in the Ministry of Defense office that deals with this, prior to complete the sale.


So, all non-EU nationals (except Switzerland and Norway) who want to buy a property in the before mentioned areas need to apply for it with the following documentation:

– A criminal record (obtained in their country of residence, legalized with the Apostille stamp and officially translated by a sworn translator)

– Photocopy of passport and/or residence card, officially translated by a sworn translator.

– Detailed plan of the house on a scale not less than 1/500 and a location map of the property.

-If the buyer does not fill the application in person, the representative or lawyer can do it with a power of attorney.

If you would like to know if the property you intend to purchase is in the military area please contact us

Case study-UK national Will but using Spanish Law so children can inherit


We have a case where a UK national made a Will choosing English Law, his nationality law. The testator only had a property in Spain, no other assets.

The testator left this property in Alicante (Spain) to his partner only and nothing to his children. This can be done according to English law but not Spanish law.  English Law also says that if the Estate is abroad then the Inheritance can be done according to the Laws in the country where the asset is located. In Spain, you are obliged to leave the inheritance to the children and then there is a share that you can leave to anybody.

The children did not agree with the partner getting all the Estate and contacted us. As the only asset of the Estate was the property in Spain, this inheritance will be ruled by Spanish Law, therefore the children have to get a share of the Estate according to Spanish Law.

So if your parents owned a property in Spain and resided in Spain but made a Will leaving the property to somebody else in a Will, we can help you with getting your share of the Spanish Estate. There are precedent and case law supporting this.

Please contact us. We will advise you about your specific case.