Office Dr. Rathenau & Colleagues: Portuguese Property Law 2019

Building Law

Building projects and alterations often require a legal permission. The building law is very complex and difficult to understand. Therefore, if you are planning on building a house or making alterations to it, it is advisable to have an experienced lawyer take care of the legal side of your project.

Approval procedure

Most expansions of buildings require an approval of the local authority. Portuguese law distinguishes between two types of approval: the licensing procedure (licença) and the procedure of advance notice (comunicação prévia).

Therefore, first you have to find out if the intended construction measure requires a building permit and if it is approvable.

Maintenance works, boundary walls and building repairs do not need a permission.

More complex measures, such as construction of infrastructure (water, wastewater, energy supply, streets etc.), alterations and expansions require a permit.

In some cases you won´t need a permission but an advance notice (comunicação prévia) instead. The advance notice is the report of the start of the construction work. The report has to contain specific records of the building; as for example the construction plan and the site plan. The community has the right of objection within 20 days after the advance notice. After expiration of this time the constructional measure is deemed to be authorized.

The time limit for the objection may alter between different communities.

Provisional building permission

It is possible to request a provisional building permission. The provisional building permission is a legally binding information about the approvability of the project. A positive provisional building permission binds the community for one year. Within that year the application for the building permission has to be made.


The building operation has to be in compliance with building law and environmental law in order to be approved.

The building law contains regulations regarding distance spaces, heights, sizes, building materials etc.

The relevant environmental law is usually determined by the development plan. You have to distinguish between plans on three different levels: The national level ( Portugal), the regional level (e.g. Algarve) and the communal level ( e.g. Lagos).

Authorization of Occupancy

After completion of the construction you have to apply for the authorisation of occupancy(autorização de utilização). When the construction is approved, you will obtain a permit (alvará de autorização de utilização) which confirms compliance with the law.