Getting your property in order

Have you been stuck for years trying to sell your home or property but just couldn’t because of some unsanctionable illegality? Then this article is a must-read


Have you been stuck for years trying to sell your home or property but just couldn’t because of some unsanctionable illegality? Then this article is a must-read.

If it is not you, we all know someone who in the past had taken the liberty to extend that one room in the backyard, split their property into two units, extended their property in the front garden or built a smaller internal yard without planning permission. ‘This is my home and I shall do whatever I please with it,’ you can hear them exclaim. Only it doesn’t really work that way, especially when you come to try selling or getting a bank loan for your property.

There are many people who, when in the past they carried out works in their home or property, did not think or bother too much whether or not they required planning permission. Thinking that they’d make life easier and get the works over faster, many just went ahead with works, not worried that in the future, when they came to sell, they were going to find major obstacles.

Few people understand this, but not all illegal development is sanctionable. Although the word sounds bombastic what it really means is that a normal planning permit cannot be issued for certain illegal works – most of which are related to sanitary issues or specific planning regulations.

So what are your options if you find yourself with your back against this wall?

The first and most obvious is to return things back to how they were before. Although this might not always be simple or possible. The second option, is to engage an architect and allow the architect to verify whether the illegal works can be sanctioned through a normal planning application. In which case, the architect will submit the planning application on your behalf.

If this is neither possible, the Planning Authority, in 2016, introduced what today is known as the regularisation process. Through this application procedure, the PA is providing property owners with an ‘opportunity’ to regularise existing unsanctionable non-conformant developments.

To benefit from this ‘process’, your property needs to tick the boxes of some important requirements.

Firstly, your property needs to be located entirely within the development boundaries.

If this gets ticked then you need to ensure that the footprint appears in the PA’s aerial photos of 2016 - nothing later.

Thirdly, your illegal structure cannot be creating an injury to amenity, and lastly, the use of the building must be in accordance with the Authority’s current planning policies and regulations. In other words, if in the past you changed your garage into a commercial panel beater which is in the middle of a residential zone without permission - this illegal use will still not be given permission under this application process.  

What will it cost you? Beside the professional fees of the architect you engage, every regularisation application is subject to a fee, calculated on the total and combined roofed over area of each floor of the property being regularised. As an applicant, you will also be obliged to pay a minimum administrative fee of €50.

Since the ‘scheme’ was opened in August 2016, the Authority has received nearly 13,800 regularisation applications generating close to €32 million. Last year, a notable decrease in the submission of regularisation applications was recorded. Numbers dropped to 3,337 applications, a decrease of nearly 37% over the previous year.

The PA has been bold enough to inject this money back into the community. In fact, the Authority channelled €23 million into the popular Irrestawra Darek Scheme and Marsamxett Balcony Grant Scheme. Most of the remaining money got directed to the Development Planning Fund for urban improvement community projects.

Nevertheless, applying for planning permission before carrying out any development works remains the safest and only way to ensure that one’s money, time and peace of mind are secure!

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