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The Urban Planning Question When Selling a Property

It can sometimes be challenging to determine, whether as a buyer or a seller, if a property complies with urban planning regulations. It is conceivable that a property may have been non-compliant for decades without the owner being aware of it. However, even if an irregular property can be sold, specific clauses in the authentic deed of sale will specify the parties’ responsibilities in this regard. In this article, we will decipher the implications of such transactions so that you can react if the situation arises.

What is an Urban Planning Permit, and is it mandatory?

Urban planning rules are in place in each region to control land development, construction or renovation of housing, and ensure their homogeneity within the city’s development. When a property needs to be built or renovated, it is imperative to obtain an urban planning permit certifying that your project complies with the current legislation in your region.

The sale of a property is legally conditioned upon the transmission of a document called “urban planning information,” which describes the recognized situation and assignment for the property being sold.

What is an Urban Planning Offense?

It is a report received from the Municipality describing an irregularity found in a property. It usually involves work carried out without an urban planning permit, even though it was mandatory: examples include the construction of a terrace, an annex, or the covering of a courtyard. This type of offense varies depending on the region; therefore, it is essential to inquire. You can consult Regularis for Brussels and Wallonia and Vlaanderen for Flanders to obtain all the necessary information.

What is an Unnoticed Urban Planning Irregularity?

It refers to irregular work done in a property that has not been officially recorded as an offense by the competent Municipality.

The sale of an “irregular” property that has not been officially recognized as an offense entails significant responsibilities during the actual sale of the property in question.

The Duty of Information

The seller must inform the buyer about the property’s situation and any irregularities it may have. This is called the duty of information. Article 1641 of the Civil Code also states that the seller is “bound to guarantee against hidden defects in the thing sold that render it unfit for its intended use, or that so diminish its usefulness that the buyer would not have acquired it or would only have given a lesser price for it, if he had known of them.” (source: Belgian law portal) This means that the owner guarantees that the property does not have any hidden defects that could have prevented the sale.

An urban planning offense can be considered as a hidden defect. Thus, if the owner has not informed the buyer about it, they could, in principle, be required to pay for the costs related to the property’s urban planning regularization.

Buyer’s Protection:
Like the seller, the buyer can insert a clause in the authentic deed, guaranteeing urban planning compliance. This type of clause is often present in the deed, indicating that the seller guarantees that the property is not affected by any urban planning offenses. The clause may apply to personal work carried out by the owner or all work done in the property, even if the seller is not the author. With this clause, the buyer will be protected if they discover an irregularity after the sale and demand compliance or repairs.

Seller’s Protection:
The seller may be unaware of the presence of an urban planning irregularity. In this case, including a clause exempting liability for hidden defects could protect the seller. However, even with this clause, the seller will have to demonstrate good faith in case of an irregularity (the burden of proof falls on them).

What happens if both clauses are present in the deed?

The presence of both clauses in the same authentic deed of sale can change the consequences for the owner. The exemption clause cannot be applied to defects mentioned in the guarantee clause; thus, even if the owner is acting in good faith, they will not be able to prove it or use the exemption clause since they have guaranteed that the property is compliant.

Therefore, it is advisable to ensure that your property is compliant before entering into a real estate sale. You can inquire about this with your Municipality, where you can consult the cadastral records containing all the building permits granted for your property.

How to Sell an Irregular Property?

Two opportunities are available to you if you wish to sell an irregular property:

This type of sale is complex and carries responsibilities during and after the property sale. Therefore, it is recommended to be surrounded by experts who can manage this situation and advise you on the necessary steps.

As real estate experts since 1980, Trevi’s teams will accompany and advise you during your decision-making process.