The Public Prosecutor's Office, against the prefabricated houses boom: it defends that there is no legal loophole and that they need a licence.


The Public Prosecutor's Office is warning both the companies that offer them and the owners in view of the boom in sales of this type of housing after the pandemic.



Placing a prefabricated house on land without planning permission - be it an orchard, a plot of land in the countryside or in the mountains - can lead to prison sentences. This is the warning that the Public Prosecutor's Office has given to companies that sell these homes, as well as to people who want to buy them. The Public Prosecutor's Office points out that there is no "legal vacuum" in terms of permits to place them, as some companies claim, and argues that the regulations are clear: in the eyes of Justice, they are homes like those made of brick and cement.

Antonio Vercher, head of the Environment and Urban Planning Unit of the State Attorney General's Office, has sent a decree to the rest of the delegated prosecutors in which he urges them to investigate some practices related to the so-called 'mobile homes', such as placing these constructions in areas that do not have the necessary licenses to build with the excuse of being transitory or mobile, some even without water or electricity connections precisely to try to avoid the courts. The public prosecutor compiles different rulings that point in the same direction: any house, whether prefabricated or not, needs permits. The document states that it is not even relevant the temporary nature referred to by some companies. In other words, it makes no difference whether the house is intended for temporary living or not, or whether it is to be moved. "A building is any work or construction intended to house people, either to serve as a permanent or temporary dwelling or for other purposes", states the text, which also states that "any housing structure requires a licence". 


Prefabricated houses on protected land

The problem goes further when it comes to protected land. In 2017, the Supreme Court upheld sentences of one and a half years in prison for a group of people who placed houses of this type in the Guadarrama river basin, an area protected by the Natura 2000 network. The sentence was finally one and a half years in prison for a crime against land use planning for placing "absolutely prohibited" constructions in a park with an "ecological value of undoubted constancy", in such a way that they "urbanised" and "denaturalised" the land, according to the sentence.

Juan Manuel López Rubio, a lawyer for Ecologists in Action, recounts similar cases that have been occurring for years, although he points out that there has been an increase since the coronavirus pandemic. The lawyer explains that before it was more complicated for them to appear in the cases because they had to prove that it was a dwelling with a "vocation of permanence", which is why he values the prosecutor's document in a positive way: "Now it is clear what the position of the ministry is at a national level. On the one hand, it facilitates the work in the courts, and more importantly, it transmits [the guidelines] to those who sell houses and say that they can be legalised, as well as to the owners". For his part, the owner of a Valencian company dedicated to this business knows that placing this type of housing "on a rustic plot of land such as an orchard is not legal, what happens is that people buy, place and chimpún". The businessman assures that there is a "legal scale", but that if the land does not have the permits, it is not legal: "But [the owners] do it, as if it were a piece of furniture from Ikea", he adds.