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  • Writer's pictureJoana Wheeler

Rustic land: Can I build? Is it possible to change its classification to urban?

The acquisition of land for development has become more and more popular among portuguese people as housing costs rise. This is because you may customize the structure to fit your budget, building your own home typically has lower expenses. Although you can save a lot of money, you will work a lot harder. Before choosing this option safely, there are numerous considerations to make.


Finding the ideal terrain is the first task. Since the description, even when the property is for sale through a real estate agency can be perplexing.


So what do the usual land rankings we find in properties advertised mean?

  • Urban land is land that has been built up or partially urbanized. They could be homes, businesses, factories, services, or land used for urbanization. Building must be feasible on urban land;

  • Urbanized land, also known as soil for construction, refers to areas that may be entirely or partially built-up with buildings.

  • Rustic/non-urbanizable land: Soil whose urbanization may only take place under very unusual circumstances. It is only so-called if it is inserted in an area with license for construction. It can only be applied to farming, raising animals, or forestry.


These are, for now, the classifications of the land in Portugal. Later in this text we will explain the changes that these designations will undergo and their legal framework.


How do I know if a land is rustic?

Two organizations classify the land: The Finance Office, which does so for tax purposes, and the City Council, which decides if construction is feasible and sets construction-related restrictions.

Asking the City Council about your municipal categorization will be the first step if you decide to move forward with buying a piece of land for building. In order to do this, it should refer to the Municipal Master Plan (MDP), which is a Place Planning (PMOT). You can check the plants in the area and their restrictions in the MDP.


What are the diferences between Rustic and urban land?

Understanding whether the area is designated as urban soil or country (rustic) soil requires consulting with the MDP. What are the variations, then? If it is designated as urban soil and there is no conditioning, all you need to do is ask finance to change the designation before presenting the license project to the City Council.


On the other hand, construction is generally prohibited if it is put on rural soil. Agricultural works, when demonstrated to be incorporated in the management of agricultural holdings (including support or storage structures), and reconstruction, alteration, or expansion works up to a maximum of 20% of the pavement surface of existing and legal buildings are the only two exceptions (with slight variations depending on the municipality where the land is located).


How to transfer a register from rustic land to urban land?

In some circumstances, this transition from rural (or rustic) to urban property is still feasible, although its days are numbered. The term "urbanized land" will soon be abolished, and all land will be categorized as either urban or rural. The deadline for municipalities to modify their municipal land planning plans (municipal master plans, urbanization plans, and detailed plans) as stipulated in Decree-Law No. 80/2015, of May 14, Legal Regime of Territorial Management Instruments, was extended by Decree-Law No. 25/2021, from March 29, 2022, until December 31, 2022. (RJIGT).


As a result, the urbanizable soil classification, whose use was supposed to end in July 2020, had its existence prolonged one year, which is until the 31st of December 2022. Following that date, soils will only be classified as urban soil, which is soil that is fully or partially built or urbanized and, as a result, territorially affects the building or urbanization, or rustic soil, which is intended for agricultural, livestock, forestry, conservation, recovery, and exploitation of natural resources, geological resources, or energy resources, as well as what is intended for natural, cultural, tourism, recreational and leisure spaces, or risk protection.


If you're wondering if you can convert a rural piece of land to an urban one, keep in mind that you only have until the 31st of December 2022. After this date the land that does not have approved projects will be requalified as being located on rustic soil, landowners in regions designated as urbanized soil will only have until the end of this year to approve the urban operations they desire.


If you own rustic land, you should let the municipal council know as soon as possible about what you can do to modify this classification because it represents a huge devaluation of these assets.

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