Legally, buying property in the Algarve and Alentejo is no different from the rest of Portugal; the laws are largely the same, all the administrative offices have the same name and the process of buying property is basically the same.
The Alentejo and the Algarve are administratively divided into concelhos, also called municípios. In the Algarve there are 16 concelhos, from Aljezur on the west coast to Vila Real de Santo António on the border with Spain. The Alentejo has a total of 47 concelhos. These concelhos are administered by a capital, which usually also gives the concelho its name. In each of these Capital do Concelho there are usually 3 institutions that play a role in the property purchase.
Câmara Municipal – The Câmara Municipal is the town hall and the elected councillors decide on various matters of the municipality. One of the functions of a Câmara Municipal is to issue building and housing permits. For example, if you buy a rural villa in the Alentejo with 250 square meters and 20 hectares of land, one of the compulsory documents is the residential permit (Licença de Habitação), which certifies that the property can be lived in. The owner of the property should have an original of the document; if not, a certified copy can be obtained from the Câmara. For properties built before a certain year (in most concelhos this is 1951), a residential permit is often not available. In these cases, the Câmaras issue a document (Certidão) that replaces the housing permit.
Conservatória do Registo Predial – The Conservatórias de Registo Predial correspond to the land register; here the ownership and rights and encumbrances of real estate are recorded. The Certidão de Registo Predial is a compulsory document when buying real estate. This lists the names, addresses and tax numbers of the owners, as well as the size and type of property. For example, if the word Misto is written on a Certidão, it means that it is a property with a rural part (Rústico) and urban part (Urbano). In the above example of the rural villa in the Alentejo, the property is composed of an urban part of 250 square metres and a rural part of 200,000 square metres.
Repartição das Finanças– in almost every concelho there is a local tax office; for the purchase of real estate, the cadernetas are important, and the tax offices are responsible for issuing and updating them. There are individual cadernetas for all properties. In the case of the rural villa, these would be a Caderneta Urbana and a Caderneta Rústica. The area, owner(s) and location of the property are also registered in the Cadernetas. It is important that the information in the documents of the Conservatória and the Finanças do not contradict each other. It often happens, for example, that the owner’s details on the Caderneta are up to date but the Certidão (land register) still shows the names of the previous owners. In this case, the Certidão may have to be updated, which is associated with costs, or a proof may have to be provided (e.g. certificate of inheritance) that shows that the ownership situation is settled.
More information on buying property in Portugal will be presented in future blog posts.