Successive laws and executive instructions regulating construction have yet to clearly define unlicensed construction. However, the concept has always been applied to violations of construction permits.
A construction permit, which is an approval for construction, is granted by a local administrative unit to a landowner per any applicable laws and regulations. Any building constructed without a permit is considered a violation and is subject to the provisions of Decree No. 40 of 2012, which concerns unlicensed construction. Under this decree, unlicensed construction includes any structure built without a permit or, if a permit was granted, constructed in a way that violates that permit.
The decree also specifies what types of unlicensed construction must be demolished, such as:
- Structures that infringe on public facilities, such as roads, squares, and parks;
- Structures that exceed the height limits set out by building codes by more than one percent;
- Structures that infringe on public property, state-owned property, state-owned private property, or property owned by an administrative unit, either within or outside its municipal boundary lines;
- Construction within areas expropriated by the state or within organised real estate zones where the distribution of land plots to rights holders still needs to be completed or registered by the Cadastral Affairs departments;
- Buildings in areas where construction is not allowed according to the zoning plans, buildings in unzoned areas, and buildings that violate construction codes;
- Structural weakness resulting from the construction – in full or part – of one or more storeys above the number permitted per the building code;
- Structural weakness resulting from fully or partially emptying the land beneath the existing foundations of a building;
- Structural weakness resulting from construction modifications that lead to cracks, fissures, and wear that harm a building’s durability and structural integrity.
Similarly, Article 1 of the older (and now repealed) Law No. 59 of 2008 defined unlicensed construction as “construction works that violate the permit that has been granted”. A similar definition was included in Unlicensed Construction Law No. 44 of 1960 and Unlicensed Construction Law No. 1 of 2003: a building constructed without a permit or construction works that violate the given permit.
Local administration laws
The now-repealed Municipalities Law No. 172 of 1956 prohibited the construction of any building or restoration, alteration, or demolition work without obtaining a construction permit from the local mayor.
Local Administration Law No. 107 of 2011, which is currently in force, did not add anything new but affirmed administrative units’ authority to address unlicensed construction per the relevant laws.
Law No. 107 also prohibited public, joint, and private entities from construction, alteration or demolition work without obtaining a permit from the local administrative unit’s executive office.
In one unique addition, however, Law No. 107 said that should unlicensed construction occur, the executive office of the local administrative unit can force the owner to remove it, or the administrative unit can remove it at the perpetrator’s expense, in addition to a fine.
Financial Law of Administrative Units No. 37 of 2021, however, addressed unlicensed construction solely in terms of the fees that local administrative units must collect in return for granting construction permits.
Other unlicensed construction
Many laws ban construction in certain areas or set additional conditions for construction, expanding what types of work qualify as a violation. Under these laws, violating certain conditions or overstepping legal prohibitions constitutes unlicensed construction, which can be punishable by imprisonment, removal of the violating structure and payment of fines.
Such laws regulate the legal status and prevent violations in some areas, including groundwater, wells, shorelines and historic sites.
For example, Antiquities Law No. 222 of 1963 and its amendments prohibit municipalities from granting construction and renovation permits near archaeological sites and historic buildings until they have gained the approval of antiquities authorities. Such a requirement ensures that modern buildings are constructed in a way that accounts for the historic character of certain areas. The law also bars owners of registered historic buildings from carrying out any demolition, renovation, renewal or alteration work without obtaining similar permission. Finally, Law No. 22 also forbids construction on top of archaeological sites and changes those sites’ features at risk of imprisonment.
Similarly, laws on dividing, zoning and urbanisation in cities – the latest of which is Law No. 23 of 2015 – stipulated that landowners wishing to construct buildings on their properties must submit requests to the relevant administrative authorities. This is so that they may gain approval to divide their lands into plots ready for construction per the local zoning plans. This division must occur according to the division plans in place, which in turn must adhere to the general and detailed zoning plans and the approved construction code. They must also include the boundaries of the newly divided plots, their numbers, surface areas, zoning categories, and street boundaries.
For its part, Maritime Properties Law No. 65 of 2001 prohibited construction in sandy coastal areas within a depth of 150 metres from the boundary lines of ocean properties.
And Law No. 31 of 2005 banned construction within the immediate campus of public water properties, including waterways, lakes, ponds, waterfalls, dam reservoirs, irrigation networks, and ocean shores.