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Tiny Homes Permission – The Lowdown Part 1

Raphael Silvares Jerónimo, from Ecositana, is a professional builder of wooden houses in Portugal. He shares his knowledge on building and permits for Tiny Homes in Portugal. This is part 1 in the series, it is a big topic asked about by many people.

A wooden house needs a permit, just like any other type of house. A regular building permit with a very important «licença de utilização» (given at the end of the project) that allows you to insure the house and potentially sell it one day farther down the road. It doesn’t matter if it’s on wheels or on wooden pillars. Is it a house? Then it needs permit.

Even modular houses need a permit. If you put a house on wheels or use a mobile home, it might be considered «wild camping» and town hall might require you to remove it. Even if it truly serves as temporary housing, the law says temporary cannot go beyond 365 days. And to qualify as temporary, the house cannot have foundations or be connected to public utilities such has electricity, water and sewage. Because, taxes.

The law states very clearly what kind of construction does not need licensing: «construções de escasso impacto urbanístico». Certain types of land – not all, only those specified in each district – can build a small construction, under certain requirements (first building, height, dimension) and usually with a very small interior (between 15m2 to 30m2, tops).

The law is not open for interpretation. There is no loophole in the law regarding this subject. Be careful of promises made by sellers, whether online or in-person. I can tell you I have a house that doesn’t require licensing, but it cannot be true in all cases. Each land is different, size and classification matters, and each district has different requirements. Be smart. The government is not stupid.

What about yurts?

It all depends on dimensions, quantity, and use. If you have a comfortable land size, and want to install only one small Yurt (let’s say 30m2) for your own use or as a guest house, then you will probably be ok (that is not to say you will be legal, which is different). But if you want to install several units to rent or for tourism, you must check the town hall requirements. For instance, Law 128/2014 for alojamento local. But imagine you want a bigger Yurt (let’s say with several divisions) made with clay and a stronger wood structure, it will be considered a construction for habitation. Hence… licensing. Licensing ensures people are protected, have decent electrical and plumbing installations, and a structure that is safe and sound.

Can you make a general statement about the acceptability of modern prefabricated houses to the local authorities? I am thinking of the very modern-looking ones.

They are perfectly acceptable. No questions asked. As long as your construction is legally licensed and that your architecture project is approved by your local Câmara (municipality), you are good to go. They might require a certain exterior aspect depending on where you are building (some areas must respect a certain architecture because of its historical value). But regarding prefabricated house, modern, rustic, or whatever, the Câmara has nothing to say as long as the house respects the law. The problem might be of another level: there are numerous prefab houses on sale that do not respect Portuguese architectural guidelines, such has width of doors and corridors, electrical system standards, etc. So licensing certain prefab houses can become mission impossible.

You mentioned living temporarily on land for up to 365 days. Do you think it’s possible to stay on your own land in a motorhome or camper van while doing a rebuild or would this be considered ‘wild camping’?

I believe it would not be a problem. In our experience, town halls are not unreasonable. If you have a motorhome on your land, to accommodate your family during a rebuild, or to receive friends, even for several years, you would probably have no problems. It is all about being reasonable and to keep the land ordered, clean and within regulations. Imagine on the other hand you put a motorhome on a land that is a protected natural reserve, or a REN/RAN, to use as a house. With lots of structures around it (water reserve, generator, tools, sheds, etc.). You would very probably get fined and ordered to remove it. The 365 days is a law that exists to allow town halls to protect themselves from abusive behaviour. It is there to make sure that ‘temporary’ is different from ‘movable’. A motorhome can move. But it can also stay on the same spot for 10 years. So this law exists to prevent people to interpret the law as best suits them. But no one is measuring time to check if you have been there for 365 or 366 days. Also, when building or exploiting land (for agricultural purposes, for instance), there is the possibility to install structures ‘de apoio’ (to serve as shelter for people and/or tools [depending on the case]). These structures can be as simple as a caravan or as complex as a wooden cabin.

From what you say, it seems you can only only have a concrete base and be connected to services if the building is legal?

You don’t need a concrete base to be legal. You decide what you want. You could go 100% ecological. But you cannot legally build without checking with town hall if what you are doing needs a permit or not. Example: some districts don’t require the licensing of a pool anymore, but they require information. They want the owner to inform them he intends building a pool. And sometimes a small fee (tax) will have to be paid. Inform town hall. Sometimes you get good surprises. Although, regarding concrete (waterproofing of the soil), if it is a foundation, normally they require a permit. Because it will be a permanent building. Again, a lot depends on the size, purpose, location, and so much else.

Raphael produced a YouTube video for us to explain more:

Click here for tiny homes permission part 2

Pure Portugal do not provide legal help or advice to anyone, neither do we accept payment or financially benefit from legal services. It is necessary that you always source your own lawyer/solicitor independently and ensure you find someone you are happy to work with.

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26 thoughts on “Tiny Homes Permission – The Lowdown Part 1

  1. Thanks for the information, are you far away from the algarve as we are traveling there 20th may !!

    1. We are quit far, dear Mr. Leach, we are located in Central Portugal. We have, however one some works in Algarve (a house restoration, a beach bar (NoSoloAgua in Vilamoura Falesia’s beach), etc.). It there anything we can be helpful with?

      1. Hello,
        I am a fruit and veg grower, and will be buying agricultural land, or “rustic” (or is it the same thing?). Can I build a shelter/accomodation for myself. I think that is categorised as “for agricultural purposes”? Where can I find information about what I can build?


    1. Hey Raphael,

      Thanks for the video, was looking for this info all over the web ! Many thanks 🙂

      From what I had read it seemed as though its near impossible to get the go ahead in renovating ruins and meeting all the neccessary criteria and extremely costly.. if at all possible..

      Can you advise possibility of renovating a land with 2 ruins which will be up to standard and as per requirements and will this cost in the 30k per ruin or lets say 100k per ruin? This is about the building per se’

      Would it be possible to contact you further even maybe in getting some quotes for works ?

      Thanks and have a good day !

  2. Thank you very much for all this information. I am in central and have had a pool built with all correct permissions and licence from the Camara. However I now need a shed/logstore. It would need a concrete base and would probably be breezeblock construction (plastered) with a tiled roof to stay in keeping with the house. Do you think I would need permission and licence? I would ask the Camara anyway but am just trying to weigh up my options. Thank you.

    1. Hi Peter, thank you for your comment. In principle, if the area of the building/shed is less than 10m2 you dont need permission, but it may also depends on the exact area that your property is located, so for an accurate answer please check with your local Camara Municipal. Good luck! Joana (from Pure Portugal Team)

  3. What about a goat shed build before 1951 and turn into a tiny home do you need a licence to live In? And if the building is not know by the camara can you legelize it?

  4. En casas de madera Madercami le damos la oportunidad de vivir en un lugar que siempre has soñado. Las viviendas de madera poseen características como su ahorro energético , estética , estructura ligera y de gran resistencia y es una construcción ecológica respetuosa con el medio ambiente. Con la posibilidad de construir su vivienda usted mismo , podrá ahorrar un significante conste en dicho montaje y tendrás la satisfacción de haber participado en la construcción de su vivienda. Todas nuestras viviendas poseen un manual de instrucciones en el que se detalla paso a paso dicha construcción para que pueda realizar su montaje de una forma clara y sencilla.

  5. Thanks it’s all super useful information! My partner and I are planning to build a container home and would love for our first to be in Portugal. I know we may need permission for this but I can’t find who to speak to about starting the process? Any advice? Thanks!

  6. we have a big static caravan in porchugal its on a site but would lov to buy some land to put it on is this possible thanks.

  7. Hi, I want to erect a 36sqM timber workshop for my own use on my own land which adjoins my property. The land is defined as rustic. The building would be entirely timber with no concrete base, it would have a suspended wooden floor and would be connected to the electricity supply from the house. There would be NO accomodation! I have no near neighbours and around 1 hectare of land. Do I need a licence? If so, what are the chances of obtaining one?

    1. I am thinking of building the same type of workshop myself Clive. Did you manage to find out if this is possible without a licence in your district? I am located in the Algarve.

  8. Hello, I am having a new roof on a existing house built in 1933. In a rural location.
    My builder thought it was a good idea to put another floor above the kitchen in a wooden structure, I ask if this was legal as I don’t want to be in trouble with the town hall he told me you don’t need a licence or apply for permision for wooden structures. Thank you I would appreciate any advise

      1. Hello,
        I am a fruit and veg grower, and will be buying agricultural land, or “rustic” (or is it the same thing?). Can I build a shelter/accomodation for myself. I think that is categorised as “for agricultural purposes”? Where can I find information about what I can build?


  9. Hello,
    I am a fruit and veg grower, and will be buying agricultural land, or “rustic” (or is it the same thing?). Can I build a shelter/accomodation for myself. I think that is categorised as “for agricultural purposes”? Where can I find information about what I can build?


    1. You can build an agricultural shelter/tractor shed usually yes unless there are big restrictions for some reason on the land, you can check this with the Camara when you find a place you like the look of to be sure it will be allowed, you just need to share the article number which the seller should know! We have lots of land for sale which already has buildings on which might save you a job too 🙂 Clare – The Pure Portugal Team

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