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New procedure for changing the purpose of buildings and separate sites in buildings

new procedure on changing purpose

With amendment of the Spatial Development Act (SDA), promulgated in issue 16 of 23.02.2021 of the State Gazette, a new Art. 147a was introduced. According to the new article the change of the purpose of buildings or of separate sites in buildings without carrying out construction and installation works shall be performed under new procedure.

Colliers Legal Practice comments below on the new procedure and the specifics of changing the purpose of buildings and separate sites in buildings.  

What does “change of purpose” mean

According to the SDA “change of purpose” of a site or part of it is the change from one mode of use to another as per their respective codes representing basic cadastral data, determined according to the Cadastre and Property Register Act and the regulations for its implementation.

According to the cadastral registers, each site, depending on its type, is identified with a number of cadastral data such as: identifier (unique number), area, floor/number of floors, address, etc. One of the identifying elements of the objects is their “purpose”, for which each site receives a corresponding code.

Change of the purpose of a site means changing its usage, which can be done with reconstruction and performing construction and installation works or without performing such works. The procedure applicable to the specific change of purpose depends on the performance of construction and installation works or the lack thereof.

What does the new procedure for changing the purpose provide for?

It is important to note that the new procedure under Art. 147a of the SDA regulates the change of the purpose of buildings or of separate sites in buildings without performing construction and installation works. The procedure provides in these cases the change to be carried out after the issuance of a permit for change of purpose by the chief architect of the municipality. This is a completely new permit regime, which instead of a building permit provides for the issuance of a permit for change of purpose and a simplified procedure. The chief architect of the municipality issues the permit without requiring the submission of investment projects, but the application for a permit to change the purpose should be supported by evidence that:

- the requirements of Art. 38 or Art. 39 of the SDA are met
- the building rules and regulations are not violated, and
- positive opinions have been submitted by the relevant competent authorities regarding the observance of the requirements determined by a normative act for the new purpose – i.e. opinions for observance of the fire-fighting requirements and the sanitary-hygienic requirements.

In the preparation of the application under Art. 147a for change of the purpose of a building or part of a building used for education, science, health and culture as well as sports facilities or parts thereof owned by the state or municipalities, the new version of Art. 39, para. 3, adopted by § 11 of the ASA of the SDA, should be considered. According to the new article the tacit consent of the respective line minister has been replaced with an explicit written consent.

The permit for change of purpose shall be notified to the interested persons and shall be published in the Unified Public Register for Spatial Planning under Art. 5a from the SDA. The sites, the purpose of which has been changed on the basis of a permit for change of the purpose under Art. 147a, shall not be subject to commissioning.
In all other cases of change of purpose of a site, when construction and installation works are performed, it is necessary to prepare and coordinate investment projects and obtain a building permit, as well as to follow any requirements and protocols applicable to works during construction, including commissioning of the site.

What are the specifics regarding residential buildings

The law provides specific requirements for changing the purpose of a site in a residential building in order to protect the public interest – these are the requirements specified in Art. 38 and Art. 39 of the SDA, which should be taken into account when changing the purpose without performing construction and installation works on the basis of a permit for change of purpose.

According to the new version of Art. 38, para. 2 – “Sites for economic and service activities in a newly built residential building are located below the residential sites, if separate entrances to them are provided and comply with sanitary, fire and other technical requirements.” The previous version provided for these sites to be located only in the underground, in the semi-underground and on the first floor.

In an existing residential building with condominium regime, it is allowed to change the purpose of a residential premises or a detached dwelling in an office for health needs, for an office or for a studio for individual creative activity, with access of visitors in the building, subject to the following conditions:

- the sites are located on the first or semi-underground floor;         
- their reconstruction complies with the sanitary-hygienic, fire-fighting and other technical requirements, and         
- explicit written notarized consent of all homeowners - immediate neighbors of the sites. As an exception, the location of these sites on other above-ground floors may be allowed only on the basis of a decision of the general meeting of homeowners, taken in writing, and with the explicit written notarized consent of all homeowners - immediate neighbors of the site.        
- the necessary garages or parking places for the new sites are provided in the respective land plot.         

The purpose of an existing residential premises or a separate dwelling on the first floor of a residential building for a store or for other service activities may be changed, subject to the following conditions:

- compliance with the sanitary-hygienic, fire-fighting and other technical requirements;         
- a separate entrance is provided outside the entrance and the common areas of the residential floors;         
- decision of the general meeting of the owners and explicit written notarized consent of all homeowners - immediate neighbors of the site;       
- the necessary garages or parking places for the new sites are provided in the respective land plot.         

All these prerequisites should be present at the time of submitting the application for permission to change the purpose, which should be supported by a motivated opinion of a design engineer with full design capacity, proving that the workload does not increase, structural elements are not affected and the load-bearing capacity, stability and durability of the building structure are not reduced.

The consent of the owners in the condominium is not required for the restoration of the residential purpose of already reconstructed separate premises and sites for non-residential needs, built in an existing residential building.

The cases discussed above refer to a change in the purpose of residential premises in residential buildings / “Residential building” is a building intended for permanent residence and consisting of one or more dwellings that occupy at least 60 percent of its built-up area. When determining the purpose of the building, the studios are considered to be dwellings.

When changing the purpose of part or all of a building in residential, resort or villa areas, when the reconstruction is associated with mass access of visitors and excessive noise and other pollution for the area, in addition to complying with the above requirements, explicit written notarized consent is required of all owners and holders of limited real rights in neighboring land plots.

In case of change of the purpose of a part or of a whole building in residential, resort or villa zones, as well as in case of change of the purpose of a building or part of a building used for education, science, healthcare or culture, the change of the detailed development plan is performed ex officio based on an order of the mayor of the municipality, without conducting a procedure for amending the detailed development plan.

*The present article has informative purpose and does not represent legal advice. For legal advice and opinion, please contact Colliers International Legal Practice at bulgaria@colliers.com.


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