When you wish to construct real estate in Aruba, either for business or residential purposes, there are two major legal frameworks you have to take into account. In Aruba the construction phase is governed by the Construction and Housing Ordinance (Bouw- en Woningverordening) and the related Construction and Housing Decree (Bouw- en Woningbesluit).

But before you start construction you might have to acquire a piece of land, either property (eigendomsgrond) or long lease (erfpacht). When you are looking for a piece of land it is important to investigate the intended destination of the piece of land you have your eye on. To discover the intended destination of a piece of land, you have to consult the Spatial Development Plan, locally known as ROP (Ruimtelijk Ontwikkelingsplan).

What is the ROP?

The ROP has been introduced on 7 May 2009 by national decree pursuant to the National Ordinance Spatial Development (Landsverordening Ruimtelijke Ontwikkeling) of 2006. The ROP exists out of three documents: a plan description, a plan explanation and a plan atlas. The plan explanation shines a light on the ideas on which the ROP is based. It contains a broad overview of the social needs of Aruba with regard to use of land for different purposes, such as housing, business, industry, agriculture and tourism. The plan description sets out the most desired development of Aruba in broad lines. Most importantly it includes a description of different zones, like the touristic zone, economic zone, urban zone, nature reserves, to which it connects different policy goals. These zones are also featured in the plan atlas, which contains a set of maps of Aruba. The ROP description states that it is not a binding policy document. The government intended to introduce a more specific set of zoning policies and rules, known as ROPV, which were meant to be binding. However, the ROPV have not yet been issued.

Consequences of the ROP for construction   

Even though the ROP itself indicates that it is not a binding instrument, the Aruban court in first instance has concluded in a recent case that the government can be held to certain public policy decisions, like the ROP (it has not yet been established by the court that the ROP is binding in all cases). This might have as a consequence that the Land of Aruba has to apply the zoning policies as described in the ROP. This can even be the case if the Land of Aruba grants a long lease of a piece of land under conditions that differ from the conditions set out for the zone in which the piece of land is located. To avoid legal conflicts with interested parties, like NGO’s or local residents, it is important to check in which zone your piece of land is located and which rules apply to that zone according to the ROP. This might not be as easy as it sounds due to the broad nature of the maps in the plan atlas, which show large parts of Aruba at once. This makes it difficult to establish where the borders indicated on these maps are exactly located.

Building permit

If you have successfully obtained a piece of land or already have a piece of land you still have to obtain a building permit for your envisaged construction. You have to obtain this permit before your start with the construction. Depending of the kind of construction you wish to undertake different conditions apply.

In special circumstances and for buildings of a simple nature, it is possible to obtain a partial, whole or conditional exemption of a building permit from the Minister. In some cases the law provides that it is not necessary to obtain a building permit. These cases are very limited. Examples are graves and small pens for animals or household storage, and urgent measures to prevent damage (the latter has to be reported to the Minister within three days). A building permit can be revoked in two cases. Firstly, when the conditions applicable to the building permit are not followed. Secondly, when the construction has not started within a year of obtaining the permit or has been suspended for over a year. Last but not least, construction without or contrary to a building permit can be punished with a maximum fine of AWG 5,000, which can be doubled if not a year has passed after a conviction for a similar infraction.

Side notes

ROP under review
The ROP is currently under review and is likely to be updated in the course of 2018.

Costs building permit
To calculate the costs involved with a building permit application you can visit this website

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