Jul 312012
 
Cracks in swimming pools in Spain

SPANISH SWIMMING POOL CONSTRUCTION PROBLEMS: A FAILED INFINITY SWIMMING POOL WITH SERIOUS CRACKING

Sadly, not all swimming pools in Spain are constructed well.  Indeed, as a surveyor specializing in Spanish property, I see many Spanish swimming pool construction problems – the remedial works for which can sometimes be very expensive.

Unfortunately, even new swimming pools can have serious structural issues and, in recent years, many pools have been built defectively or over insufficient foundations (normally to save money).

Of course, great attention has to be paid to the construction of a swimming pool, the sheer nature of which can cause instability and movement, if the foundations are not extremely good.  This is particularly the case when pools are built on a clay or fill substrate.  Meanwhile, even those built on rock can suffer from cracking following tremors (or major construction work close by) especially when the wall or base structure is of minimal thickness or reinforcement steels are inadequate or poorly placed.

Meanwhile, on rare occasions I have seen pools that have been ‘faked’: tiled with steps, dolphin mosaic and so on, but laid over a basic block lining only, with no reinforced structure. This has resulted in the walls and base failing, once the pool is filled and the full weight of the water imposed on the structure.

When it comes to older swimming pools, these can often be very well built and are sometimes based on converted water deposits. However, they can contain structural issues, which can be expensive to resolve in the long term. A typical problem is expired galvanised iron pipe work, which eventually decays and leaks and can cause erosion of the supporting substrates and significant further movement.

Of course, not every crack or fault is serious and many swimming pool problems in Spain can be sorted out with relative ease and low cost.

As always with construction problems, you should react quickly when you notice that your swimming pool has a potential defect.  Firstly, any remedial works may resolve a problem before it becomes serious and potentially very expensive – not least because any continuous escape of water may undermine the foundations of both the pool and even your house!

Typical swimming pool problems

INCORRECTLY PLACED STEEL REINFORCEMENT TO SWIMMING POOL BASE

Secondly, you may have a potential claim against your builder, architect or insurers for any defects in your swimming pool.  If this is the case then speedy action is necessary, as processing claims can take time and any legal dispute that results is unlikely to be resolved fast.

At Building Defects Spain, we offer a one-stop service for you, if you think you have Spanish swimming pool construction problems.  We can not only provide you with a survey of your swimming pool (which may show that there is no defect) but also manage and advise you on any remedial works.  Furthermore, our lawyers are ‘on hand’, should you need to make a claim against your builders – and they are specialist building dispute lawyers able to take your case to court should that be unavoidable.

So, if you think you have a construction related problem with your Spanish swimming pool then do contact us.  We work throughout Spain and often save clients thousands of Euros through use of our expertise (see our qualifications and experience as bi-lingual and bi-qualified professionals).

Mark Paddon

Jul 302012
 

SPANISH DAMP PROBLEMS: EXCESSIVE MOLD SPORE GROWTH

Many Spanish properties suffer from damp problems and this includes houses in Mediterranean areas – which may seem strange given Spain’s climate.

Typically Spanish damp problems can be found in:

–      Sub-ground areas – often called underbuilds or sotanos. These often lack effective tanking. This is particularly true of illegal underbuilds.

–      Terrace door surround areas and roof terraces. These are often poorly sealed and lack a waterproof membrane.

–      Over-sealing of the living space. This causes condensation-related mould and is more common in new, double-glazed Spanish properties than in older, poorly insulated houses.

Obviously, damp can prove to be a major problem and damp-related rot is often very common in under build areas, where timbers have not been treated properly.

Sometimes damp in Spanish properties is a sign of a more serious problem and damp can indicate that there is the underlying possibility of a significant building defect that may have its origins in poor or defective construction.

So, damp in Spanish properties is not something to ignore!

damp-in-Spanish-properties

DAMP FLOOR SLAB (NO DAMP COURSE?)

Of course, often Spanish damp problems can be resolved quite easily at minimum cost.  Sometimes, it can be remedied by simply properly ventilating a given area.  However, at other times, extensive tanking is required and occasionally external retaining walls need to be built (together with an effective water drainage system) to stop water ingress.

Importantly, the reason why you have damp (and unsightly mould) may be due to the poor or incompetent work of your builders or the constructors of your property.  In this case, you may well have a claim for recompense.

Equally, you should be aware that legally, if you find any significant defects that have been deliberately hidden by the seller of your property (within six months of purchase) then you may have a case for compensation against your seller. Unfortunately, this can be very difficult to prove – so it is always better to try and identify any issues prior to purchase by consulting a building surveyor.

Be very cautious about consulting a ‘Damp Specialist’ contractor alone, as it is obviously in their interests to specify costly works, which are not always required or might not even resolve the problem. (They often offer a free ‘survey’ by someone that is typically not a qualified surveyor but more a sales person).

The source of damp problems in Spain is not always obvious and professional help is almost always essential, if the problem is to be correctly identified and treated.  It is also fair to say that should the reason for the damp become a matter of dispute then you will need not just an expert building surveyor’s report but also (usually) a building dispute lawyer able to prosecute your claim effectively.

At Building Defects Spain we have a first class British building surveyor (qualified in the UK and Spain) and a lawyer (qualified in Ireland and Spain) who can help you resolve your problems.  Contact us – and let us establish why you have a problem with damp in Spain, what remedial action is needed and whether you have a valid claim against your builders or developer.

Mark Paddon

Jul 282012
 
Building project Spain

CLAIMING AGAINST A BUILDER IN SPAIN – A SHODDY AND DANGEROUS MAKESHIFT PROP UNDER FAILING BEAM

Much of our work involves the survey and assessment of building defects in Spain and the management of the necessary remedial works.  Running alongside this, of course, is the resolution of construction related disputes, which can involve considerable work.  Indeed, if we become involved in litigation then this can take up considerable time, particularly as we strive to ensure that our clients always have a ‘water-tight’ case that will result in success.

Of course, claiming against a builder in Spain is no easier (in many ways) than it would be in the UK or elsewhere in Northern Europe.  It is also something that is deeply upsetting for property owners as, by definition, they have ended up owning a flawed home – and sometimes a home that is potentially dangerous.

So, we take our responsibilities very seriously indeed and do all possible to resolve a dispute before it goes to court.  This is something that we take great pride in and our lawyers, who are experts in Spanish building disputes, often manage to settle a matter so that any remedial works can be undertaken quickly, before a property owner’s life is left in limbo too long. In some instances the builder will correct issues or contribute funds based on the surveyor’s report alone, i.e. avoiding the need for legal costs.

However, clearly, ‘prevention is better than cure’ and there are ways of managing your building works (even before the start of a project) that can greatly reduce any chance of disputes.  After all, no-one wants to be forced into having to make a claim against their builder in Spain and the aim, surely, for everyone is to have a building project carried out efficiently and to the satisfaction of all involved (including the builder!).

Construction problems in Spain

DAMP FROM ROOF TERRACE DEFECT

What can you do?

Well, over the coming weeks, I shall be Posting the ‘secrets’ to managing a building contract in Spain, which should help you to avoid both inadequate work and the disputes that arise from poor construction in Spain.

Starting a building project in Spain 

The truth is that many claims against builder’s in Spain arise because right from the start of a project there is not absolute clarity about the work to be done.  This means that if a dispute occurs it is often nearly impossible for anyone (let alone a court or construction expert) to know what was really intended by the home owner or agreed to by the builder.

So – before any actual work starts follow the guidelines below:

Before work starts:

1. Develop a clear schedule of works (memoria de trabajo)

This is a highly detailed document that breaks down into defined sections the work that you require to be done. It should be accompanied (always) by drawings and, if possible, pictures or photographs demonstrating what you wish to achieve. Each section of the work should be priced (by the builder) independently.

2.  Write out or obtain a detailed specification (memoria de calidades)

A specification is a series of documents that specify all the materials (their standard, quality and application) to be used. Sometimes a specification can be obtained from surveyors and architects – although normally you will have to pay a modest fee for a specification pertinent to your proposed work.

  1. Translate both the schedule of works and specification into Spanish, if you intend using Spanish builders or asking them for a quotation.
  2. Obtain quotations from three builders (no less!). Make sure that each has an identical copy of both the schedule of works and specification.
  3. Make sure that any quotations state clearly that they are based on the schedule of work and specification. If there are any suggested variations (that make sense to you!), pass these details on to the other builders so that all three can provide figures for exactly the same work.
  4. Do not necessarily take the lowest of the three quotations. Assess the prices provided within each section of the schedule of works and see if there are any major inconsistencies that illustrate ignorance on the part of a builder about a particular aspect.
  5. If you choose a particular builder:
  • Check that he is properly registered (at the town hall) and insured.
  • Draw up a contract (this is best done by your lawyer) and append it to the schedule of works and specification. The contract should itemise:
    • Start and finish dates for the contract.
    • Penalty clauses for time overrun.
    • A schedule of payments based on the stages of completion – including a minimum of 5% -10% retention until after three months of completion.
    • A clause stating that no additional work (‘extras’) will be payable unless itemised, costed and given a time, evidenced in writing, and signed by the builder and yourself.

Of course, the best person to undertake all the above is a professional building surveyor or architect. However, if you decide to manage the work yourself, the above is the minimum you should do (irrespective of the size of the job) to have any chance of a successful project…

Needless to say, if you have a construction problem in Spain or a building dispute – then do contact us as we can help you to resolve your problems through our team of professional and highly qualified experts.

Mark Paddon

Jul 262012
 
subsidence in Spain

PROPERTY SUBSIDENCE IN SPAIN: SUBSIDENCE ON CLAY SUBSTRATE

Unfortunately, property subsidence in Spain is not uncommon.  Indeed, shockingly, some new build properties have been built on lesser foundations than even older properties – making it extremely important to have a survey of a Spanish property (prior to purchase) even when it is brand new.

The trouble, of course, is that the Spanish building boom was so extensive and rampant that the quality of construction varied enormously.  Some of it was superb but much of it was indifferent and some was quite appalling, with some disreputable builders saving money on critical aspects of a construction, such as the foundations.

Meanwhile, some estates were built on wholly unsuitable land, leading to major subsidence problems.  Indeed, the practice of building on `leftover’ sites (often comprising poor ground conditions) has meant that some properties are located on very steep, unstable ground, on backfill, deep clay or in flood plains.  In some extreme cases, properties block natural flash flood water courses!

Sadly, building control in Spain during the boom years was also erratic and sometimes even involved false ‘geo-technical ground surveys’, which has resulted, occasionally, in serious under-specification of foundations. This can cause movement to occur early in the life of a building and is very expensive to correct.

Of course, older Spanish housing can be affected by subsidence as well.  Indeed, whilst a Spanish property may show few signs of movement in its early years, long term ground erosion, seasonal shrinkage or heave (often amplified in a rare very wet or very dry year) can reveal problems suddenly.

Property movement in Spain

SUBSIDING WALL!

Certainly, just because a property is well finished does not mean that the foundations are secure or were properly completed.  Indeed, I often see the attempted cover up of property movement in Spain whilst undertaking surveys – although sometimes these indications usually need a trained eye to interpret them correctly as signs of movement rather than something innocuous.

The good news is that if you are the owner of a new build property (built within the last ten years!) then you should have a ten year insurance backed builder’s guarantee (Seguro Decenal) – which will allow you to claim for problems caused by structural movement.

The Seguro Decenal came into force in May 2000 – and so you should check whether your policy is still valid (or close to expiring!).  If it is close to expiring then it is a very good idea to have a pre-Decenal expiry building survey to see if you have building defects (such as subsidence) about which you can claim before your Decenal ceases to offer you any protection.

Certainly, if your builder’s guarantee (Decenal policy) is about to expire then I would advise you to act quickly.  Claiming on your policy can be a slow process and it can require specialist legal support if you are to enforce the insurers to honour the terms of the policy!

Naturally, many properties in Spain do not have Decenal insurance – in which case you will probably have to ‘foot the bill’ for any remedial works.  This is very unfortunate but I would stress that ‘time is of the essence’ and that as soon as you suspect that you may have property subsidence in Spain that you act quickly to have a proper building survey.  The latter may establish that nothing is wrong or allow you to undertake remedial works well before further (more significant) damage to your house can occur.

If you think you have a problem then do contact us

Mark Paddon

 

Jul 102012
 

BUILDING DEFECTS IN SPAIN: DRAMATIC FAILURE DUE TO PROPERTY HAVING BEEN BUILT ON CLAY SUBSTRATE – WITH INADEQUATE FOUNDATIONS

Fortunately, Spanish builders do have general responsibilities imposed upon them by Spanish law when building new properties in Spain.  These are obligations that go beyond the requirement to have an insurance backed 10 year building guarantee (the Decenal).

Indeed, the Ley 38/1999 de 5 de Noviembre (‘Ordenación de la Edificación’) states that a builder has an obligation to:

  • Correct identified snagging points (normally assessed 15–30 days prior to signing the Escritura/Completion)
  • Correct just about any defect (other than normal wear and tear) during the first 12 months following completion of the build
  • Rectify functional issues that affect the enjoyment or habitability of a property for the following two years (i.e. a builder’s responsibilities run for the first three years after completion of a new build property in Spain)

Unfortunately, the devastating fall in the property market in 2008 has meant that many builders simply fail to respond to requests to correct issues. Alternatively, sometimes they buy time by purposefully botching repairs in a somewhat naive effort to get past the three-year deadline. Accordingly, you should avoid ever paying all that you owe to a builder until each and every defect on new building work has been remedied.

The trouble is that some building defects in Spain may not be obvious or easy to identify.

So, a wise buyer always will employ an independent building surveyor to conduct a pre-completion survey of a new build, particularly if they have any suspicion whatsoever that there may be problems – albeit ones that they cannot precisely define!

Without doubt, in a property market downturn it is the building industry that suffers grievously. This means that many builders go bankrupt or are left struggling with reduced manpower and a lack of skilled workers.

As a consequence, trying to get building defects in Spain rectified can be extremely difficult or, at worst, impossible. To state the obvious, if a builder goes out of business then no amount of badgering will work – and if he has no assets, then any court action is likely to be a waste of time and money.

Your builder may have had all-risks building insurance in Spain to cover defects outside the strict scope of the decenal. However, this is rare and any enforcement likely only after a court hearing. That said, it is worth noting that early presentation of a court demanda should prevent a builder from closing down his company.

If a new property does not meet its specification or is uninhabitable, then this may merit the reversal of your agreement to buy. However, doing so is far from risk free and invariably it will involve a court action. This can be slow and costly and may even go to appeal.

As always, if you think you may have construction problems in Spain with your property then quick action is required – both to obtain a qualified professional assessment of any possible defects and (if necessary) the involvement of a lawyer to enforce any required remedial work.

Time is of the essence and the small cost involved in having a pre-completion survey from a professional surveyor can be invaluable and ‘nip in the bud’ building defects that could be costly to remedy and take years to get completed.   Certainly, once you have fully paid a builder then it can be very difficult to enforce any obligations unless you are backed by a properly qualified surveyor and have an experienced building dispute lawyer to hand.

So, if you are concerned about your new build property in Spain or are becoming embroiled in a dispute with your Spanish builder then contact us.  We can help you to resolve your problems and provide you with the authoritative and experienced help that you need…

 Mark Paddon

 

Jul 062012
 
10 YEAR BUILDER' S GUARANTEE IN SPAIN

10 YEAR BUILDING GUARANTEE IN SPAIN – ESSENTIAL FOR NEW HOUSES

If you are the owner of a new property in Spain, now may be the time to check your home carefully for any structural defects.  I say this because any newly built home in Spain should have a Decenal Insurance policy (10 year building guarantee in Spain).

So, if you have a Decenal Insurance policy then this may be close to running out – if your home in Spain was built during the early years of the Spanish property boom.

Needless to say, once your 10 year building guarantee in Spain expires you will be liable for any structural defects and remedying these can be extremely expensive.  Indeed, if ever you need insurance then it is for remedial structural works!  Almost by definition these can be complicated and the costs of rectifying a given problem can be far greater than those incurred during the original building process.

Certainly, the last thing that you should do is to ignore anything that looks as though it may indicate a structural fault.  Whilst minor cracking in all properties is common – anything more than that should be checked by a fully qualified (and independent of the builder!) professional.  This is particularly true if you see indications of movement (see Indications of Building Defects for examples and images of potential problems).

Decenal Insurance (10 year building guarantee in Spain) was made obligatory on the 6th May 2000 when a law ( La Ley de Ordenación de la Edificación’) was passed which made it obligatory for any new build property in Spain to have an insurance-backed, 10-year guarantee (similar to the NHBC scheme in the UK). In Spain, this scheme is called the seguro decenal and is often referred to as the ‘builder’s guarantee’ or just the Decenal.

Unfortunately, the Decenal is by no means as comprehensive as its UK (NHBC) equivalent (although the NHBC has been criticised for some of its ‘get out’ clauses!). However, you must be especially wary of relying on the Spanish Decenal to resolve all your new building problems in Spain. Indeed, the very term ‘builder’s guarantee’ is misleading. The Decenal essentially only covers issues related to structural stability and resistance. This leaves many other potential issues unprotected, such as leaking roofs or damp.

Nonetheless, it is important to have a Decenal policy and you should be extremely wary of buying a new Spanish property that lacks this cover, if it was built after May 2000.  Indeed, the lack of a Decenal may indicate that your property (or intended property!) may not be legal – so beware and make sure that your Spanish conveyancing lawyer checks this detail!!

In theory, Decenal insurers are legally obliged to pay out to the owner of a new build property in Spain if there is a proven structural stability issue that needs correction. This is irrespective of whether the fault is due to the builder or architect and whether the problem is because of negligence, faulty materials or processes.

However, typically decenal insurers are extremely tardy about honouring their obligations. Indeed, usually they refuse to accept a claim unless negligence is proven in court. This is because they know full well that if, for example, an architect is proved negligent, then any remedial costs will be covered by the architect’s own professional indemnity insurance.

So, although Decenal insurers are legally obliged to act, in reality,they rarely do so until forced to do so. This is despite the fact that they can potentially recover their costs from the builder or architect responsible for the defective or negligent work.

If you think that your Spanish property may have structural problems or building defects then contact us.

We can then assess whether your suspicions are right or not.  If your worries prove to be correct then we can prepare a formal report and then help you make your claim against your Decencal insurers.  Should there be a dispute then our legal department can provide you with the help you will need to process your claim and we can then manage the remedial works required.