Do you have a construction dispute in Spain? Is this something that is gradually driving you mad – and are you having trouble resolving your building problems?
Well, if your answer to any of the above questions is yes, then: you are not alone!
Spanish building over the past fifteen years has not always been good and many people find that they have building issues in Spain that are causing them considerable trouble. Alongside this, of course, is the vulnerability that most people feel when they are involved in a dispute in a foreign country – where the laws are different and any resolution to a dispute can seem insurmountable.
The truth is that Spain is, in some ways, no different from any other country in that there are ways of resolving disputes and there are experienced professionals who specialise in providing this service. Indeed, you would be crazy not to fight a dispute, if you feel that something is wrong and that the liability for any defect is that of another party. In the case of a Spanish building dispute this could be anyone from the builder himself through to the architect, any sub-contractors and possibly the suppliers of materials.
In fact, it is a guiding principle of litigation lawyers in Spain that, almost always, there is someone other than just the builder who may be liable for construction defects. This is a vital point, as many property owners despair of suing their Spanish builders because the builder concerned often has no money or insurance policy – or has disappeared.
The key to resolving construction disputes and taking court action in Spain, needless to say, revolves around two matters:
Firstly, you must make sure that you have competent professionals on your side and you should employ these as soon as your dispute starts to go out of control (or if you think that your builder is not doing or has not done your building work correctly).
The professionals you need (in the right order) are:
1. A properly qualified building surveyor. The building surveyor must be fully qualified to practice in Spain and be a building surveyor not a marine surveyor or quantity surveyor etc. He should also be fully insured and fluent in both your language and Spanish. The latter is very important, should your building surveyor need to go to court on your behalf as an expert witness – and can be vital, if he is to communicate effectively with your builders, either to obtain information or direct them in any (hopefully) agreed remedial works.
2. A litigation lawyer specialising in construction defects. Spain is notorious for the lack of specialisation of its lawyers, with many Spanish lawyers very much general practitioners, with no real experience of the complications involved in court actions in Spain. These require specialised knowledge and it is essential that, along with making sure your lawyer speaks English fluently (and is independent and insured), you make certain that he is an expert in Spanish litigation. Preferably, you should try and make sure your lawyer specialises in construction litigation – as this is different from general contractual disputes.
Secondly, the moment you start to have a dispute (or think that a dispute is about to happen) then you really must gather evidence. As we have written before here, no building project in Spain should ever start without a proper (preferably professionally prepared) Specification, Schedule of Works and Contract to evidence exactly what the project involves. If this was not done then you must assemble as much proof as possible of what you and the builder agreed and intended– by way of any letters, e-mails or records of conversations etc.
Equally, during a building project make sure that you take photographs of what is happening and keep a close record of what occurs and any variations in the project (whether intended or otherwise!). Once, you feel that things have gone awry then the importance of evidence gathering becomes ever more important. Of course, ideally, you would call in an independent building surveyor straight away to do this. However, in the meantime, make sure that you are actively gathering evidence that can be used, should a court action ever be necessary.
Certainly, as any experienced Spanish litigation lawyer will tell you – actual proof is vital, if you are to have any hope of winning a court case and court actions in Spain, in this regard, are no different than elsewhere in the world.
Needless to say, if you are involved in a construction related dispute in Spain now (or suspect that you may be heading that way!) then do contact us, as we are specialists in this area and we can help you.
Indeed, we may well be able to resolve your dispute well before it has to go to court. You would be amazed what an authoritative building surveyor’s report in Spain can do – backed up by the authority of expert litigation lawyers, who are specialists in Spanish construction problems!