Building Defects Spain

I am a journalist, author of six books (three of which are about Spain) and SEO specialist copy writer. I live permanently in Spain with my family and run Culture Spain (an authority site for ‘all things Spanish’) and a real estate agency for properties located around Gandia in Spain. Of the six books that I have written, four have been factual. These have included ‘How to Buy Spanish Property and Move to Spain- Safely’and ‘The Laptop Entrepreneur’, which is all about how to use the Internet to make an income and turbo charge your business! My latest book is Both Barrels – a comedy that has been a joy to write after so much factual writing. During my time in Spain, I have worked within the real estate industry, whilst also undertaking investigative journalism on a wide range of matters concerning Spain. This has included tackling subjects as diverse as: corruption, the economy, divorce and domestic violence, drugs, the Spanish property crash, immigration and even the Spanish culture of brothel use! I have been a columnist for the A Place in the Sun magazine and I have featured as an expert on programmes by the BBC (Radio 4 and BBC 1), ITV and Channel 4 (A Place in the Sun) – with regard to matters concerning Spain. This has complemented the time I spent co-presenting a TV programme for a Spanish TV channel and ‘fixing’ that I have undertaken for a major TV production company. Finally, if you need investigative articles, ‘fixing’, SEO and copy writing or corporate article PR then please feel free to contact me.

Oct 082014
 
DRAMATIC FAILURE DUE TO PROPERTY HAVING BEEN BUILT ON CLAY SUBSTRATE - WITH INADEQUATE FOUNDATIONS

DRAMATIC FAILURE DUE TO PROPERTY HAVING BEEN BUILT ON CLAY SUBSTRATE – WITH INADEQUATE FOUNDATIONS

Do you have construction problems in Spain – does your property have worrying cracks or flaws that seem strange or out of place?

Are you concerned that there may be a construction problem with your swimming pool or some part of your property?

Do you think that you may have a potential court case for some defect caused either by your builder or the original constructor?

Well, if so – then contact us at Building Defects Spain because we specialise in investigating and remedying building defects throughout Spain.  We have an expert, British building surveyor (qualified in the UK and Spain) who is insured to work in Spain – and who has many years’ experience of Spanish properties (and their problems).   He is constantly surveying properties throughout Spain and has an intimate knowledge of the problems associated with Spanish construction

Furthermore, our surveyor has taken part in numerous court cases (including substantial group actions) and is therefore used to presenting and assembling the necessary evidence to support a court case concerning defective construction.

Meanwhile, we also have a lawyer who specialises in Spanish construction litigation.  He is fluent in both English and Spanish and can provide you with the advice that you need and the skills required to prosecute a successful action.

So – if you are concerned about your Spanish property and you think you may have construction problems in Spain then contact us so that we can help you!

Certainly, you will not be alone.  The overall quality of construction in Spain has been erratic and has encompassed excellent building on the one hand and some very poor construction on the other.  This is particularly true of properties built during the boom years when some constructors lacked skilled workers or the proper supervision their projects deserved.

However – there are normally recourses available to you to recover from construction problems in Spain (even if your builder has disappeared!).  That said, as always, you should act as soon as you notice a potential problem both for safety reasons and because the sooner you act the sooner that remedial action can be undertaken.  Equally, there is always the possibility that your Decenal (Spanish 10 year building guarantee) may be on the point of expiring…

Mark Paddon

Apr 052013
 

Decenal insurance policy Spain

Do you have a Decenal insurance policy on your new (under 10 years old) property in Spain?

Of course, this may seem a silly question – as all new Spanish houses should have a 10 year ‘Builder’s Guarantee’ (Decenal Insurance policy).  Indeed, a Decenal insurance policy (similar to a NHBC insurance policy in the UK) is obligatory, by Spanish law, for any new property constructed by a builder in Spain.

However, there is a loophole in the Spanish law relating to the imposition of Decenal policies for new build Spanish properties – that (whilst, perhaps, sensible for people building a house for their own long term use) has been taken advantage of by unscrupulous builders and colluding conveyancing lawyers.

The loophole states that a self-build project (auto-promoción) in Spain does not have to have a Decenal policy.  This is when the owner of the property chooses to be designated as the builder of the property concerned, in which case he can ‘decide’ whether to have a Decenal policy or not.

Obviously, having a Decenal policy is an additional expense for any builder.  Worse still (for the builder) is the fact that the providers of Decenal insurance policies inspect the construction of the building to be insured (during various stages of the building work) and also analyse concrete samples etc. for their structural integrity.

In short, if a builder in Spain can get away with not providing a Decenal insurance policy then it is very much in his interest.  He avoids paying for the Decenal insurance policy and does not have to comply with any of the obligatory inspections undertaken by the Decenal insurer’s experts.

Well, as you can imagine, over the past few years, a significant number of Spanish property owners have unwittingly been designated as ‘auto-promoters’ or the builders of their own properties.  This is irrespective of the fact that a ‘professional’ builder or developer (backed by an architect etc.) has actually undertaken all the work.

Spanish houses and the 10 year Builder’s Guarantee (Decenal)

–          Vital insurance backed protection against structural movement

–          Obligatory for all new builds (since 2002)

–          Exemption for self-builders

–          Not all new properties (built within the last ten years) have a Decenal policy

–          Retrospective Decenal policies can be obtained

The end result is that many people have had a house built and yet lack a Decenal policy, the insurance backed guarantee that expressly provides cover for structural instability – one of the most potentially expensive problems any property can suffer.

So – what happens if you do not have a Decenal insurance policy?

Well, firstly you cannot sell your new Spanish house until ten years have elapsed.  Or, at least, you can – but only if the new buyer expressly agrees to buy the property understanding that there is no insurance backed guarantee relating to the structural integrity of the property concerned.  Frankly, only a mad or ill-advised buyer would do this (obviously!). So, selling your property before ten years have passed is very difficult and could result, at best, in you significantly reducing your property price to take into account that you are selling something is perceived as being unsound.

Secondly, needless to say, you will have no insurance backed cover should your property suffer from structural defects.  This, as I have written before, is a reasonably common problem with property in Spain due to (amongst other things) the often poor standard of building that occurred during the boom years for Spanish property.  This was made worse by construction of properties that were built on unsuitable land or with inadequate foundations.

Obviously, if you have a property that is less than 10 years old then you should check to see if you have a valid Decenal insurance policy.  If you have – then fine.  However, if you do not have a Decenal then you should seriously consider your position!

Fortunately, you can get retrospective Decenal insurance, subject to an inspection of your property.

So, all is not lost!

If you do not have a Decenal insurance policy and want to know how to obtain one or how to get a retrospective Decenal insurance policy then do contact us.  We can provide you with all the details that you need – and an excellent Decenal insurance provider who is based in the UK and who can provide you with comprehensive cover (all in English).

Feb 102013
 
Building surveyor specialising in Spanish construction disputes

WHERE YOU SHOULD BE – WHILST YOUR CONSTRUCTION PROBLEMS ARE BEING RESOLVED BY AN EXCELLENT LITIGATION LAWYER IN SPAIN!

It is, of course, no secret that a significant amount of the building work in Spain undertaken during the long Spanish economic boom was defective.  There were quite simply not enough skilled workers around to ensure that construction was handled by time served professionals – and this was compounded by a lack of effective building control by the authorities.  Meanwhile, some greedy and irresponsible developers ‘cut corners’ to save money and speed up the completion of properties.

The result has been predictable – with many Spanish properties built over the past fifteen years suffering from a wide array of defects.  These range from extremely serious foundation issues (in some cases leading to property collapse) to more minor concerns over damp ingress or poor insulation (both for heat and sound).

Of course, if you own a new (built within the past 10 years) property in Spain that has building problems then you should have some form of cover through your Decenal Insurance Policy.  However, this does not cover every possible problem and can be very hard to activate, due to the reluctance of some insurers to honour their policy.

If you lack a Decenal Insurance Policy or your property defects are outside the scope of the Decencal (which is very restrictive in what it covers) then you will need to take action against the parties responsible for any defective work.  This is not as hopeless a task as it sounds – particularly as there are often parties with insurance that you can sue beyond just the builder who did your work (see: Liability for construction disputes in Spain).

But – how do you effectively enforce your rights or make a claim against someone or a company for defective building work in Spain?

Well, the two critical tools you will need are a first class building surveyor with practical experience of working in Spain and on Spanish construction problems.  It is this professional who can assess the nature of your problem; the blame attached and who can act as an independent witness and someone who can advise you of any remedial works.

The second ‘tool’ is an experienced litigation lawyer.  I stress the words ’experienced’ and ‘litigation’ because, for the most part, Spanish lawyers are not specialists.  Working as sole practitioners or in small firms, they tend to do anything – whether conveyancing, probate, commercial, criminal or litigation.  This is not helpful to someone needing expert advice and guidance and is never the case in the UK or the US.

To be effective a lawyer always needs to specialise and this is no different in Spain than it is in the UK.  So, you must find a lawyer who specializes in litigation (as a minimum) and preferably one who is an expert in construction related disputes – and you should do this as soon as you need the help of lawyer in Spain.

Certainly, time and again I come across people using general lawyers to undertake their construction related disputes, usually with disastrous results.  The last time I heard about this occurring I knew the Spanish lawyer involved.  The latter undertakes (poor quality) conveyancing and probably knows less about litigation than I do about composing an orchestral symphony.

FINDING A LITIGATION LAWYER IN SPAIN WHO SPECIALISES IN SPANISH CONSTRUCTION DISPUTES

If you need a litigation lawyer in Spain for your building dispute, then make sure that he/she is:

–          Fluent in English (or your own language)

–          Independent of any other party involved in your dispute (out of your immediate area, is not a bad thing)

–          Fully insured (check this and find out the amount of his/her public liability)

–          An expert in construction issues – and this you must double check carefully.  You can do this by asking your intended lawyer for references from clients he has dealt with as well as making relevant enquiries and searches on the Internet.

Of course, at Building Defects Spain we have both an enormously experienced building surveyor, who has specialised in Spanish construction issues – as well as a bilingual English speaking (and dual qualified) litigation lawyer, who is an expert on Spanish building disputes.

So, if you need advice or help then we can be of assistance and provide you with all the tools you need to resolve your construction problems in Spain or prosecute any legal action successfully.

If the above is of interest and you want more information or to discuss your issues then do contact us.

Nick Snelling

 

Feb 022013
 
Construction related litigation Spain

WHEN THERE IS A DISPUTE – EMPLOYING THE RIGHT PROFESSIONALS IN SPAIN IS ESSENTIAL!

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.

Claiming against a builder in Spain                Liability for construction defects in Spain

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.

Property movement in Spain                 Fully qualified building surveyor and litigation lawyer

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!

Nick Snelling

Jan 242013
 
Typical roof problems in Spain

ROOF REPAIRS IN SPAIN – DEFECTIVE EAVES CANTILEVER RESULTS IN FAILURE

Finding out what problem you have with your roof in Spain – and why it has occurred – is almost impossible for the average property owner.  This is equally true of knowing whether the remedial work suggested by your builder in Spain is really correct and reasonably priced.

Just as frustrating is the difficulty in establishing whether any roof defect that you have is the fault of someone else (your builder or architect, for example).  This can be vital, as you may well be able to claim for any roof repairs in Spain or damage caused.

The trouble with roofs, of course, is their inaccessibility.  Furthermore, few people, even when they have safe access to their roof, know enough to be able to fault find effectively.  So, you tend to be very vulnerable to poor work and, on occasions, outrageous prices.

Certainly, roof defects in Spain are not uncommon and many of the problems are due to poor or inadequate work from unskilled roofers or developers, who have ‘cut corners’ to save money.  This can certainly be true of new properties.

 TYPICAL PITCHED ROOF PROBLEMS IN SPAIN

1.  Incorrect roof pitch

Recently, I have come across several new properties where there have been significant problems with damp ingress during bad weather.  This was due to the incorrect pitch of the roofs concerned and the wrong tile overlap – all of which were in contravention of the material manufacturer’s requirements.  As you can imagine, this type of problem is very expensive to resolve.

2.  Tile overlap

Incorrect tile overlap is a relatively common roofing problem in Spain and can lead to either water ingress or the blowing off of the tiles concerned, during windy weather.  There is a correct overlap for all tiles (which varies depending on location, as does pitch) and unless this is maintained consistently on a roof then, inevitably, there will be problems – possibly resulting in the necessity to relay the entire roof.  This is an issue that I have commonly found with newly constructed properties!

Roofing defects in Spain

FALLING DEBRIS CAN BE VERY DANGEROUS!

3.  Cantilevering of tiles

Equally, a common problem is the incorrect cantilevering of tiles over the eaves.  This can result in tiles cracking, as they are placed under too much pressure from the rest of the roof.  The danger of this happening is as obvious, as it is serious – with the falling tiles a real danger to people (especially children!) passing underneath.

4.  Chimney detailing

In Spain, little use is made of lead flashing.  This is used extensively in the UK where different roof surfaces are joined, an example being where a roof meets a chimney.  In Spain, zinc or more commonly mortar joints are used with tiles indented into the render.  This system is not the best way of waterproofing different surfaces where they join together and can degrade rapidly under the extreme climatic conditions inherent in Spain.  Indeed, the very high temperatures during the summer and the occasional very cold temperatures of winter can play havoc with any roof joints and can result in movement and the cracking of materials used.  So, ensuring that a chimney saddle, for example, is correctly formed is essential, if water ingress is to be prevented.

5.  Inadequate roof eaves overhang

Time and again I come across properties that have an inadequate roof overhang.  This means that when it rains the rain pours down the walls of a property, rather than being thrown away from the walls and the base of the house concerned.  Obviously, during periods of sustained rain some properties have walls that become soaked thus producing damp and internal damage.

6.  Poor roof void ventilation

Ventilation for roof voids is important, if a house is not to suffer overheating and the cracking of ceiling beam lines.  Frequently, ventilation is ignored or forgotten and this should be remedied.

7.  Wind damage

Occasionally wind damage can affect even a relatively well constructed roof, but where exposed, it is best to repair the roof using certain materials and methods that will reduce the risk of future damage. Simply making good ‘as is’ will inevitably result in repeated future damage.

REMEDIAL WORKS TO ROOFS IN SPAIN

As always with building work in Spain you must make sure that any problem that you have is correctly diagnosed and that the appropriate remedial work is then undertaken.

Whilst there are some excellent roofers around in Spain, it is also true to say that there are many builders who tackle an array of jobs – without really knowing what they are doing or having the skills to correct problems.

So, the answer, if you have roof problems in Spain, is to have a survey and analysis of the problem undertaken by an independent professional – who can assess the work, the overall likely cost and provide a specification for any remedial works.

Equally, a professional building surveyor may well find that the original work was defective and be able to help you to make a claim against the builder or architect concerned.  This is something that I have done many times, particularly with regard to newly built properties – thus saving clients an enormous amount of time and money…

If you want to know more about roof repairs in Spain or general building defects common to Spain then do contact me.

Mark Paddon

Jan 142013
 
Solutions to Spanish building problems

PROBLEMS WITH BUILDING WORK IN SPAIN – KNOW THE INDICATIONS AND HOW TO RESOLVE THE PROBLEMS QUICKLY AND EFFECTIVELY!

Of course, having problems with building work in Spain is not unusual. Construction, whether a project is big or small, tends to be contentious and, all too often, ends in a dispute – usually revolving around costs, timings or the quality of the work itself. The trouble is that the very nature of building work means that the stakes involved are usually high (whether financially or emotionally). This means that the earlier you can recognize potential problems and resolve them – the better!

The question is – how can you tell when your building project in Spain is going ‘bad’, once work has started, before real damage or expense is involved?

Well, there are some common factors that I have noticed, over the years, that can indicate that all is not well. Individually, they may not be important but several factors together normally mean that you need to take immediate, preventative action.

INDICATIONS OF POTENTIAL PROBLEMS WITH BUILDING WORK IN SPAIN

1. The erratic attendance of your builders. (Not to be confused where necessary drying times or bad weather justifies non-attendance)

2. Work not straight or level

3. Builders asking for money ahead of any agreed payment schedule (unless demonstrably justified e.g. where a supplier needs a deposit).

4. Changes to the agreed specification and plans (without your approval).

5. Reluctance by a builder to allow a surveyor or architect to inspect work.

6. Poor quality materials.

7. Sub-standard tradesmen/workers.

8. Statements that no permissions or licensing is needed (virtually all works, even minor works, typically need a license).

ACTIONS TO TAKE ONCE YOU BELIEVE YOU HAVE BUILDING PROBLEMS

1. Communicate with your builder. Onsite spoken communication is valuable, but confirm everything in written form (such as an e-mail), so that you have a record of your concerns and your builder’s response. Where possible, get your builder to sign against any agreed items. (A simple list, dated and signed by both parties).

2. Advise your architect

3. Seek advice/inspection from an independent building surveyor in Spain or an architect experienced in your type of work

4. Provide your builder with the professional’s written report and/or arrange a site meeting for all parties to attend (including the independent professional).

5. See a lawyer who specializes in building disputes

6. Ask to see evidence that permissions have been obtained, or at least understand the risks you are taking, if they have not.

Often, most issues to do with sub-standard building work in Spain can be sorted out on site, with the help of an experienced building surveyor or architect. Remember building surveyors are particularly good at identifying issues as well as spotting problems which could lead to structural (or other problems) later.  They also normally have the authority to convince a builder that the right way, is the only way.

The key, of course, is to act quickly to prevent matters going from bad to worse.  So, if you see any indications that your work is not proceeding as it should, do not allow matters to drift…

Of course, if you want to know more – or need help in resolving a building/construction issue – then please do not hesitate to contact me.

Mark Paddon

 

 

Dec 052012
 
Suing for construction defects in Spain

MADE UP, CLAY RICH GROUND RESULTS IN SERIOUS PROPERTY MOVEMENT

All too often property owners in Spain do not take legal action for construction defects to their houses because their builder has either disappeared or gone bankrupt.  Needless to say, on the face of it, there is no point in taking legal action, if the other party has no money or cannot be found.

However, luckily for many property owners, the liability for construction defects in Spain does not always end just with the builder.  Indeed, depending upon the defects, a number of other parties may be responsible and these other parties may have insurance policies that cover the defects – in which case taking legal action in Spain can make very good sense.

So investigate matters further and seek professional advice, before you ‘accept’ the building defects you have and the ‘fact’ that you will have to pay for any necessary remedial works.

The question is who – apart from your builder – can be held responsible for construction defects to your property in Spain?

Well, depending upon the type of defects there are quite a few people or organisations, most of whom (importantly) should have insurance cover.

Of course, the most obvious organisation who may have a responsibility to you (if your property is under 10 years old) is your Decenal insurer.  A Decenal insurance policy is obligatory for any new property constructed by a builder and is an important, albeit not very comprehensive, protection against building defects.  Essentially, Decenal insurance only covers issues relating to structural stability and resistance but these are extremely important and, if these are your main problems, you should be covered, irrespective of what has happened to your builder.  However, bear in mind that damp ingress, though typically not covered, could affect the long term stability of structural elements and therefore might make for a viable claim – if prepared correctly.

Meanwhile, almost all building projects in Spain require the services of an architect, who is responsible for drawing up the plans of any building work and supervising the work undertaken.  Architects, needless to say, must have insurance cover.  Accordingly, if you have building defects, then your architect and/or architect tecnico is an obvious person to sue.

Geo-tech companies, of course, are responsible for ensuring that proper testing of the substrate below your property is tested to ensure that it is adequate for the type of property to be built there.  So, have they done their work correctly?  If not then they could be a target for legal action.

Sub-contractors can also be another source of potential successful litigation in Spain.  They may not have insurance cover but they may be worth suing, if it is their work that has contributed to the defects that your property is suffering.

In the meantime, suppliers of defective materials may be at fault.  Poorly made steel or bricks, plaster or tiles may mean that the person responsible for any defects is not the builder but perhaps a large company more than able to recompense you for your problems (or at least secure and rich enough to sue)

The obvious question is: how can you accurately apportion blame to people and organisations other than your builder (an essential pre-requisite to any successful legal action)?

There is, of course, no easy answer to this question, as everything depends upon the construction defects that you have.  It is also not always easy to establish who has actually caused the problems.

The windows and doors in your house, for example, may be sticking and appear poorly fitted and yet the reason for this may have nothing to do the window suppliers of fitters.  The problem may be that your house is moving due to subsidence or heave because of poor foundations (or because it should never have been constructed on the substrate below the property).  So, the fault is not that of the window suppliers and fitters but (possibly) of the geo tech company or architect…

Clearly, only very well qualified construction professionals can assess building defects – let alone apportion the blame for them.  This is not something that you should attempt yourself, not least because your assessment is unlikely to be accepted by a court.  It is also critically important that blame for the causes of construction defects in Spain are correctly assessed well before embarking on a court battle.

So, never give up hope that you cannot sue for a construction defect in Spain.  It may not be possible, of course, but (in my experience) most of the time there is an insured party involved and one that can be sued – once you have built a case to prove their liability for your construction defects.

Of course, if you want to know more – or need help in resolving a building/construction issue – then please do not hesitate to contact me.

Mark Paddon

Nov 272012
 
Construction problems in Spain

FOUNDATION DEFECTS ARE NOT UNUSUAL IN SPAIN

The question for any foreigner considering litigation in Spain is: can I take legal action in Spain effectively – without it costing a fortune and an age to resolve?

Most foreigners know very little about the Spanish legal system and, as a consequence, it is not uncommon for potential litigants to throw their hands in the air and avoid legal action – even though they have a winnable case.

Despite the commonly held fears of delay and expense, in reality, legal action in Spain is workable and the timings of major legal actions are generally not too far off those of the UK court system. In the latter, cases can take up to two or three years to bring to trial and this is, more or less, true of many court cases in Spain.  That said, timings can depend upon the individual court dealing with your case. Waiting lists and the volume of work that a court has to deal with vary not only from region to region but also within the court building itself. This means that where a local court house has a number of courts within it, waiting times will vary depending on the actual court that you draw.

As to cost – well, litigation is never cheap in any country. However, Spain is, as in so many other things, considerably cheaper than the UK in terms of legal costs. They are certainly not prohibitive and the legal professionals involved tend to be considerably cheaper than their North European counterparts.

Needless to say, just as in the vast majority of building booms, Spain has multifarious property disputes and construction problems.  Indeed, many foreign property owners now find themselves in having to seriously contemplate taking legal action through the Spanish courts to remedy their problems.

So, what should you be thinking of before you take legal action?

The essential first step is to equip yourself with a lawyer who specialises in litigation and specifically in the particular area of litigation involved. So, if you have a construction dispute then must make sure you go to a lawyer who specialises in this area rather than, for example, employment litigation or import/export disputes.

Many lawyers offer an initial consultation, free of charge, providing you with an opportunity to identify your legal standing and to assess whether taking further action is viable. Certainly, engaging with a lawyer at an early stage can lead to the resolution of a dispute before any legal formal action is necessary.  In any event, it invariably ensures that you are in the best possible position should you have to pursue the matter through the courts.

Winning a legal action, of course, is all about having sufficient evidence to prove the merits of your claim before a court. Your lawyer will assist you in assessing whether there is enough evidence to back up your claim, preferably this will be in writing in the form of a contract, letters, invoices, e-mails and experts reports etc.

Your lawyer will further be able to advise you on the chances of success and the possibilities of recovering the monies awarded to you on successful conclusion of an action.

Construction litigation is a specialist area and is certainly not `black and white´.

Indeed, many people contemplating an action against a constructor, mistakenly, see the question of a constructor’s solvency as a major stumbling block, yet fail to take into account that there are a wide range of parties involved in the construction process – that may be called upon to answer their claim. Typically in most modern building works such parties may include the promoter, the architect, the technical architect, the geotechnical company, and the actual construction company itself. The professional parties involved will normally carry professional indemnity insurance and, of course, the building itself may benefit from a Decenal (10 year) building insurance.

Although the process of pursuing a legal action may seem daunting, particularly when in a foreign country, the road is often not as arduous as it may first seem and can often provide you with an appropriate redress for your loss.

Without doubt, you should not just walk away from taking court action in Spain.  It can work and can be the only way to redress major problems.  Just make sure that you have right professional advice and that advice is from experienced professionals…

Of course, if you want to know more – or need help in resolving a building/construction issue – then please do not hesitate to contact me.

Nick Snelling

Nov 212012
 
Legal action against Spanish builders

SERIOUS CRACKING – COMMON TO OTHER HOMES IN THE IMMEDIATE AREA? IF SO KNOWLEDGE ABOUT HOW TO TAKE GROUP COURT ACTIONS IN SPAIN WILL BE VITAL.

Over the past few years we have dealt with a number of major group court actions in Spain relating to building defects in Spain.

In fact, some of the cases have been very high profile and have involved large estates, where many of the properties have suffered from serious structural problems.  One estate that we have dealt with, for example, was built upon a clay substrate that was unstable.  This has caused the total collapse of a number of properties and considerable movement in a lot of others.  As you can imagine, this has been very distressing for the property owners concerned, who have seen their dream properties crumble before their very eyes.  Worse still, for many, was the seemingly impossible task of taking successful legal action in Spain against a very large and powerful developer.  That is enough to test the strength of the hardiest property owner!

Of course, it is not uncommon for a number of properties on the same estate or street to have almost identical building defects in Spain.  This, needless to say, is because the same building company will probably have performed all of the work – normally under the same architect, using the same geotech company and with the same worker.  So, any mistakes or negligence will have been replicated on each and every property, to a greater or lesser extent.

Obviously, if a number of properties have the same problems than a group legal action in Spain against the builder or promoter is the sensible action to take.  Certainly, taking individual action can be difficult, particularly when you are facing a major company.  All too often the latter is very capable of outmanoeuvring individuals or wearing them down (financially or emotionally).

The benefit of group court actions in Spain is obvious.  Costs can be reduced and the strength of a case greatly enhanced by a number of property owners showing that they have similar problems.   Meanwhile, the support provided by a united front can mean that even a major developer is forced to take a matter seriously.

Obviously, cohesion amongst property owners with building related problems is important.  It is vital to have a plan, to know how to take action and the route to a successful resolution.  This is, understandably, beyond most people’s experience and so you will need to obtain professional help.

In fact, an intrinsic part of the service we provide relates to the advice and help that we can give to property owners, with regard to resolving their construction issues.  Of course, we can assess the actual structural problems and take legal action in Spain on your behalf.  However, we can also help you to organise a class action in Spain – along with advising you, right from the start, about how to approach forming a group action, the costs involved, the procedure, the legal position, the timings and the route to success.

So, if you have a construction problem in Spain and it is one similar to your neighbours then contact us.  We will be able to help you to resolve your problems in the most efficient and effective way possible – so that you can be compensated properly or have all the necessary remedial works correctly resolved.

Mark Paddon