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.

Jul 282012
Building project Spain


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


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


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


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 062012


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.