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

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

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 142012
 
Subsidence and heave in Spain

HOUSE MOVEMENT IN SPAIN CAN BE DRAMATIC!

Few things are more disturbing for an owner of Spanish property than to have a house suffering from movement.  This is enough to send most people into a panic – and understandably so.

That said, I have also come across property owners who have house movement in Spain who have clearly been in denial for years.  This is, invariably, not sensible.  Like most things in life, the sooner a problem is faced up to and dealt with the better and, in the case of property movement, this is essential, for three reasons.

Firstly, although rare, property movement can lead to the collapse of a part or all of a house.  So, ignoring movement or signs of movement can end up endangering lives.

Secondly, swift remedial action can save time and money, as the damage to a building can be restricted by immediate action.

Thirdly, if a Spanish property is less than ten years old then you should be able to claim against your Decenal insurance policy (the Builder’s Guarantee in Spain).  This should mean that your Decenal insurer will bear the costs of the remedial work required to return your house to its proper state.  Of course, leave your notification to your insurer for too long and your Decenal policy may expire – leaving you to pay for all the work!

WHAT TO DO – IF YOU THINK YOUR HOUSE IS SUFFERING FROM MOVEMENT IN SPAIN

1.  Contact an independent building surveyor for an assessment

2.  Check to see if you have a valid Decenal policy

3.  Provide your Decenal insurer (if you have one) with a copy of your independent surveyor’s report

4. Formalise this process via an experienced lawyer or at least copy them in on your communications with the Decenal insurers.

There are many reasons why house movement in Spain occurs.  However, usually it is connected directly to the foundations (or lack of them!) upon which a house lies.  If foundations are not adequate then, by definition, a property will not be stable and move.  This is particularly true of properties built on steep slopes or upon ground that is inappropriate for housing (land fill sites being a good example).

Indications of property movement in Spain

Of course, before any construction of a house takes place there should be a geo-technical survey, the results of which should define the suitability of the ground for building and the type of foundations required for a given type of property.  This is essential, for example, where the substrate is clay –a substance that naturally expands and contracts (producing heave and subsidence, respectively) dependent upon its moisture content over the course of time.

Needless to say, building control during the long Spanish property boom was sometimes less than satisfactory.  Worse still, in some cases, geotechnical reports were falsified, so that properties could be built where the land was not suitable.  Meanwhile, on occasions, foundations for Spanish houses have not always ben correctly constructed.  Sometimes this has been caused by ignorance and carelessness on the part of builders and sometimes a deliberate ploy to save money (foundations can be a very expensive part of a house build!).

Professional assessment, remedial advice and litigation help for property movement

Not all cracks in a property, of course, are the result of serious movement.  Indeed, often cracks and ‘signs’ of movement in Spanish properties are the result of natural settlement and thermal drying – which is not something to worry about.

So, do not panic as soon as you see ‘signs’ of movement in your property.  They may be benign.

However, assessing whether cracks and ‘signs’ of movement are serious or not and represent a major problem is not something for anyone not specifically trained in structural surveying of properties.  Indeed, investigating whether and why a property is moving is a complicated process and one in which even minor cracks can sometimes be signs of significant underlying problems.

Our services – professional building surveyor and construction litigation lawyer

Fortunately, there are many ways of dealing with property movement and defective foundations.  There are excellent systems available to rectify property foundation problems and, in the vast majority of cases, houses that suffer from movement or poor foundations can be fully restored to their intended state.

So – do not think that the ‘end of the world’ has come when you have (or think you have!) property movement.  With the right help and advice, most problems can be sorted out to your satisfaction and the long term well-being of your property.

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

Sep 252012
 
Leaking flat roofs in Spain

FLAT ROOF PROBLEMS IN SPAIN – THERMAL MOVEMENT CAN AGGRAVATE A ROOF MEMBRANE AND TILES

As anyone who has lived in Northern Europe knows, flat roofs can be an enduring problem.  All too often they are the cause of leaks and few flat roofs retain their integrity beyond around 15-20 years – before requiring extensive repair work.

In Spain the situation is much the same with the more extreme climate often stressing flat roofs in Spain to their very limit.  Very high summer day time temperatures and cold nights can damage membranes, crack grout on tiles and distort any flashing.  Any of these problems can lead to leaks, which can cause significant damage to a property.

Unfortunately, a frequent problem encountered with flat roofs in Spain relates to the inadequacy of any membrane between the roof sub-surface (usually concrete over a concrete block infill) and the final surface (most commonly tiles).  Sadly, on the flat roofs of some properties no membrane at all is used and sometimes the flashing between the parapet walls of a flat roof can be poorly executed – either of which can result in leaks.  Surprisingly, a lack of proper membrane on the flat roofs of newly built properties is not unusual – so do not fall into the trap of thinking that just because your Spanish house is new that the flat roof has been correctly constructed…

Flat roof repairs in Spain

TYPICAL WATER INGRESS FROM FAILING FLAT ROOF

Of course, any membrane (normally waterproof asphalt) deteriorates with time, in any event, and therefore needs replacing.  Indeed, generally speaking, if a flat roof in Spain is older than 20 years then you might need to renew it.

Typical signs of flat roof problems in Spain include the obvious tracking of water from the roof area down into the living area of a property.  This may become apparent, initially, in staining and then be followed by major water ingress.

Repair of flat roof problems in Spain can take a number of forms including the application of water proof roof paint, which is often pink or red in colour.  This can suffice in the short term but is rarely long lasting and always a sign that a significant problem exists – that will have to be dealt with properly at some stage.

There are a number of different ways of remedying flat roof problems in Spain but it is important to find the optimum, long term solution.  Sometimes this can be cheap and easy, so do not always anticipate or pay for solutions that are unnecessary or unjustified!

Roofing specialists in Spain

LONG TERM WATER INGRESS CAN CAUSE SERIOUS DECAY OF STRUCTURALLY IMPORTANT REINFORCEMENT STEELS

Equally, identifying the reason for damp ingress in a property is not always as straightforward as it seems.  Sometimes, the actual roof of a property may be fine but an area of parapet flashing is defective.  However, on occasions the ingress of damp or water may indicate a more serious problem related to subsidence or heave.

If you have flat roof problems in Spain then do feel free to contact us.  We will be able to save you money and ensure that your roof is dealt with correctly and that your problems will be resolved!

Mark Paddon

Sep 212012
 
Property movement in Spanish properties

THE SUDDEN COLLAPSE OF A BALCONY AFTER MANY YEARS OF DECAY

There are many reasons why property movement and cracking in Spain can cause a property to become unstable.  Sometimes this is due to subsidence but this is not always the case.  Indeed, a relatively common problem in Spanish properties can be due to the decay of the steel reinforcement used in the construction of the property itself.

Many properties in Spain (whether houses or flats) have a ferro-concrete construction.  This means that steel is used to reinforce the concrete used in building the property.  So, for example, steel rods are surrounded by concrete to give the concrete strength for walls, foundations, ceiling and roof slabs as well as beams.  Meanwhile, some properties have a steel beam construction.  This is then enclosed with blocks or brickwork.

Obviously, it is important that the steel within a property is correctly connected and protected from damp so as not to lose its integrity.  This is very important because if the steel within a property is defective in any way (or becomes defective) then there is a possibility of serious collapse.  This may only occur within a particular section of the property concerned but it could stress other areas and can lead to a complete collapse of a building.

The process of steel reinforcement decay in Spain can be slow and is therefore always more prevalent and advanced in older properties. Steel decay can result eventually in structural failure in floors – and even whole apartment blocks have been known to fail. Normally, professional inspection will identify initial signs of decay, so that repairs can be made. However, these repairs are invariably expensive and complicated, and advanced decay can mean that substantial rebuilding is required. In some cases, the concrete itself may be sub-standard or even mixed with salt water and beach sand in coastal locations (albeit in rare cases).

Although new build properties in Spain rarely show signs of reinforcement corrosion – ventilation or surface protection may well have been omitted. In this case, some new properties can be at a high risk of decay in the future.

Common structural problems with Spanish properties

CONCRETE BEAMS LOSE MUCH OF THEIR STRENGTH AS DECAY ADVANCES

Unfortunately, in much Spanish building, standard practice precautions to protect steel were commonly ignored during earlier developments and sometimes during the more recent property boom. This was combined, all too often, with poor building control and sometimes, inadequate knowledge on the part of those actually constructing properties. So, even new builds should be inspected professionally to ensure that reinforced steel work has been correctly installed and protected for the long-term security of a building.

Of course, if you have any signs of property movement and cracking in Spain then you should react quickly to have a professional assessment of the problem.  I would stress the word ‘professional’ as assessing whether a property has a genuine problem and what that problem has been caused by is not something that should ever be undertaken by an unqualified person.

Indeed, assessing Spanish property movement and subsidence is far from simple.  Some homes may have signs of property movement and cracking in Spain and yet these can turn out to be of no concern and merely the results of normal thermal cracking or ageing.  On the other hand, some quite minor signs of problems can be an indication of a serious issue that requires prompt attention.

Mark Paddon

Sep 102012
 
Defective retaining wall in Spain

RETAINING WALL COLLAPSE IN SPAIN – INCORRECTLY BUILT!

A problem that I frequently encounter when called to assess building problems is retaining wall collapse in Spain.

Retaining walls (of varying sizes and made of differing materials) are an essential component to the stability of a property in Spain and they are a common sight on estates built upon hilly or steep ground.  However, retaining walls are rarely identified as such by property owners, who often believe that the walls on the boundaries of their properties are primarily there for ascetic reasons.

However, the truth is that many Spanish properties are very dependent on retaining walls for their stability.

Unfortunately, many retaining walls in Spain are not built properly and can collapse with devastating consequences.  This often occurs after a severe rainfall (such as a Gota Fria) – when enormous amounts of water can place a retaining wall under immense pressure.  If the wall has not been properly built then it (or a part of it) can collapse.

Retaining wall dispute Spain

PROPER RESOLUTION TO A DEFECTIVE RETAINING WALL CAN BE COSTLY WHEN A HOUSE STANDS IN THE WAY!

So, before buying a property in Spain on steep ground it is well worth making sure that any retaining walls are properly inspected along with the house itself.  Equally, if you are building a new house in Spain on steep ground then ensure that your builder really does know what he is doing and that he as the knowledge and ability to construct a retaining wall correctly.  This is not as simple as it sounds, if the wall is to be effective long term.

In some cases, retaining walls have been omitted and new properties in Spain sit either above or below cut slopes that are highly prone to collapse or landslides. This can risk lives as well as property and is something about which you should be extremely wary.

Sadly, some unscrupulous developers have sold properties with retaining wall issues to innocent buyers, despite the dangers. This is because the construction in Spain of a proper, load-bearing retaining wall – significantly adds costs to a building project, whilst providing no obvious benefit to the layman.

Structural walls Spain

THIS PROPER, PART COMPLETED REPAIR INCLUDES A COMPLEX PILED AND CANTILEVERED FOUNDATION SYSTEM AND SPECIAL REAR DRAINAGE MEASURES

Needless to say, replacing a retaining wall or rebuilding one can be very expensive.  Indeed, on some properties, the cost can amount to hundreds of thousands of Euros.

Certainly, be warned that there are plenty of builders who will have their own ‘master plan’ as to how to put things right. Often I find their proposals (whilst they mean well) to have errors, that could result in danger to workers and a potential future structural failure. It is always worth seeking an independent opinion on such matters –not least because the stakes are so high!.

Always check (before buying a property in Spain) whether or not the existing retaining wall is adequate – or whether your intended property should have had one in any event!

Finally, if you have doubts about the integrity of your retaining wall or if it is cracking or leaning or showing signs of stress – then contact me as soon as possible.  The collapse of a retaining wall can have huge implications and is one of the building problems in Spain that can require rapid remedial action.

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