Feb 102013
Building surveyor specialising in Spanish construction disputes


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.


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


Jan 242013
Typical roof problems in Spain


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.


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


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.


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


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.


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).


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