Nov 212012
Legal action against Spanish builders


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

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