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

 

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

Oct 252012
 
Expert in Spanish construction litigation

SUING BUILDERS IN SPAIN – DETAILED STUDY OF PILE FAILURE

Building disputes in Spain are, sadly, not uncommon.  Indeed, hardly a day goes by when I do not receive a call or e-mail from someone who has some sort of construction problem in Spain.

In fact, as I have stated before, the construction of new properties in Spain over the past few years has been very variable.  I have certainly seen fine work but, all too often, I come across defective buildings in Spain.  Quite frankly, the level of skill used in Spanish construction has not always been good and this has been made worse by lax (or sometimes no!) building control.

Of course, it is not only new buildings that have suffered from poor work.  The same is frequently the case with reform projects.  The latter are notorious for going over-budget and it is far from unknown for property owners to end up with a quality of construction and finish that bears no resemblance to what they expected.  Equally, timings for completion of the work can sometimes go from the sublime to the ridiculous!

So, what can you do when a building project in Spain goes wrong?

Speak to your builder

Well, if you are dissatisfied with your building work then the sooner you try to resolve the problem the better.  Certainly, never allow work to continue, if you feel that there is something wrong with the way it is being conducted.  If you do (and you are present most of the time) then you may be considered as someone who has willingly accepted what is being done.

If you are not happy, my advice is always to first tackle the builder and see if you can resolve the problem that is concerning you.  This is an obvious action and usually sorts out most problems, many of which arise quite simply from misunderstandings.

Obtain independent, expert advice

However, if your approach to your builder is ineffective then it is essential that you call in an independent construction expert – such as a properly qualified (and insured in Spain!) building surveyor or structural engineer.  This is the only way that you will be able to authoritatively find out whether there is a real problem or not – how serious that problem is and how best to remedy it.

Make sure, of course, that your building surveyor provides you with a written report, as you may need this should you have to take legal action and it is invaluable as a document to give to your builder.

Frequently, the building surveyor or structural engineer will be able to resolve any Spanish construction problems with the builder.  Direct communication between the two is often, I have found, enough to isolate a problem and ensure that a builder understands what is wrong and how to resolve it (and the consequences of not doing so!).

Certainly, the value of an independent, objective expert should not be underestimated, particularly when matters have become heated.  More often than not, at this stage any building defect dispute can be resolved to the satisfaction of all concerned – allowing the project to continue or remedial works to be undertaken.

Construction problems in Spain

TOTAL COLLAPSE OF CRITICAL RETAINING WALL

Needless to say, if your building surveyor or structural engineer has made recommendations to complete or undertake defined works then you should make sure that he supervises these works to ensure that they are properly completed.

Note that taking action early is important e.g. when some monies are still being withheld – or at least when your builder is still financially secure.   Equally, be aware that a genuine lack of sufficient funds will typically result in no action from your builder, even if he agrees that corrections need to be made!

Litigation and suing builders in Spain

Of course, there are times when a building dispute in Spain goes beyond any easy resolution.  For any number of reasons, you can find that you and the builder (even with the help of a building surveyor’s report) cannot come to agreement.  This happens particularly when a builder has no money (as mentioned above).

Furthermore, in my experience, it is actually rare for a builder to put things right properly and a history of inadequate repairs and ‘cover up’ work is common. However, by Spanish law you must give your builder the opportunity to put things right.

Naturally, it is perfectly normal to lose confidence in a builder who repeatedly proves to be untrustworthy or incompetent and the line as to just how much opportunity you should give them is ill defined.

Needless to say, if you just cannot get a satisfactory resolution from your builder (and many owners waste money and time in an attempt to do so) then you will have to face the unpleasant prospect of legal action in Spain.

Problem with Spanish builders

SIGNIFICANT PROPERTY MOVEMENT

In fact, all is not always lost at this stage.  Frequently, a builder can be ‘brought to heel’ (and perhaps even find some money) once he has received a detailed letter from a litigation lawyer threatening legal action.  Few people really want to face a court action and the reality of this occurring can concentrate the minds of many constructors – together with the minds of architects and even insurers, who might prove to be liable or jointly liable as the case unfolds.  The latter point is particularly important.

Your builder may have no money and possibly not be worth suing but this will often not be true of fully insured  professionals or companies associated with your building work, such as the Geotech firm responsible for your property or the architect who supervised the project.  Equally you may be covered by a Decenal insurance policy.

So, the fact that your builder may be penniless does not mean that you should despair of taking legal action and suing builders in Spain – although you will need a decent lawyer and construction professional to assist you in assessing the potential liability of others involved in your project!

Not everyone will buckle under the threat of litigation in Spain and you may well have to actually launch an action to obtain compensation for defective building work in Spain.  This, of course, is an unfortunate direction to take but sometimes unavoidable.

If you do decide to take legal action then you must make sure that the lawyer you go to is a specialist litigation lawyer – and preferably one who is an expert in Spanish construction litigation.  This is vital, as many lawyers in Spain are not specialists and should not be entrusted with the responsibility of conducting a major contentious case.

Naturally, taking legal action in Spain is a last resort but you should realise that the Spanish legal system does work and that court actions, more or less, take as long as in the UK.  By this, I mean that should your case not settle before the trial then you should expect a trial to take place some two or three years after issuing proceedings.  There may then be an appeal, which could take some 18 months after that to resolve.

So, be aware that legal proceedings in Spain (like almost anywhere in the world) take time and, of course, money to prosecute.  However, this may be the only way that you can resolve your dispute.  In that case it can be your only realistic course of action and one that should (if you have a good case) be worthwhile.

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

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