This is Spain

Contrary to some estate agent’s false claims that ‘they don’t do surveys in Spain’ or ‘that surveys are not needed on new builds as they have a guarantee’, building surveyors do exist in Spain and for very good reason. Spanish properties suffer issues such as reinforced concrete decay, damp and insect attack including termites. Thermal, subsidence and earth tremor related movement is also common. The recent building boom has seen some developers and architects skimp on foundations and detailing, such that even brand new properties can have issues and most importantly, builders will typically fail to correct defects once they have all monies. The ‘decenal’ 10 year ‘guarantee’ insurers generally will not pay up unless forced to do so through costly court action. Whether new or resale, all properties in Spain merit close inspection by a qualified professional – (which is normally detailed in a written structural survey report).

Many owners of new builds in Spain have unfortunately found out that the ‘Builder’s Guarantee’ gives little protection against most building defects. The same owners typically regret not having a pre completion structural survey, often having been put off by agents and developers claiming that ‘a survey is not needed as the build is guaranteed’.

Since May 2000 it has been obligatory for ‘Promotors’ (normally the developer) to take out a ‘Seguro Decenal’, in order to cover the building, should it be subject to any significant defects that affect it’s structural stability or the safety of occupants.

It is important to note that most builders will opt for the basic obligatory cover. While optional cover is available to cover elements such as the water tightness of roofs and walls, many builders will not take additional cover and though elements that affect the habitability of the building may need to be rectified by the builder up to 3 years from the date of completion (see below), after 3 years it’s only the remaining 7 years of the 10 year policy that can be called upon. Many owners therefore find that having found problems after 3 years, it is only those defects that affect structural stability that can realistically be pursued with the insurers. The correct diagnosis of problems and identification of structural relevance is therefore important.

The sooner you report defects to the builder the better, so it’s worth having a structural survey and further check before the 3 year and 10 year deadlines expire. The most critical defect commonly involves inadequate foundations, and you should take every opportunity to ensure that your new build includes adequate foundation design and control, even if this means paying the builder more money to carry out necessary sub ground works.

Buyer’s only have to speak to existing owners to find out that all types of building in Spain, whether new or old, merit a pre completion structural survey, property problems can literally turn a dream into a nightmare and the comparative cost of a survey is very small considering the large sum of money being invested. Surveyors reports are also commonly used to resolve disputes against builders, architects and insurers. A number of UK building surveyors offer their services in Spain. Make sure that you check your surveyor’s discipline is relevant e.g. ‘Building Surveying’, that they are a member of a chartered professional body and carry professional indemnity insurance. They should also have time served experience in Spain and be able to speak Spanish.

Information provided by Mark Paddon BSc Hons Building Surveying. MCIOB. FAS

(Mark has worked as a building surveyor in Spain for 7 years, he carries out buyer surveys and produces expert witness reports for dispute cases. Mark also writes for local papers, contributes to Spanish property related books and has consulted for Channel 4’s ‘Selling Houses Abroad’ appearing in three episodes).

Get more info on structural surveys via (A free 15 page property buyer’s guide is available via the website. Initial phone and e-mail advice is free of charge)