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Survey Spain Case Study Nº 2: Structural defects causing problems with neighbours

Apartment living in SpainLiving in an apartment block has many advantages – especially if you’re not permanently resident in Spain – but you must bear in mind that any building problems that you might experience could be shared by your neighbours. Even if this is not strictly your fault it can quickly cause a deterioration in relations if swift action is not taken.

Recently, one of our clients found himself in such a situation when malfunctioning rainwater troughs led a neighbour to complain about the maintenance of their apartment. Clearly, when living in an apartment block, a problem shared can be a problem doubled. (Names have been changed to ensure confidentiality)

Mr. Radcliffe explained the situation to us in an email:

“I am afraid that our neighbour has reared his head again and the block management is now involved. We have not had funds available to do the necessary works you suggested, but we would be willing to undertake a programme of works, under your direction, to start before Easter next year. We do not accept either what Smith is saying or the managing agents, and we need you to go into bat with both on our behalf please.

Please confirm that you will be prepared to act further on this matter and let us know how much you think it will cost and I will arrange for you to be sent some funds on account. My partner will be spending Christmas in the apartment so I would like to act straight away to neutralise the situation.”

Clearly Mr. Radcliffe was in need of some support and sound advice, so Survey Spain replied to him by return:

“Having re-read my reports, I cannot see why the action is being directed towards you. The community and your 4th floor neighbour appear to be more at fault and without their action anything you do will be pointless.

The initial work in your apartment is merely to clear the front and shared troughs, especially the latter if the trees are still there, as that is likely to be the major source of the problem. Then ensure that the drains and pipework are working effectively and let it all dry out. Either remove the troughs completely or, if plantings are required, re-line them to ensure that they are watertight; place pebble or stones at the foot to ensure drainage and place plants in pots or planters within the troughs. That way there will be drainage and evaporation. After everything has dried out, get the steelwork looked at to ensure that all is safe and repair/replace where necessary. Instead of paying lawyers, all should be spending the money on the property.

Having said all that, I’ll be pleased to re-inspect and meet with Mr Smith, your 4th floor neighbour and especially the community to make sure that all understand. They should accept that the tiling work you have done has improved the situation, if the original tiling on your terrace was anything like that in the apartment on the 3rd floor beside Smith’s property.

Work: This was the second time that Mr. Radcliffe had requested our assistance. With the client being threatened with legal action by a neighbour and having pointed out that the lawyers’ work could not actually stop the water penetration, we identified that the problem was principally caused by a combined design and use defect that was the responsibility of the building community. In addition, we advised that it was causing previously unnoticed problems that could cause serious defects that are likely to be repeated in the building detail in other parts of the building. As the community would not take responsibility for a joint inspection, we arranged for the four owners directly involved and the President of the community to meet.

Testimonial: Once the problem had been satisfactorily resolved Mr. Radcliffe was happy to fill in our questionnaire detailing his experience with Survey Spain:

Why did you contact Survey Spain?
To inspect and report on purported water leakage from our penthouse apartment to the apartment below.

What did you need them to do?
Attend the property for inspection and prepare a report with conclusions and recommendations.

What did they do (more than you expected)?
A thoroughly professional approach throughout.

How did it help you?
Enabled us to convince our neighbours that the problem was a ‘block’ problem with planters and not particular to our apartment.

Were you pleased with the extent of the report provided?
Yes – and the ongoing work being provided.

Have you reached a satisfactory conclusion as a result of our help?
Having assessed and costed the remedial works required, Survey Spain introduced a local builder to carry out the works to both our own apartment and the two apartments below that had been affected by extensive water leakage from our terrace and terrace planters. This work was carried out on time and on budget (a rarity in Spain) and was professionally monitored throughout by Survey Spain. The builder did such a good job that he was further employed to carry out a number of other works at the property. The works are now complete and I would say that it was a thoroughly professional job by all concerned and we are very pleased with the end result.

Would you recommend Survey Spain to a friend?
Yes, definitely.

* For reasons of confidentiality the names of the clients have been changed.