A LETTER in the Cyprus Mail tells the story of a Brit who moved to Cyprus and bought a newly-built house. The property looked impressive, but after a year or two it had serious damp problems and a number of alarming cracks appeared.
A neighbour was a former builder who had seen the house being built. He said the foundations were hopelessly inadequate, particularly as the land had previously been an orchard and the soil was unstable.
Unfortunately jerry-built property is quite commonly seen in Cyprus. Often lacking any form of damp-proofing, the moisture absorbing concrete skeleton acts like a wick drawing moisture out of the soil into the structure of the building. This results in damp, cold and musty properties and may lead to structural problems in the longer term. Without adequate damp-proofing, timber-frame properties can suffer even greater problems!
And as in the case of Brit mentioned in the letter, some properties are built with inadequate foundations. The visible symptoms are uneven floors, cracks in walls, floors and wall tiles and jamming doors and windows. The more sinister, invisible, symptoms are damaged water pipes and possible structural instability.
The four photographs below illustrate what can happen if your luxury home has been built on inadequate foundations – click on any of them to see a larger image.
What many people fail to appreciate is that in Cyprus there is a lifetime warranty on the structural integrity and stability of a building. It is possible to pursue the developer who constructed the building through the courts although the onus is on the buyer to prove that the problem is due to his poor workmanship, materials, etc.
- Anyone who considers that their property has a structural defect should first get it professionally inspected by a qualified structural engineer and obtain a written report on its condition. If the engineer considers that the problems result from poor workmanship, etc. on the part of the developer, then legal opinion should be sought from a litigation lawyer on how best to proceed and the possible costs involved. Note however that the Cyprus legal system is extremely slow and it might take three or four years for your case to be heard.
- For those thinking of buying a new property, always insist on viewing earlier properties built by the developer to see how their houses bear up over time – and speak with their owners about the quality of their work and their after-sales service. But be warned, do not allow the developer to take you to meet these people as there’s a good chance that they will be masquerading as satisfied buyers whereas in reality they are being paid by the developer to give you a good impression.
- If you intend making an offer on a resale property, use the professional eyes of an independent surveyor to inspect the property, prepare a report on its condition, and provide you with an independent appraisal of its market value before entering into a sale agreement.