TALK to anyone who’s built a house, and the chances are they’ll come up with a horror story.
In recent weeks, the Sunday Mail has received several complaints from home buyers on the brink of a nervous breakdown after bad experiences with builders.
And it appears that there is nothing that can be done to rectify the situation.
British citizen Michael West, 34, moved to Cyprus in May 2006 to buy a flat and settle down with his Cypriot wife. He became aware that things were not going according to plan, even before he stepped foot on the island.
“We actually bought the flat off plan. It was meant to be ready in May, so we could have moved in straight away, but they didn’t finish it in time so we had to rent. They still haven’t finished, so we are still renting,” said West.
“That was just the start of many problems”, he sighed.
“When we actually got here, some of the rooms were not totally square and were in fact wonky. This was made apparent by the tiles on the floor. When we told them to straighten the wall, all the builders did was extend the wall to align straight. This, in the end, made some of the rooms around 15cm smaller.
“If that wasn’t enough, one of the builders actually pierced the supporting beam while extending the wall, making the flat actually quite dangerous.”
Little did West know that worse was yet to come.
“We turned up one day and I remember hearing water rushing from our apartment. The door was locked, so we couldn’t get in, and then we saw water rushing out from our apartment into the road.
“I eventually managed to get into the flat, only to see that the kitchen and bedrooms were completely flooded. The water had also damaged the parquet floor in the bedrooms. If that wasn’t enough, the builders told us that we didn’t even need to change the parquet. But the floors were squeegee and we knew the damp would ruin them floors so we insisted they changed it.”
And the bathroom was not without problems, as the 34-year-old from London told the Sunday Mail that the builders had fitted in a cabinet half the size of the bathroom. “When you sat down on the toilet, you could actually touch the cabinet with your feet,” he added.
West is not the only one experiencing problems with builders.
Jordanian national Issa al Daoud, 28, is the managing director of her own company based in Cyprus and has also recently bought a flat in Nicosia.
“I suffered so much anxiety and stress with the builders,” she told the Mail.
“They were making so many mistakes and in the end they were costing so much money just rectifying the mistakes. I also noticed that the developers had hired cheap builders and cheap material, which is, in my opinion at least, the root of the disaster.”
Her problems are also far from over.
Even though she has now moved into her flat and still suffers problems with the occasional leak from the ceiling, her bathroom is the biggest problem that has yet to be amended.
“Every time I take a shower, my bathroom floor gets flooded. That is still a problem which has yet to be fixed,” said al Daoud.
The Permanent Secretary of the Cyprus Scientific and Technical Chamber (ETEK), Linos Chrysostomou, admitted quality control was the biggest problem with builders on the island, but said property buyers themselves were also to blame.
“When somebody, and especially a foreigner, buys a property, they are obliged to make the proper research into who they are going to hire to build their home or indeed who they will be buying the property from.
“If a developer is offering to build the same home around £5,000 to £10,000 cheaper then in most cases, you should be aware that the developer may not be that trustworthy.”
Chrysostomou said misunderstandings often arose after an off-plan contract was signed between the developer and the buyer.
“I have noticed contracts are not properly drafted and the developers and buyers usually clash afterwards. That is another word of advice to potential buyers. Have somebody go over the contract before signing.”
The ETEK official also advised buyers to perhaps hire “their own civil engineer to look over construction now and again”.
So what does the problem really come down to?
Like Chrysostomou, West believes that the lack of quality control allows inexperienced builders, along with rotating people in charge, to overlook construction of their homes.
“I believe that there are good builders and bad builders in Cyprus and the same goes for good developers and bad developers. However, it is the developers hiring the subcontractors, so I believe that they should hire somebody to supervise quality control.”
Al Daoud added: “The biggest problem is that the developers simply do not provide a good quality of service. Supervising is also a major issue, because the developers obviously don’t want to hire a quality supervisor because it costs too much money for them.”
The Head of the Consumers’ Association, Petros Markou, said he was only too aware of the problem with builders on the island.
“We very aware of the problem. But unfortunately, we do not have the expertise to deal with this particular problem. It is a problem that can have a very bad effect on our island and our economy so it should be obviously dealt with quickly.”
He added: “The only thing that I can say is to advise property buyers to hire civil engineers, architects or a good lawyer when buying a property.”
A spokesman for the Cyprus Builders’ Association told the Sunday Mail that “the whole image of builders on the island should not be tarnished because of a few rotten apples”.
“Anyone with a compliant can go through the appropriate channels,” he said.
Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2007