Compensation for bad workmanship in a new building

George Coucounis explains how defective works in a newly constructed building, house or apartment in Cyprus entitles the owner to claim compensation for violation of the sale agreement, or for negligence, equal to the cost of repairs.

There are sometimes defects, omissions, snags and unsuitable materials used in a number of buildings ready for delivery, even when they are constructed by their owner. It is a problem observed because of the great demand concerning immovable properties. A small number of land developers and building contractors are only interested in maximising their profit instead of concentrating upon quality and good construction. Moreover, there is lack of inspection on the government’s behalf, allowing this problem to grow.

When there are defects or omissions in a building, the owner -purchaser affected is entitled to claim compensation, based on the violation of the agreement between him and the vendor - contractor, due to lack of attention and care during the construction of the building. He can also file a claim based upon the civil offence of negligence. The person aggrieved is entitled to compensation equal to the cost of repairs at the time the contractor - developer has the obligation to restore them. The damages which can be claimed must be reasonably foreseen and attributed to the violation of the sale agreement or caused by the negligence of the obliged party. The damages’ measure is based upon the cost which is necessary for the repairs to be made and what the parties had in mind when making the agreement.

The purchaser/owner should include in his action filed before the court, details concerning the negligence, the violation of the agreement and the damages caused, as well as the costs of repairs of the damages. During the hearing of the case, the claimant is obliged to submit evidence by an expert in order to justify his claim and for the Court to decide. Such an expert would be a civil engineer, a geologist engineer, a quantity surveyor or the building contractor who has repaired the aforesaid defects.

In a case before the District Court of Paphos, the claimant, who was a purchaser of a house, found many serious omissions and defects, since her house was not built according to the building regulations and the art of good workmanship. She filed an action claiming from the contractor and his guarantor the amount of CY£57.864 for compensation regarding the costs of repairs. The Court awarded her with the sum of CY£55.391, plus the legal costs. She based her claim on the fact that the contractor had violated a stated and agreed term of the sale contract according to which the contractor company was obliged to build the house with attention and care; she also based her claim on the civil offence of negligence.

Some of the defects which the owner reported and filed in her claim were: “(a) the filling in with earth – soil was not made either with appropriate materials or in the right way and the compaction was not normal. That was the main cause of the problems which appeared on the house, meaning cracks on the building and gabs between the slab and the filling in with earth materials. (b) There were defects on the supporting walls. (c) No insulation was made in many places, resulting to moisture. (d) The walls around the drainage were built with bricks instead of concrete, so they broke because of the subsidence. Thus, they were reconstructed and the cost was very high. (e) Many problems appeared on the outside staircase, thus subsidence was caused and the stairs were dislodged from the building making them dangerous. (f) There was also subsidence underneath the paving-stone of the swimming pool, causing a big problem dislodging it from the main building. (g) The materials used for the insulation and painting of the swimming pool area were not proper causing two-colour printing and chipping-off.

In another case before the Supreme Court of Cyprus, a well known construction company had sold an apartment situated at a villa building complex and when the purchaser took delivery of the aforesaid apartment, he found serious defects. He filed an action claiming compensation for repairing the defects and the Court adjudicated compensation for many of the defects which were proved by accepted evidence. Some of the defects were the following: cracks on the bedroom top because of the absence of metallic joints, cracks on the floor because of subsidence of the building, subsidence of the entrance veranda because of structural defects related to the building foundations and omission in priming the bedroom wood work.

Therefore, it is absolutely necessary for a prudent purchaser - owner of a property to be purchased off plan or a newly constructed building, house or apartment, to seek advice from experts, such as a lawyer, a reputable property professional, a civil engineer or architect, to assist him in taking the right decision and making a proper agreement in every legal, technical and building aspect, so that to avoid being in a difficult position later, after delivery.

About the author

George Coucounis

George Coucounis is an experienced lawyer practicing in Larnaca, Cyprus. Educated at University College (London) and Thessaloniki University (Greece), George is fluent in English and has been practicing law in Cyprus since 1982.

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