La LOE what?

It is well known by all, that the construction industry is important within the Spanish economy and yet if I ask any British person on the Costa; about the LOE? probably would respond; La LOE what?  However, I would not blame him, because if we perform the same exercise with any Spanish fellow almost certainly would get the same result.

Although “La ley de Ordenación de la Edificación” (LOE from now on) Law 38/1999 of November 5th , 1999  that came into force on May 6th , 2000, has gone unnoticed by the layman, this act has had the greatest repercussion on the Spanish construction industry than any other legislation in the history of Spain.

Trying to trace a British act that has had a similar impact on the life of citizens; it comes to my mind the Clean Air Act of 1952. The Act was an important milestone in the UK's legal framework to protect the environment and the health of the British population.

To commence, we must make clear what the LOE does not do.

It does not solve the property development bubble or any town planning problems such as illegal housing being built without planning permission, sometimes due to the negligence of local authorities.

But it does attempt to stop the indiscriminate abuse of the past, when property developers companies were created under an endless demand for more houses on the coast. Companies created with the sole intention of making a single promotion and then disappear, leaving totally helpless buyers, who had no body to claim to for deficiencies and faulty installations of their homes.

It is interesting that when the OCU (Organization for Consumers and Users) made public the statistics for 2007.

They had 14.552 grievances about Mobile telephones, 12.448 complaints were made on defective houses. Disputes with Tax authorities reached 12.196. Financial institutions such as banks, saving banks etc had 11.352 complaints. 10. 804 grievances due to break downs of ordinary wired telephone lines. Construction deficiencies were the second major cause suffered by consumers in Spain.

So what can the LOE do for us?

First, this law regulates the building process by establishing basic requirements to be met by new buildings, covering aspects as building usage and security. It also clearly specifies the responsibilities of all participants (in the LOE called "agents") in the construction process. From the property developer to the end user, who also has obligations as we shall see later.

The LOE classifies buildings failures in three groups, and provides a warranty period during which, the end user can claim responsibility to have repaired the damage or receive financial compensation. And most important, the agents involved in the building process are liable directly to the end user, unless any of them can demonstrate that he was not involved in the events that produced the damage.

Who are these agents?

A) The property developer.

B) The designer. (Could be an architect, engineer etc.) The LOE specifies which professional can design which buildings. Engineers can only design industrial buildings

C) The contractor.

D) The site supervisor (normally an architect).

E) The clerk of works. (In Spain, the “aparejador” a hybrid between a clerk of works and a quantity surveyor)

F) The laboratories for building’s quality control.

G) The manufacturer of building products.

H) The owners and/or users of the finished buildings

I'm sure some readers are wondering about the responsibilities that an owner may have in the building process. The answer is none. But he has a responsibility to preserve and maintain the building. Obviously for an owner to fulfil this new responsibility he should receive from the property developer together with his (escrituras) deeds "El libro del edificio." The building book.

This manual must include:

  • A complete project of the building.
  • A list of all “agents” including names, addresses, etc.
  • The final completion certificate.
  • The building book. A complete maintenance manual of all elements and installations within his home. Similar to what you receive with your brand new car.

All agents are responsible for any defects during the following periods of time.

1) Ten years for all structural elements.

2) Three years for all construction elements that may affect, energy saving, noise insulation, user´s health but exclude the finishes.

3) One year for finishes.

It is mandatory that the property developer has an indemnity insurance to cover all structural defects as stated in paragraph 1). Paragraphs 2) and 3) are still awaiting new legislation to regulate them.

The amounts insured are to be equivalent at least to the final cost of the work including professional fees.

Notaries and property registrars are the actual regulator of this law by not allowing any property deeds to be issued or registered if it had not previously complied with the LOE.

To implement this LOE, on March 29th of 2007 came to light El Código Técnico de la Edificación the Technical Building Code (commonly known as the “CTE” ) to some extent similar to the UK Building Regulations, which endeavour to control the quality of building elements such as:

  • Structural safety
  • Safety in case of fire
  • Security within the buildings.
  • Hygiene, health and environmental protection.
  • Energy saving and thermal insulation.
  • Protection against noise.

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