WHAT ARE HIDDEN DEFECTS IN A PROPERTY AND HOW TO CLAIM FOR THEM?

Throughout our lives, one of the most important decisions we make is the purchase of our first home, whether it is a new build or second hand, alone or with our partner, for work or just to become independent, etc… So it is common that when thinking about buying a home, we focus on aspects more in line with our lifestyle, such as whether it has good lighting, has its own parking areas, close access to supermarkets, common areas, patios or gardens, large kitchen, good heating systems, etc… It is difficult to notice the so-called hidden defects that they may have, given that these are noticed once you start living in the new home or may even appear some time after you have moved in.

What is a hidden defect?

Hidden defects in a property are those defects that cannot be detected with the naked eye in a property before its purchase and that may affect the normal cohabitation of the newly acquired property.

It is quite common to miss these kinds of flaws as the signs are not very obvious to most people, if they do not have a background in architecture or construction. Even when buying a second hand property and carefully observing every detail that could be a drawback in the long run or a considerable damage, it is easy to overlook signs of hidden defects that lead to the future appearance of damp, problems in the electrical system or cracks in the brickwork. It is also the case that when buying a newly built property, we ignore the fact that these types of defects may appear, as the property is brand new and we take it for granted that these types of defects may not appear in the first few months.

What types of defects can occur?

In general, although a list of possible hidden defects that may arise is not stipulated, they are usually:

Defects caused by water, such as damp, leaks, etc., whether due to poor installation or the use of low-quality materials. These are usually the main and most common hidden defects that appear, as they do not appear visibly until after a period of time due to the accumulation of water or damp.

Cementation, such as cracks or fissures, which can be caused by a remodelling of the dwelling, or by nearby works that affect the ground, causing certain damage.

Electrical systems, due to a bad installation of the same, defects in the wiring due to not carrying out a tune-up at the time, or the poor quality of the same. These flaws can cause the electrical system to have hidden defects that appear long after the purchase; fortunately it is the easiest to repair, as the systems would be replaced, and in general, it would not be necessary to carry out a major work.

Thermal-acoustic systems, due to poor use of the insulation materials used, poor quality materials or poor finishes in the installation, which cause the types of defects that are easiest to overlook on a first visit to the dwelling and can lead to damp, cracks in the finishes, etc.

Hidden defects in the finishes, which usually derive from other defects in the building work, causing paint or surfaces to peel, irregularities in the walls or ceiling, unsettling of the flooring or parquet, etc. These types of defects indicate that there is another more serious hidden defect behind them.

Can I claim if I detect hidden defects?

In the first place, the defect must be really hidden, and it cannot have been detected during the visit to the house before the purchase, because if a possible defect is detected and it is signed that the house is acquired in its current state, there will be no possibility of claiming for it.

The defect must also have existed prior to the sale of the property, and a claim cannot be made for a defect that arose some time after the purchase of the property.

The defect must be considered serious and could cause serious problems for the normal cohabitation of the property, causing damage to a considerable part of the property in such a way that if the damage had been known, the property would not have been purchased or its value would have been considerably reduced.

In such cases, the buyer will have two options to make demands on the seller:

The first option is through the redhibitory action, withdrawing from the purchase contract in which the seller will pay the expenses that were paid. If it is discovered that the seller knew about the existence of this hidden defect, damages may also be claimed.

The second option is through the ‘quanti minoris’ action, which allows a reduction of the price in proportion to the damage caused by the defect, once it has been assessed by experts, as long as it does not affect the total habitability of the property.

The claim period for second-hand homes is 6 months from the date of purchase and up to 2 years in the case of newly built homes.