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Structural Conditions of Buildings in Cyprus
05 November 2017
We have an increasing number of appointments, in order to carry out structural surveys of buildings, mainly houses under/recent construction and this is the result of shoddy work in a number of projects/buildings. Structural defects refers to the structure of the building, which, if it is left to escalate, it will cause more damage, than the initial damage, creating serious problems later on, including safety problems.
Regrettably the property boom and the unskilled/lack of labor force, has created this state of affairs, which is particularly noticeable in the Paphos region and to a far letter extent in other areas. The structural stability is especially vulnerable on buildings which are built on hill slopes, on land which has improper earth fill and/or problems relating to extensive dampness, which, with this dry climate, is not excusable to be left untreated.
The majority of buildings in Cyprus is built based on a reinforced concrete structure, which permits the structure to act as one unit, thus accommodating minor settlements and weakness in some parts of the building. The structural stability is of a special importance in Cyprus, especially in the Paphos area, which are pron to minor earthquakes every year. For this reason, all Cyprus buildings are designed based on an anti-earthquake design, which, after the year 1986 and with the introduction of new revisions, became quite strict, capable to withstand local earthquakes.
So, other things being equal and provided basic care is taken, the structural condition of a building/house (especially new ones) should be O.K. The more clear evidence of a structural problem, is the appearance of cracks on the bearing members of the structure (columns/beams). As an indication if you see a horizontal crack on the members, yes it is something you should look into, but it is not as serious as when you notice a vertical crack on a member. Possible cracks could/will appear on the walls of a building (again if it is a horizontal crack this is not so serious as a vertical). This sort of damage/cracks on walls appear in most cases in new buildings, which is the result of the settlement of the foundations, although depending on circumstances they could appear also in the older buildings. Some cracks, which are classed a “hairing”, are capable of repair and should not create a serious problem if repaired with a coat of paint (cracks mainly on plaster). If these cracks however continue to appear and should you like (it is recommended) to monitor them and the crack continue to elongate – the gap becomes larger, this is something more serious, which must be looked into. Signs of serious settlement are also the uneven floors, tile cracks, door/windows not opening etc.
If for any reason you suspect that something is wrong, get in touch with an independent civil engineer to carry out initially an eye inspection-structural survey (or should you wish to be on the safe side, carry out one prior to taking possession of the property acquired). We must add that, under the Cyprus law, the developer might be liable for the structural condition of a building, for a long time (other things being equal), but repairs and maintenance problems, are usually covered for a period of up to 12 months, after the building’s completion (depending on the sales contract).
Once you carry out an “eye” inspection/structural survey (it costs approximately €700-€800/house, depending on the building’s size and location) and you suspect a problem, you could ask the developer to extend the guarantee for a period of say 24 months or 12 months after he has repaired the damage with the execution of the remedial work in order to verify that the measures undertaken are effective.
Our experience so far has been with movements of swimming pools, staircases, broken tiles, tilting of the whole house/building, dampness appears as a result of burst pipes which crack as a result of the floor movement etc. For those who have a serious problem, it is recommended to make a more detailed investigation which could involve the examination of strength of the concrete, examination of the structural drawings (not necessarily air-tight approach since what you see on plan may not be what you get on the ground) and even carry out an x-ray to the structural members, in order to ascertain whether the proper/designed reinforcement has been executed.
So, as not to unduly worry our readers, most of the problems that we are faced which are mainly minor and could be corrected, but some serious cases are also found. For this reason and bearing in mind the total cost of buying a property, it is recommended that any purchaser should carry out his/her due diligence.