25 August 2013

€12,000 nightmare to reconnect electricity to a repossessed property


HANDS UP if you did not have an electrical survey done before purchasing a property in Spain. Both hands up if your estate agent said “they don’t do surveys in Spain”. Now let’s do the largest ever Mexican Wave seen across the Costa Blanca.

It’s not surprising to find that people are bypassing surveys in the current economic climate in a bid to save money. Some estate agents even discourage the practice fearing surveys may reveal problems that will cause potential buyers to withdraw from sales. 

Here is a tale about what can happen when a small saving results in a nightmare and you ask yourself “was it really worth it?” I received this email asking for some much needed advice for a repossessed property on an urbanisation somewhere in the Valencian region:

“We purchased a repossessed property in January and told we would have to apply to Iberdrola for an electricity supply because the electric meter had been removed. The previous occupants vacated the property some 18 months ago.”

“We contacted a builder who said he would arrange for boletins to get the electric and water put back on for us. The water was no problem. However, it transpires that the builder’s electrician was informed by Iberdrola that we could not be reconnected because to do so would take them over capacity. This is despite being told by the neighbour that there had been a supply to the property previously for several years. Every other property around us has electricity.” 

“The electrician continued negotiating with Iberdrola who have now said they can connect us if the electricity supply comes from "the other side of the property." They want us to pay €12,000 for a 9 metre galvanised pole to be put up and for wiring to be re-routed.”

“Our builder explained that Iberdrola has given our electricity supply away and now they want us to pay for a new supply. We are gutted and came with a very tight budget. We don't seem to be getting anywhere. We have had nothing official from Iberdrola yet.”

A survey is essential for properties purchases in Spain, especially repossessions. It is important to distinguish between an electrical survey and a building survey. A building surveyor will not fully understand how to test and inspect an electrical installation. Just because you may be getting a bargain, don't cut corners on areas such as surveys and searches. Treat the purchase as you would in the UK and make sure it is a bargain, not something you may regret.

04 August 2013

Does your house need rewiring?

THE MOST frequent question I get asked is “how safe are the Spanish electrics in my home?” The short answer is for homes built since 2002, electrical safety is generally satisfactory. For homes built prior to 2002… unfortunately it’s “hit or miss.”

Spanish electrical regulations received a major overhaul in 2002 with specific improvements made to domestic dwellings, particularly to earthing (grounding), circuit layout and socket outlets, notably the standardisation across Spain of the Schuko type.

A periodic Test & Inspection that checks the condition of an electrical installation is recommended every 10 years for a home. However, most people are unaware of this regulation and since it is not a legal requirement it’s not surprising to find that people are bypassing electrical surveys in the current economic climate in a bid to save money.

Moreover a T&I tends to be forced upon people around the 20 year mark. This is because Iberdrola generally insist on a new boletin (electrical installation certificate) for properties over 20 years old. This normally catches out the unsuspecting home buyer or owner attempting to arrange a new electricity contract.

Installations that are over 30 years old will undoubtedly have obsolete socket outlets that are unsafe and not earthed, plus many will have been illegally upgraded over the years. This is probably a good time to start thinking long term and planning for a rewire. With Iberdrola currently replacing all traditional meters with new Smart Meters it’s worth checking that your contracted supply is sufficient for your consumption. The kill switch housed in the Smart Meter will ensure that properties are limited to the contracted supply. Inevitably, illegal upgrades will be downgraded.

If your house is over 40 years old, the chances are that different owners have altered or extended various wiring circuits by trying to adapt your house to modern living. The over use of adapters and extension leads is a sign the system may be overloaded, creating a potential fire hazard. Regardless of whether any electrical work was done by professional electrician or by D.I.Y. owners, it will most certainly not have been done to modern standards.

Houses can often appear to have deceivingly newer electrics because all the light switches, socket outlets and light fittings have been changed. However, a closer examination generally reveals that the actual age of the wiring is 40 years or more old. A professional Test & Inspection is the only way to tell for sure what state the wiring is in and if it needs rewiring.