The night of the 11th of November 1990 was quiet at number 33 Cadí Street. Ana Rubió a 55 year old woman, was sleeping peacefully in her flat, when suddenly, at 3:15 am, she heard a loud noise from the living room. She got up in the dark and ran to see what had happened, but she didn’t realise that there was no more living room. The floor had collapsed, and Ana fell down a four-storey hole and lost her life.
Hello, my name is Oscar Vaello. I’m a certified lawyer with Vaello Legal. Today I’m going to talk to you about something really important that you must know if you’re planning to buy a flat in Barcelona.
It’s something that may ruin your property and could cost you a lot of money. And no, this is not clickbait… this is ALUMINOSIS.
But before I explain what Aluminosis is, let’s go back to history.
In the 40’s, Spain was a war-torn and isolated country, as it was the only fascist regime left standing after the Second World War.
In the 50’s, the sanctions on Franco’s fascist regime began to be progressively lifted, as the new enemy was not fascism anymore, but communism, so Spain was seen as an ally against the common enemy of the Soviet Union.
It was then that the northern regions of Spain, like Catalonia and Euskadi, had rapid industrialization, and they needed many people working in the factories, so millions of people from the south of Spain emigrated to the north.
Barcelona, in little more than two decades, doubled its population, so it suddenly needed to build hundreds of thousands of new houses to accommodate all those newcomers.
The need to build as quickly as possible led builders to find new ways to improve efficiency, and then is when appeared a French technological innovation, and that was “alumina cement”. It is regular cement, but with aluminium, which makes cement to dry faster, so they could also build faster saving time and money.
Everything was going well until the 11th of November of 1990 when a building in Barcelona collapsed killing the poor Ana Rubió.
After an investigation, they found out that the reason for that incident was that the building was made with alumina cement.
The problem with this cement is that when the temperature is over 18 degrees Celsius, it is easily hydrated, it absorbs the humidity of the air, hence it loses consistency and affects the stability of the building. When this happens, is when this building has ALUMINOSIS. It is what happened to the building of the number 33 of Cadí Street.
At that moment panic was spread amongst Barcelona residents. There was no record of the buildings build with alumina cement, so nobody knew whether their house was safe or if it was going to collapse as well.
In the next years, thousands of buildings were analysed, concluding that 53% of all buildings constructed between 1955 and 1973 had used this type of degenerated cement in their construction.
Those buildings that were most affected had to be braced, others demolished, and others placed under surveillance.
Although this type of cement was used all over Spain, the most serious cases were found in the most humid areas, such as those close to the sea, like Barcelona, of course.
In Madrid, for example, there were many fewer buildings affected, but some of them, like the Atletico de Madrid stadium, the Vicente Calderón, as it is located next to the Manzanares river, which generates a higher humidity in the area, had to be partially rebuilt and reinforced.
The use of this cement is now banned almost everywhere in the world, but it still has certain uses. For example, after the Chernobyl accident in 1986, the reactor number 4 was covered with thousands of tons of lumina cement, because at that time the priority was to stop the leak of radiation in the shortest possible time, so a cement that cools down quickly was needed.
And I know what you’re thinking at this moment: OK Oscar, I understand that this is something very important, but how can I know if a certain property has aluminosis?
Unfortunately, there is no registry of buildings with aluminosis, and it is not written anywhere, you have to make your own investigation. Well, you or your lawyer.
First, you should check the year it was built. If it was not built between 1955 and 1973, there is no need to worry.
If the building was built in that period, then you should check whether the building has alumina cement. The investigation involves asking the administration of the building and the neighbours, sending an architect to see if there are any visible symptoms of Aluminosis… and if there’s any doubt, you should make a test, which may cost between €300 and €500.
If the result is positive, don’t panic yet, it doesn’t mean that the building has developed aluminosis, most of the time the amount used is so small that it does not mean any risk. Only 8% of buildings constructed with alumina cement will eventually develop some form of aluminosis.
Also, if the building you want to buy, has aluminosis, maybe it has already been repaired, so then you have nothing to worry about.
Finally, if the building does have aluminosis, and it has not yet been repaired, rather than a challenge, it can an opportunity, because you may have a considerable discount, higher than the cost of the future repair.
For example, you may get a €50,000 discount for having aluminosis, but the future repair will cost you €2,000. Mind that the reparation is paid by all the owners of the building.
Also the yield you’ll get renting this property will be higher, because tenants don’t pay less because of it.
There’re even investors who are only looking for properties with aluminosis because it could be a good business.
However, this shouldn’t be a problem if you hire a lawyer with experience with these matters.
And I know what you are thinking at this moment: OK, but let’s say we already have bought a property and then we find out that we have been cheated and it has aluminosis, what we can do?
Well, in that case, you have the right to claim compensation to the previous owner for the loss of value. Or even if the damage is so great that it cannot be solved, you can ask for the termination of the purchase contract, that is the seller gives you back your money and you give him back his lousy flat.
If you have any questions, leave me a comment on the video or send me an email.
See you soon