Before buying a property in Italy. What should you know?

What you absolutely must understand before buying a property in Italy

In order to make your purchase as safe and efficient as possible, before buying a property in Italy, you should understand how the process works and who you should involve.

When you visit a country for a holiday, cultural differences are charming and exciting. This changes dramatically when you make an investment or move to that country.

Personal liability

You may have already bought a property in your own country. Maybe you are English and the estate agent passed all relevant information to your solicitor to process the purchase. Perhaps you are American and you used an independent and qualified buying agent.

In both cases, the most risk free and secure method for you, as a buyer has become the assumed. It is probably the only way you would consider purchasing a property. In the UK, USA and other common law countries, we take it for granted that our interests are so well protected that it is very difficult to unwittingly make a mistake.

Italy is a member of the European Union so you can assume certain rights and similarities. However, when it comes to personal liability, Italy can be very libertarian. In other words, in Italy if you want to protect yourself and your interests, you can. If you don’t want to, that’s fine too.

The consequences, and ultimately the lessons, are yours alone. This mindset, for better or for worse, is practically non-existent in Northern Europe and many English-speaking nations.

Don’t assume anything

Before buying property in Italy, you shouldn’t make any of the same assumptions that you would in your own country. You should not assume that the typical process is naturally geared to protect your interests. Nor should you assume that everyone respects the law. And, do not assume that rectifying a mistake will be a quick or cost free fix. Above all, just as you wouldn’t at home, believe everything an estate agent or vendor tells you!

Do your homework before buying a property in Italy

As you may know from your own country, you need to conduct certain checks and searches. Legally binding contracts need signing and you will have to pay deposits.

In Italy it is perfectly legal for an estate agent to provide a reservation offer contract  and a preliminary contract on behalf of buyer and seller. Following the signing of these contracts, the buyer makes deposits. The final step is to have an Italian public notary (notaio) sign-off on the sale.

Estate agency contracts are often standard pre-printed forms. Many foreign buyers assume that the notaio, who according to law  must oversee the property transaction, is the equivalent of a lawyer or qualified realtor. People believe that if anything untoward comes up, the notaio will be aware of it and inform the relevant party. This is absolutely not the case. The notaio must remain impartial and only checks the final deed of sale document.

Neither the estate agent nor the notaio are responsible for doing your due diligence – you are!

Therefore, anything omitted or glossed over in any contract will not be apparent. If the person who draws up or checks is not working for you, you are taking a risk signing it and making deposits. On top of this, you should know that the Italian language versions of contracts will prevail in a court. You can of course read and check your own contract. However, understanding depends on your grasp of Italian and/or your trust in the translator you or the estate agent engages.

Don’t take unnecessary risks

Your estate agent will of course advise you that you do not need a lawyer, which is correct. Italian law does not oblige you to engage a lawyer. However, without a lawyer you are purchasing a property entirely without independent representation. Not only that, you are choosing not to protect yourself legally in a country with one of the slowest and most complex legal systems in Europe.

In Italy prevention is always better than cure and, infinitely cheaper! If you aren’t prepared to prevent problems, you need to prepare to deal with problems that may arise later.

It is possible that a property may have debts attached to it which the seller has not disclosed. It is very often the case that the previous owner has made illegal changes to the property or, as is common, the property features an illegal swimming pool. Or, perhaps you are planning to build a pool and the seller tells you that won’t be an issue.

If you don’t have your own lawyer, no one else is going visit the property on your behalf to check plans and the actual situation. This means you could easily end up with an illegal property or a property you can’t alter. At this point, you will need to throw a substantial amount of money at the property and lawyers to try and resolve the problem.

A small amount of due diligence at the beginning of the process with someone who speaks your language will avoid risks before buying a property in Italy.

Finally …

Before buying property in Italy, engage a local lawyer experienced in property matters. This should be someone you choose, not someone the estate agent or vendor recommends. Choose a lawyer who speaks your own language. That way, you not only get legal advice but also translation. Your lawyer should also be able to recommend a surveyor, builders and all manner of other professional services. In addition, you can appoint your lawyer as your power of attorney in case you are unable to get to Italy or attend completion. Again entrusting this responsibility to anyone with potentially conflicting interests, such as an estate agent, can be extremely risky.

If you would like to understand more about the process of buying and selling property in Italy, please read our free guides. You don’t have to subscribe. Our buying and selling guides are a free resource which we have made available to help you make your Italian property investment as safe as possible.

Before buying a property in Italy, why not talk to us? De Tullio Law Firm can advise and guide you throughout your Italian property purchasing journey. We have over 55 years of experience working with clients on their Italian and cross border property, family and inheritance matters. Get in touch.

 

Defects And Noncompliances in Italian Property Purchases

“Italian property purchases. What’s the legal position when it comes to defects and noncompliances?”

Over the years, De Tullio Law Firm has helped clients deal with all sorts of defects and noncompliances relating to Italian property purchases.

Take for example, a couple who arrived in Tuscany for their first holiday at their recently purchased dream property. They found the previous owner’s brother and family in residence. It transpired that the brother had inherited co-ownership of the property. He had no idea the property had been ‘sold’ from under his feet.

Then there was the American family whose entire kitchen ceiling collapsed one morning at breakfast. It happened a couple of days after they moved into their villa in Taormina. Fortunately, no one was badly hurt. They ended up having to take the previous owner to court. The collapse had been caused by a water leak that the vendor had hidden. After the fact, a surveyor determined the had been going on for some time.

There are many other cases where buyers end up in trouble. This is generally because the vendor has failed to disclose, or misrepresented crucial information pertaining to a property. Issues range from ownership, divorce and inheritance to planning irregularities and zoning restrictions. Then there are matters of outstanding mortgages, adverse possession, rights of way – the list is long.

DIY conveyancing in Italy is risky

Many buyers, Italian and non-Italian, want to save money by taking a DIY approach to their conveyancing.

For most people buying an Italian property is a major investment and it entails risk.

Buyers should make sure they do their homework thoroughly. Some buyers, however, look to shave costs and cut corners here and there. Generally, this involves sacrificing professional advice such as engaging a surveyor or a lawyer.

Instead, many people rely on what the vendor or the real estate agent tells them. Both parties have a vested interest in selling the property. If buyers are lucky everything goes fine. If not, buyers end up with a property that later needs a lot of costly fixes and may even be unsaleable.

Always seek professional advice to ensure protection against defects and noncompliances

Contractual terms and conditions serve to protect buyers against defects and noncompliances. Where defects and noncompliances come to light during due diligence, the promissory buyer could terminate the contract for cause.

In the Toarmina case, if the family had known about the failure to disclose a known water leak, they could have terminated the contract. Or, if they had anyway wanted to proceed with the purchase, they could have either made the purchase conditional on the owner repairing the leak. Alternatively, they could have requested an adjustment in the purchase price to take into account the cost of remedying the defect themselves. The latter two options ensure a continuation of anticipated economic exchange between the contracting parties. In addition, they also represent a general means of protection for promissory buyers.

As a final point, article 1482 of the Italian Civil Code contains provision to protect a promissory buyer who, having signed a reservation offer or preliminary contract discovers, during due diligence, undisclosed financial charges on the property in question. For example, a mortgage, a lien, a court repossession order. In this case, a promissory buyer can request suspension of purchase payment until the property becomes unencumbered.

Finally …

For over 55 years, De Tullio Law Firm has been providing international clients with independent legal advice throughout Italy. We are specialists in cross border property, inheritance and family law.

We can guide you through the whole purchasing process or organise the whole process, including an Italian property survey, on your behalf. Get in touch with us.

If you would like further information about buying an Italian property, you may find our buying in Italy guide useful.

Always seek knowledge about the risks entailed in property investment. If you are a promissory buyer in need of support, guidance or advice, please get in touch.

Selling Your Italian Property: Italian Property Law


Selling your Italian property can be a difficult and lengthy process
 

To aid the process in the long run, it is therefore important to make things easier at the outset. Prior to selling your Italian property there are certain preparations that are worthwhile making.

Preparing a sales package

The first step is to gather all the legal paperwork relating to the property.

Amongst other things, this includes the title deeds which prove you are the legal owner. Also, land registry entries to show that the whole property has planning permission and complies with building regulations. In addition, the property’s certificate of habitability and energy performance certificate.

Having this paperwork before you start marketing the property will facilitate the whole sales process for you as well as potential buyers.

Marketing your Italian property

The next step is putting the property on the market. You can either do this as a private sale or through a real estate agent (agente immobiliare).

If you are appointing an Italian real estate agent, it is important to ensure that the agent is qualified and registered with the local Chamber of Commerce in full compliance with Italian law. Legislation governing real estate agents aims to guarantee professional qualification. An unregistered agent could be prosecuted for carrying out a reserved activity and may not be legally entitled to request commission. Legislation also ensures that the agent has adequate indemnity insurance to cover clients in the event something goes wrong.

It’s important to think about whether the real estate agent can market the property locally, nationally and internationally. Perhaps ask a few agents to appraise the property. And, be sure to discuss brokerage fees before you choose.

Checking Italian real estate agent terms and conditions

Usually, both the buyer and the vendor pay the estate agent commission. Estate agent commission is negotiable but is generally equivalent to 3% of the full sale price. Amongst other aspects, it is important to assess the agent. In particular, their brokerage fees, minimum sale price, duration of the mandate and their exclusivity.

Frequently, real estate agents require a foreign seller to sign standard terms of engagement. The seller must carefully evaluate this before signing. All the more so if the document is in Italian. Even with the translation of the terms of engagement into your language, the Italian version will prevail.

Reservation offers in Italy

Once a potential buyer is considering the purchase of your property, the potential buyer will generally sign a legally binding document called, Proposta Irrevocabile d’Acquisto, a Reservation Offer. Often the buyer makes a small deposit to the vendor at this point.

Both the buyer and the property vendor should sign the reservation offer. In effect, the reservation offer removes the property from the market for a period of time, usually 15 days. This allows the interested buyer exclusive rights to conduct due diligence on the property.

Property checks and searches in Italy

Due diligence includes: conducting surveys, planning and building application/permission searches, local authority and land registry searches, and legal searches.

This is where preparing your sales package before marketing your property comes into its own.

The aim of due diligence, amongst other things, is to establish that the property exists in relevant records. In other words that it is as described, and the seller has the right to sell the property in question.

That there are no mortgages/charges or any third party rights or other undisclosed encumbrances affecting the property.

The property complies with all local planning and building regulations and complies with any relevant local authority urban plan.

That the property is fit for human occupancy, unless the property is selling for reconstruction, and that the owner holds the relevant certification of habitability Certificato di Abitabilità.

The seller has complied with all the relevant Italian tax legislation by lodging tax returns, and paying tax. This includes tax which may have been due in the previous tax years. In default of this requirement, the property may be legally unsaleable.

That where the vendor is the owner of a company, the vendor is not insolvent. In addition, no application to this effect should be pending against the owner; 

That where the property is in a block of flats, the vendor is up to date with all service charges due.

Make sure the preliminary contract fits your buyer’s specific needs when selling your Italian property

Having a tailored preliminary contract will facilitate your sale. Often estate agents use a standard form for this, but this may not meet your buyer’s specific circumstances. What happens, for example, if your buyer is purchasing subject to getting a mortgage? Make sure you cover all the bases to ensure that selling your Italian property doesn’t become more protracted than it needs to be.

Conditions precedent in a preliminary contract protect all parties when buying and selling property in Italy. However, to provide protection, conditional clauses must actually be written into the preliminary contract in order for them to be legally binding.

Selling your Italian property: completing the sale

This usually takes place in the offices of a notary (Notaio). In Italy, sellers and purchasers often use the same notary to oversee the transaction. However, you are perfectly within your rights to have your own notary.

The notary will draw up the deed of sale based on information contained in your preliminary contract.

Liability relating to an Italian deed of sale, involves not only the selling and buying parties but also the notary. Failure to disclose all relevant facts about your Italian property represents a complex legal matter which can have far-reaching consequences.

Finally …

For more detailed information about selling your Italian property, we have prepared a free Guide to Selling Property in Italy

If you are thinking of selling a property in Italy, why not talk to us? We offer a pre-sales service. This ensures that all the legal sales-related paperwork is correct before you put your property on the market.

De Tullio Law Firm can advise and guide you throughout your Italian property selling journey. We have over 55 years of experience working with clients on their Italian and cross border property, family and inheritance matters. Get in touch.

 

You may also be interested in Selling Property in Italy. A Short Guide.

You may also like to watch our info videos regarding Italian property law.

Television Licences in Italy: Italian Tax Law

Television licences in Italy

Following a review in 2016, the Italian Council of State approved the move to add the television licences in Italy fee, for State broadcaster RAI, to household electricity bills.

The new legislation introduces the presumption of ownership of a television wherever a property has an electricity connection.

Non-resident property owners also need a television licence in Italy

You may own a property in Italy but you are a resident overseas. In this case, you will still be liable to pay the tv licence fee.

If you own more than one property in Italy, you will however only need to buy one tv licence. This is for your main residence. If your second home is let to tenants, the tenants will be liable for paying for the tv licence.

Exemptions

In the event that you do not own a television, you can claim an exemption. Also, if you are over 75 years of age or if your annual income is less than €8000, exemptions are available.

Depending on your situation you will either need to request a refund or fill in a self-declaration form and send it to the Italian Inland Revenue office. Download the relevant form and instructions here.

Sanctions for anyone filing a false self-declaration of any type in Italy can be upto two years of imprisonment. Penalties for failing to have a television in Italy are up to €500.

Finally …

De Tullio Law Firm specialises in Italian and international property law throughout Italy. If you need advice or help with Italian property and tax-related  matters, please contact us for a free consultation.

You may also be interested in Resident in Italy for tax purposes?

Italian Assets. Preparing for The Future


Thinking long term about Italian assets

Do you, or your family, own Italian assets? Are you thinking of buying a property in Italy? If so, it is advisable to research and prepare for the future of those Italian assets. You may like to watch our short video on this subject.

Inheritance and probate laws vary from country to country. Italian assets will not be subject to the same laws as your assets at home. If the deceased was resident in Italy at the time of death, Italian Inheritance law applies to the deceased’s worldwide assets. Whereas if the deceased lived outside Italy, Italian inheritance law is only applicable to assets in Italy.

The succession process following the death of a loved one can become complicated and stressful. When you need to consider assets abroad it can also become frustrating and costly.

EU Regulations

In 2015 a new EU regulation came into force. Known as Brussels IV, this regulation aims to facilitate cross border succession. 

Brussels IV enables a testator with assets abroad to choose which country’s law will govern their will. In addition, it introduced a European Certificate of Succession (ECS). Heirs, legatees, executors of wills and administrators of the estate can use an ECS to prove their status and exercise their rights or powers in other EU Member States.

Brussels IV also offers potential benefits for non-EU nationals. Again appropriate action needs to be taken in the form of a choice of law clause in a will. For example, US nationals could nominate US law to apply to the succession of their property in Italy. An Australian with property in Spain could nominate Australian law. A Canadian citizen with property in France could elect Canadian law, and so on.

The country where the deceased was habitually resident determines the way Italian assets are handled

With or without a will, applicable laws and processes vary. For instance, in Italy, a public notary must authenticate a will before probate can commence.

If the testator did not draft an Italian will, a sworn translation of international wills is necessary. Because the testator is no longer around, a translation of a will can create issues and misunderstandings during the probate process. Having separate wills in the countries where you have assets is therefore the best method to prevent problems after your death.

If no will exists, the situation can become very complex for heirs. It is advisable to enlist the help of a specialist lawyer in Italy to manage the succession of Italian assets. If you would like more detailed information about the Italian succession process, you find our Guide to Italian Inheritance helpful.

If you own Italian assets or, you are a beneficiary of an Italian inheritance, it is always advisable to seek legal advice. A lawyer will be in a position to provide useful information about tax liabilities on Italian assets. In addition, a lawyer will also be able to provide information about the rights and responsibilities of an heir. An experienced legal professional will be able to provide advice based on a comprehensive inventory of the assets in question. This will allow you to make an informed decision on how best to proceed.

Finally …

If you own Italian assets don’t put off estate planning because they think you do not own enough, you are not old enough, it will be costly or confusing, you will have plenty of time to do it later, you do not know where to begin or who can help you, or you just do not want to think about it.

Estate planning should be an ongoing process, not a one-time event. You should review and update your plan as your family and circumstances change. This would include when you make an international investment such as a property purchase in Italy.

At De Tullio Law Firm, we have over 55 years of expertise managing cross border succession and estate planning matters throughout Italy. Our firm is also a full member of STEP, the world’s leading association for trust and estate practitioners.

Please contact us if you have any cross border inheritance questions or if would like to discuss your situation.