Italian Property Survey – Need One Or Not?

Should you have a survey before you buy property in Italy?

Because for most people buying a property is a major expense, not commissioning an Italian property survey is a false economy.

A surveyor, “geometra”, will provide you with invaluable information and support during the property purchasing process. This information will help save you money both prior to and after completion.

Buyer beware!

In Italy, property is purchased under the principle of ‘caveat emptor’ or ‘buyer beware’. In other words, the onus is on the buyer to ensure that there are no issues with the property. This includes land purchases.

If you purchase an Italian property and subsequently discover a problem, it is always time-consuming, frustrating and costly to resolve.

Amongst other things, an Italian property survey will reveal hidden defects, illegally built structures, planning and zoning issues. In addition, a geometra will highlight any areas of the property that require repair or maintenance. It is important to be aware of all these issues. After completion, you will have to pay to rectify any defects. You may even have to take legal action through the Italian courts to get a refund from the vendors.

An Italian property survey can save thousands of Euros

It is important to make sure you are not overpaying for your Italian property. A common misconception is that the vendor’s or estate agent’s valuation is based on Italian property market prices. Obtaining a valuation as part your survey will give you the true value of a property. The valuation will take into consideration any defects uncovered and repairs needed. This will ensure you pay a fair price for your property. A survey can therefore save thousands of Euros.

The importance of an Italian property survey

The support of a surveyor during the home buying process is invaluable, but it can also be extremely useful after completion. Depending on the type of survey you commission, the report will give detailed information about parts of the property that may require attention in the future thus allowing you to budget those costs going forward. In addition, a surveyor can give you preliminary advice on any plans you may have to extend or alter the property in the future.

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.

 

The Italian Rent to Buy Scheme. Information And FAQ

Introducing the Italian rent to buy scheme

In September 2014, the Italian parliament introduced measures to revitalise the property real estate sector. Measures include an Italian rent to buy scheme as part of the Sblocca Italia – Unlock Italy – decree (Article 23 of Legislative Decree 133/2014).

The Italian rent to buy scheme has two main aims. Firstly to help people purchase a property and secondly to support builders and developers sell property stock.

The Italian rent to buy scheme is similar to the UK model

It allows a promissory purchaser to immediately start living in a property as a tenant and provides the option to purchase the property at a later date.

As a tenant, the promissory purchaser pays a regular rent. In effect, this postpones the purchase of the property until a specified future date. Purchase should take place no more than 10 years from the start of the rent to buy contract. Rental payments reduce the overall property price.

Decree 133/2014 addresses and resolves problems that stemmed from the lack of specific legislation in this domain. Notably, the decree provides for the legal transcription of a rent to buy contract in the land registry for the duration of the contract.

Essentially, the land registry transcription counts as a full and proper reservation of the purchase of the property. Consequently, the owner of the property cannot sell it to anyone else for the duration of the contract.

No mortgages or easements or any other prejudicial rights can be held on the property. Creditors of the property owner / vendor will neither be able to register a mortgage on the property, nor foreclose on it.

As soon as a rent to buy contract is in the land registry, this guarantees that the property is reserved for the promissory purchaser. Any other transcription or registration will be unenforceable against it.

Frequently asked questions about the Italian rent to buy scheme

What is a rent to buy contract?

The contract combines a rental contract and a preliminary contract of sale for a specific property. This means that from the outset of the contract, the owner/vendor gives the promissory purchaser the right to buy the property. The promissory purchaser is able to live, as a tenant, in the property and pays a regular rent. After a contractually agreed period of time, but not more than 10 years, the promissory purchaser may decide to buy the property. The owner must deduct rent paid during the term of the rent to buy contract.

Example: Consider the sale of a villa for €100,000. The monthly rent is €1,000 per calendar month. A part of this rental payment, €500, is the rent payment for living in the property, as if it were a normal rent. The remaining €500, counts toward the purchase of the property. In effect, this portion of the monthly rent constitutes a down payment on the sales price.  If the term of the rent to buy contract is 5 years and at that point, the promissory purchaser decides to buy the property, rather than pay €100,000, the promissory purchaser pays the outstanding EUR 70,000. This is because €30,000 has already been paid as part of the rent to buy scheme.

Is the promissory purchaser obliged to buy the property at the end of the rent to buy contract?

The law provides for an option to buy the property. However, there is no obligation. Obviously the parties may agree that the tenant must purchase, but that contract would not be subject to rent to buy legislation. It is merely a private arrangement.

How long does a rent to buy contract last?

The parties to the rent to buy contract establish the period within which the tenant may decide to buy the property. According to legislation,  this must be within 10 years from the start of the rent to buy contract.

What are the benefits of a rent to buy contract for property vendors?

The main advantage is the ability to find a larger number of potential buyers.

What are the risks of a rent to buy contract for property vendors?

There are a couple of risks. Firstly, a tenant may decide not to buy the property. In this case, however, the owner can retain part or all of the rent payments. These should be a sum greater than a normal rental income.

The other risk is that the tenant doesn’t abide by contractual terms, becomes insolvent or causes significant damage to the property. This may mean the property owner has to go to court to evict the promissory purchaser, regain possession of the and free the property from contractual obligations in order to sell it to others.

What does an eviction order entail in terms of time and cost?

The procedure is not strictly-speaking an eviction, but the release of a property. Generally, this is a much shorter and less costly process. Just how long the release of a property takes very much depends on individual courts.

In order to use a property release procedure, the rent to buy contract must contain legally compliant and watertight clauses. You should always seek independent legal advice in structuring the entire rent to buy contract. It is crucial to ensure that you cover everything.

Are there any measures in place to safeguard the owner /vendor?

It is imperative that the rent payments are higher than a normal rent contract. In the event that the sale does not conclude, the retainer payment that the property owner retains serves as compensation.

Commitment to retainer conditions also serves as an indication of the promissory purchaser’s commitment to conclude the transaction at term.

What protection does rent to buy provide for promissory purchasers?

The law provides for the transcription of an Italian rent to buy contract in the land registry. In the same way a deed of sale is managed. A notary – an official of the Italian State –  must oversee the rent to buy contractual process. The contract must be legally compliant. The transcription in the land registry guarantees that the promissory purchaser has agreed to buy a property free of mortgages, liens, foreclosures, or any other detrimental matters, which might arise following the transcription of the rent to buy contract. The land registry transcription is valid for a maximum term of 10 years.

This protection holds even if the property vendor / owner is declared bankrupt during the term of the rent to buy contract.

What type of property can be included in rent to buy contracts?

Rent to buy contracts are valid for any type of property. This includes apartments, houses, farms, garages, vineyards, shops, offices, factories, land.

Are rent to buy contracts also applicable to buildings under construction?

Yes. Rent to buy contracts are applicable to buildings under construction. For contractual purposes, any pre-existing mortgage on the construction must be repaid. If after careful consideration and having taken independent advice, the promissory purchaser wishes to assume a pre-existing mortgage, it is however possible to provide a clause to that effect.

For building and development companies, rent to buy contracts can represent an interesting way to finance mortgage payments for property construction.

Regarding rent to buy contracts for buildings under construction, does the promissory purchaser lose money if the builder or developer goes into administration?

No. The buy to rent contract continues even if the property vendor / owner is declared bankrupt. So long as there is a price agreement in the rent to buy contract and the property is the main residence of the promissory purchaser or close relatives, the owner / vendor’s insolvency will not impact the sale.

Can the promissory purchaser confer a power of attorney to sign the rent to buy contract?

Yes. Legislation provides the right to confer a power of attorney on a third party to sign the rent to buy contract, and the final deed of sale, where applicable, on the promissory purchaser’s behalf.

You should be extremely careful about who you chose for your power of attorney. You are delegating the management of your legal and financial affairs to someone else. Hence, it is extremely important that you entrust these matters to a reliable and competent person, preferably a professional. Appointing anyone who does not have enough experience or who has a vested interest is highly inadvisable.

What taxes are applicable with a rent to buy contract?

Tax depends on whether the owner / vendor of the property is a private individual or a company. Direct tax is chargeable to the owner / vendor and indirect tax is levied on the promissory purchaser.

As a rule of thumb, for the duration of the rent to buy contract, as with any Italain rent contract, tax related to the property ownership is borne by the vendor / owner.

The promissory purchaser pays costs pertaining to the transcription of the contract in the land registry. And, where applicable, the promissory purchaser is liable for any subsequent costs, expenses and tax liabilities and/or costs associated with completion of the property sale.

For tax calculation purposes, each rent to buy contract requires case by case assessment regarding advantages and/or disadvantages. This is another reason to involve an independent professional from the outset when considering a rent to buy scheme in Italy.

Finally …

If you do not find your question relating to the Italian rent to buy scheme here, please contact us and we will be happy to answer it for you.

At De Tullio Law Firm, we specialise in Italian and cross border legal matters. If you are buying any type of property anywhere in Italy and you need advice or you would like to discuss your purchase, please get in touch with us. We are here to help.

For more comprehensive information about the Italian property purchasing process, you might like to read our guide. You may also like to watch our info videos about Italian property law.

Italian Holiday Home. Planning for The Future

Italy is a popular country for second or holiday home ownership. Think long term.

If you are buying or already own a property in Italy, do you want to keep your Italian holiday home in the family for future generations?

It is advisable, ideally as part of your overall estate plan, to look at how best to manage this.

Failing to take the right steps to ensure a home’s future ownership can lead to family upsets and disputes after your death.

Do your children want to inherit the Italian holiday home?

However, in wanting to pass on the holiday home, many overlook a critical step: finding out whether family members actually want it.

For heirs, an Italian holiday home may present practical issues. How far they’ll have to travel to visit the home, whether their income can support regular travel, maintenance, taxes, and other associated costs.

Then there’s another factor: your Italian holiday home may constitute a major part of your children’s inheritance. Some of your children might actually prefer, or need, a more liquid asset.

Keeping the property in the family

If your children would like to keep the property in the family, the simplest method is to leave the property outright in your will to the children, or family members, you wish to inherit it. Your estate plan would include provisions that transfer the deed to your heirs, and each of your heirs will own an equal portion.

However, what’s simple for you, may bring complexities for your heirs. In some cases, inheriting a home can cause resentment. Equal ownership means all the owners would have a say in every decision concerning the home. This includes matters such as when each can use it, whether to rent it out or sell it and for what price. Then there are projects required to keep the property in good order. Each owner bears an equal responsibility to pay for all the running costs associated with the home.

Day-to-day management issues

If the house is rented out, who screens tenants, collects the rent, and calls an electrician or a plumber when there are problems? And, sooner or later, decisions will have to be made about major maintenance and repairs. What happens if the property needs a new roof for example? Your heirs may not always agree about the need to invest such substantial sums of money in the house.

Even if your heirs decide to keep the holiday home, they may run into problems in the future. Financial situations might change. What happens if one of your heirs becomes unemployed, incapacitated or bankrupt? Or, if a divorce creates a change in financial circumstances? Any of these events could force a sale of the property.

At some point your heirs will need to decide how the house fits into their own estate planning

This might include questions of whether your heirs should pass the home to the next generation. If so, what’s the best way to handle that? You need to consider that as time passes, your heirs’ families may grow. This will leave more descendants to share the home, each for less time per person each year. In the longer term, many of the descendants will be only be related to each other distantly. Co-ownership may therefore become even more problematic.

Planning to pass on a holiday home to your family is a great way to ensure that future generations have the opportunity to enjoy it. However, it’s important to consider all the aspects and take steps to assess whether it is in fact the right thing for your family to inherit, and how it would be cared for over the years.

Finally …

People put off estate planning because they think they do not own enough, they are not old enough, it will be costly or confusing, they will have plenty of time to do it later, they do not know where to begin or who can help them, or they 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.

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 are buying or already own an Italian property and have any questions about your estate planning.