Italian House: Structural Issues. Where Do You Stand?

I bought an Italian house then discovered big cracks in the walls 

According to your email, you have just moved into the Italian house you purchased three months ago. Unfortunately you have discovered some serious cracks in the living room and kitchen walls.

You immediately called in a surveyor (geometra), who has informed you that there’s a serious structural problem. In effect, the problem means the property is uninhabitable. You expect to receive a full written report from the surveyor within the next few days. 

What legal action can you take regarding the defects in your Italian house

In this case, you have a legal entitlement to dispute the legality of the deed of sale (atto di vendita). However, you will need to take prompt action.

According to Italian Civil Code Sales Contract Law, the vendor is only liable for a short period.

Article 1495 of the Italian Civil Code provides that the purchaser must take legal action within one year from the delivery date of a product. In your case this would be the date you signed the deed of sale for your Italian house.

In addition, you can only take legal action if you, the purchaser, have declared the defect to the vendor within 8 days of discovering the issue.

What does Italian case law say about latent defects in an Italian house?

A ruling by the Court of Caltanissetta in May 2016 stated that if a vendor hides serious structural issues from a purchaser, this constitutes a breach of contract.

Structural defects, such as big cracks in the walls, significantly reduce the value of real estate property and may even render the property uninhabitable.

If a buyer discovers defects in an Italian property after signing the deed of sale, the buyer has the right to reverse the property transaction. This must however take place within the previously mentioned time frame.

Under Italian Civil Code, if the buyer and vendor cannot reach an amicable resolution, the buyer can institute legal proceedings against the vendor. This is with a view to obtaining restitution of the price the purchaser paid for the property. In exchange, the purchaser must return the property to the vendor.

The buyer has the right to rescind the transaction regardless of the cause of structural defects

In essence, a purchaser has the right to rescind the deed of sale either on the grounds of construction defects, namely the builder’s responsibility, or because of external factors such as subsidence.

This is valid even if the buyer had the property inspected by a surveyor prior to purchasing it. Structural defects are deemed latent. In other words, they are hidden or difficult to see with the naked eye. Therefore, even if a surveyor inspected the property, the defects may not have been visible.

It should be pointed out that patent defects would not entitle a buyer to rescind a deed of sale. Patent defects are those that are easy to see or visible, such as a window that does not close properly, or missing tiling.

Litigation is the traditional process for resolving legal disputes on civil matters

Litigation involves a party starting court action. The plaintiff or claimant is seeking a legal or equitable remedy. By law, a defendant must respond to the plaintiff’s complaint. If the plaintiff is successful, a court will find in the plaintiff’s favour.

In Italy, court cases are generally costly and protracted processes. We would advise you wherever possible, to settle out of court. Parties can settle at any stage. If the dispute cannot be resolved through negotiation, as a last resort, it will need to go to court.

Litigation is tried and tested with a vast body of case law. The court will impose a final decision that parties must respect. The outcomes of litigation are, without exception, legally binding and enforceable, while being subject to appeal.

Ruling by the Court of Caltanissetta

The case we previously mentioned, involved the purchase of a newly constructed apartment. Shortly after moving in, the new owners noticed some cracks on the walls and floors. They spoke to neighbours in their building and discovered that other neighbours had similar problems.

The owners got together and started a litigation against the vendors. The plaintiffs were seeking reversal of their purchase contracts and compensation for damage. The plaintiffs accused the vendors of deliberately hiding the real condition of the properties. For their part, the defendants claimed the buyers had seen the properties before signing the deed of sale.

However, the purchasing parties had only noticed, “a few little holes”, maintaining that, “the real problem hadn’t yet emerged.” Despite the defendants’ declarations, the court ruled that the vendors knew the true state of the apartments because they had participated in a meeting at the Town Hall’s Technical Office, to discuss geological issues related to the site.

The court ruled in the plaintiffs’ favour.

Vendor’s duty

Anyone who sells a good – a mobile phone, a garment, a pair of shoes, or any other item including an Italian house or property – has to guarantee that the good has no inherent flaw. In effect, this guarantees that the item is fit for purpose.

Italian Civil Code states that a vendor of any item must guarantee that the item has no faults, which would make it unusable or unsuitable for its intended use, or would significantly reduce its value.

In the Caltanissetta case, the property presented defects which could cause instability. That would entail a huge risk for the new owner’s safety.

Finally …

Italian contract law is complex. In the case of a litigation, the deed of sale is of great importance. It is vital that you understand the contractual terms and conditions. The deed of sale affects your options to make claims against the vendor. You should always seek independent legal advice when you purchase an Italian property. In order to avoid any conflicts of interest, this should be a lawyer who is not involved with any other parties (vendor, developer).

At De Tullio Law Firm, we have over 55 years of experience managing property transactions throughout Italy. We are always pleased to hear from our readers. If you have a question that you would like us to answer, please get in touch with us.

If you are looking for more information about the Italian property purchasing process, please read our free Guide To Buying Italian Property. You may also like to watch our info videos about Italian property law.

A Home in Italy: Voices of Experience

Having a home in Italy is a dream for many

Buying a home in Italy is also a major investment. There are many aspects that need careful consideration before taking the plunge: buying structures, tax and inheritance to name but a few.

If you are considering buying a property in Italy, think long-term. Make sure it’s for the right reasons and that you have done your research absolutely thoroughly. We asked some of our clients who own Italian property, what tips they would give to prospective buyers in Italy. Here’s a selection of what they said:

If you think an Italian property is potentially an easy, passive income generator, think again

To be a success, you will need to work hard to create, market and operate an attractive holiday rental business. If you need to borrow money to finance the purchase of your Italian holiday property and you already have a mortgage at home, you’ll have two debts to service and in reality, your rental income may not cover repayments for your Italian property.

Remember too, that all the maintenance and running costs will be your responsibility and unless you are living locally, you will probably need a management company – or very understanding local friends – to deal with the property on a day to day basis for you.

“Identify your reasons for buying a home in Italy …

… for example: are you looking at retirement, relocation, holiday home or a buy-to-let investment? Always use a licensed, unbiased real estate agent who can work with you to achieve your objectives. Don’t feel pressurised to buy. Take your time – it took us over five years before we committed to our purchase”.

“Ask lots and lots of questions

When choosing a home in Italy, the priorities are about personal preferences, choices and taste. We bought our property for investment purposes, which is totally different. When you are buying a property for buy-to-let purposes, you are starting a business so you need a plan. There are so many things to consider: exit strategies, growth forecasts, potential rental incomes, neighbourhood, property taxes, amenities, infrastructure, transport and future developments in the area. This is where it pays to get professional advice and second opinions from good real estate agents, lawyers and financial advisors”.

“Get your sums right. What can you really afford?

It’s not just about the cost of buying a home in Italy, you might need to add renovation costs or there may be extra costs for shared areas. Not to mention running costs. Investigate and understand the Italian property market. It’s totally different to the US property market. When it comes to selling your property later, even if it’s a really attractive proposition, you need to understand that it’s not likely to get sold fast.”

“Bring in the professionals to help with buying a home in Italy.

Seek legal advice early on. Use your own independent English-speaking solicitor, who has absolutely no links to your seller, estate agent or developer. Do not sign anything prior to your lawyer’s review. Do not make any money transfers until they have been checked and signed-off by your lawyer. If anybody uses terms like capital growth or rental yields when viewing a property, be very sceptical. Ask to see evidence. Before deciding whether it’s a good buy, factor in all the likely costs, taxes and above all, don’t forget maintaining the property and managing the rentals. Think carefully about the pros and cons of different ways of buying the property and check for the best deal on mortgages and currency”.

“Viewing the property at different times of day is important.

For example, we viewed a property during afternoon siesta and it seemed perfect … a really attractive property in a quiet location. But, when we revisited the place another day around mid-morning, we discovered we could hear the loud rumble of traffic on a nearby main road. Consult a good property lawyer before making any final decision. Many lawyers will offer a free consultation to discuss your general situation. Ensure you double-check everything with your lawyer and a tax advisor before making any decisions. The person at the local bar or the village shop might know a thing or two from experience, but those experiences shouldn’t inform your decision-making.”

“Research is key when buying a home in Italy.

When we were researching properties online, the maps on website listings were not always 100% accurate and showed the nearest village rather than the property itself. This is for safety reasons as houses used as second homes are often empty for long periods of the year and can become targets for burglars. Contact the estate agent and get coordinates for a satellite view of the property and surrounding area. Study it closely. In many parts of Tuscany, for example, it’s difficult to find a country house within walking distance of a village. It means that you, or your rental guests, will have to drive to the nearest shops, bars and restaurants.”

“Understand the rules regarding Italian tax …

… so that you know what you are in for. Remember that when purchasing property in Italy, you need to take into account agents’ commission, notary fees, and registration fees as well as future property tax and other costs. If you are planning to live in Italy, find out about residency rules. Have your financing in place and get a good international residential conveyancing lawyer.”

“Always negotiate on the price …

… use a reputable real estate agency and engage an Italian lawyer. Never part with any money unless you have the express approval of your lawyer. If, like us, you are buying off-plan or during construction of a new build, getting independent legal advice is even more important. Your lawyer will make sure that all the necessary contractual, bank guarantees and insurances are in place to protect you if something goes wrong like the completion of the building does not occur on time.”

“Get a good lawyer to represent you in the purchase.

If possible agree legal fees up front. Find a reputable estate agent to assist you in your property search. But don’t rely on the agency to put together contracts and handle the conveyancing. Make sure your professional team speaks your language. Make sure that they fully understand your requirements and that they don’t waste time showing you properties or areas that don’t match your brief. Ensure that you fully understand all the costs, taxes and fees involved with the purchase. It can impact hugely on your budget. Always instruct a surveyor to carry out a survey to ensure that there are no structural, planning, zoning or geological issues with the property. Take your time. Don’t rush into the first deal presented to you. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Take a step back and get a second opinion.”

“Start by asking yourself: how easy it’ll be to sell this property should you need to?

Location, location location! If you want to make money, this will only actually materialise when you rent or sell the property. Until then it’s all just a theoretical paper profit. If you are looking at the property as an investment, think about the property. Why would people want to rent it? Why would people want to buy it from you? The reasons will tell you whether the property is likely to be a good investment.”

Finally …

De Tullio Law Firm has been guiding overseas buyers with their Italian property investments for over 55 years. If you need any advice about buying or selling a property in Italy, if you need an independent second opinion or, if you would just like to discuss your options with a specialist, we are here to help.

You may also be interested in Buying property in Italy. You may also like to watch some of our info videos on Italian property, sucession and family law.

High Net Worth Individual Tax Regime in Italy

What is Italy’s high net worth individual tax regime? 


On 9th March, 2017, Italy introduced a high net worth individual tax system. 

Pursuant to article 24 bis of Italy’s Budget Bill, a codicil introduced an annual fixed €100 thousand forfeiture substitutive tax rate for foreigners. The tax regime also applies to EU citizens, who decide to move their residence to Italy.

There is no fixed level of income attached to this tax regime. Individuals must be resident in Italy and tax is payable on worldwide income. However, tax will not be due on the value of real estate and financial investments located outside of Italy.

Individuals need to apply for the high net worth individual tax regime

According to the bill, uptake of the high net worth individual tax regime is neither an automatic right nor an obligation – it is a choice.

Individuals electing to take advantage of this fixed tax rate option, will have to file an advance application with the Italian tax authorities. The Agenzia delle Entrate then decides whether or not to grant the forfeiture substitutive tax rate to individuals. The Italian tax authorities will base their decisions on investigations with tax authorities in the individual’s country of origin. They will also check that an individual has not previously been tax resident in Italy.

The option extends to the individual’s family members provided they also meet the conditions of no previous tax residency in Italy. Each family member included in the option is also subject to an annual forfeiture substitutive tax on non-Italian sourced income. This is a lower fixed amount of 25,000 Euros.

If the Agenzia delle Entrate accepts an individual’s application, the option expires after 15 years. It is revocable at any time but in revoking the option, an individual loses the right to restore it.

After the 15 year residence period, the fixed tax rate will no longer be applicable. The individual will thereafter need to decide whether to continue to be resident in Italy. Should an individual continue to reside in Italy, standard tax rates apply.

Italian visa for investors

The Budget Bill also introduces a “visa for investors”. This means that any foreign national bringing a capital of at least €1 billion into Italy, and investing it within three months of arrival, automatically gains entitlement to a two-year residence permit.

Finally …

Should you need help to understand your personal tax situation, please get in touch or seek advice from a qualified accountant registered with the ODCEC, the Italian professional accounting association of certified public accountants, auditors and advisors.

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.