Preliminary Contract in Italy. Can I Back Out of It?

You rather rushed into signing a preliminary contract on an Italian property

Now you need to back out of the preliminary contract.
You rushed into signing because you didn’t want to miss out on a great opportunity. It’s long been your dream to own a property in Italy. When you saw this penthouse apartment, you just had to have it.

In hindsight and after viewing the apartment again, you realise it isn’t as big as you thought. When you first saw the place, you could see the potential to extend into the roof space. However, you now doubt that the municipality will grant permission to convert the space. Besides, you recognise that even if your planning application is accepted, the conversion is going to be prohibitively expensive.

The date for signing the deed of sale is looming. What can you do?

Can you back out of the preliminary contract?

Does the property have a certificate of habitability?

A recent judgment at the Court of Appeal of Milan, stated that if the seller does not deliver a certificate of habitability at the preliminary contract stage, the prospective purchaser may back out of the preliminary contract and, request the return of the deposit.

In other words, there will be no requirement for the prospective purchaser to complete on the sale. In addition, it may also be possible to seek compensation for damages. If, for example, there is proof that the purchaser has incurred expenses or lost out on other property prospects.

Finally …

Never rush into signing any paperwork relating to an Italian property purchase. Always seek independent legal advice before signing anything and, if you’ve already signed a preliminary contract but now want to or need to back out of it, get in touch with us. We have over 55 years expertise in Italian property law.


You may also like to read Preliminary Contracts in Italian Property Purchases.

You may also like to watch our useful info videos.

Property buying in Italy Can Be A Nightmare

When buying a property in Italy, before you sign any paperwork, seek professional advice

Property buying in Italy is a serious investment and often the fulfilment of a dream. Italy’s unique real estate laws and local customs all lead to the recommendation of having the right team of advisors in place to make your experience successful.

A couple from Bristol found a house in the Abruzzo that they wanted to buy. The vendor’s real estate agent got them to sign a Proposta di Acquisto (reservation offer).

The estate agent passed the reservation offer to the vendor. The offer basically stipulated the price the couple was willing to pay for the property. It included the couple’s cheque for a €5000 deposit, made payable to the vendor. The vendor accepted the couple’s offer, took the cheque, and the deal became irrevocable. The estate agency also asked the couple for their brokerage fee of 3% of the purchase price, which they immediately paid.

The couple then discovered that the charming outbuilding with self-contained accommodation had no planning permission. Getting the building regularised would entail fees for a geometra (surveyor) and tax to the local municipality. The outbuilding would be subject to a demolition order if the permit was not granted. The couple even faced the risk of prosecution for illegal construction. The vendor had no intention of remedying the situation and there was no recourse for the couple. The couple was stuck in a nightmare scenario and yet, the whole thing was easily avoidable.

Teamwork makes the dream work

As a foreigner buying a property in Italy, before you sign any paperwork which may be legally binding, make sure you have the right team of advisors working for you.

Choose your own geometra to assess the integrity of a building’s structure. Check whether planning permission exists and, if necessary, what the costs would be for putting things right. You may also want to ask a geometra about the geology of the location. How prevalent are natural hazards such as landslides or earthquakes?

Engage your own lawyer. Your independent legal advisor will examine titles, zoning matters and review all paperwork associated with buying a property. A lawyer can save you money by helping you negotiate the deal and will ensure your rights are protected.

Italian law requires that all property and land transactions complete through a notary. Notaries work for the Italian State to ensure that transactions happen in accordance with Italian law. They ensure that purchasers pay all the relevant fees and taxes and register the deed of sale. Choose your own notary.

Independence is key when buying property in Italy

We cannot emphasise enough the importance of seeking independent advice. Choose your own professionals. While the estate agent or vendor may recommend professionals with whom they cooperate, you should bear in mind that estate agents and vendors have a vested interest in selling the property to you.

Finally …

At De Tullio Law Firm, in addition to full conveyancing services, we offer a property background check. This is a  pre-purchase service, which identifies and prevents problems such as the ones encountered by the couple from Bristol.

Likewise,  for those looking to sell their Italian property, we can help you prepare a pre-sales package that includes all the paperwork potential buyers will be looking to gather prior to making a purchase decision.

For more comprehensive information about the Italian property purchasing process, you might like to read our guide. If you would like to discuss your situation or, if we can be of assistance, please get in touch.


You may also be interested in Insider Tips for Buying A Property in Italy