Avoid common mistakes when buying a property to renovate in Italy
Buying a property to renovate in Italy is a common scenario. It is also a common scenario for these projects to end in heartache.
At De Tullio Law Firm we often don’t meet these buyers until after they have purchased a property. They have usually spent way more than they expected and need to fix problems.
The best advice we can give you is to engage an Italian lawyer before buying a property to renovate in Italy. It will save you time, money and anguish.
A Renovation property in Italy: the right project for you?
No matter how experienced you are, a renovation project anywhere can be a stressful and time-consuming process. Even more so if you live overseas, can only visit Italy periodically and you are not a fluent Italian speaker. Unless a project is guaranteed to give you your dream home, or make you money, think carefully. You may be taking on the wrong property.
Make sure you know exactly what you are buying
Don’t wait to discover major legal issues such as lack of planning permission until after your purchase is complete. Having a lawyer means you have someone to work on your behalf to conduct thorough due diligence. Any legal non-compliances will be detected before you complete the purchase.
In addition, your lawyer will assist you in obtaining a structural survey. A survey of the property will reveal important information about construction and building materials. It will highlight problems and remedial actions. Moreover, it will give you a good indication of the likely cost of renovations. It is also worth commissioning a measured survey of the building. This will give you a detailed set of floorplans and elevations on which to base your proposed renovations.
Even minor renovations can turn into a nightmare if your builders or subcontractors fail to do a good job.
Always ask for references, and speak to previous clients. Your lawyer can help you hire reputable builders and can act as project manager on your behalf throughout the project.
Buying a renovation property in Italy: costs
Work always costs more than you expect. This is because you can’t foresee some problems until renovations start. You may have to change your mind or alter designs or specifications.
Always include a budget contingency of 10 – 20% to cover unforeseen costs and fully expect to spend it.
Make sure your plans are as detailed as possible; list all the tasks and materials and, who is going to do the work. Don’t forget to allow for skips, scaffolding, tools and plant hire. Estimate costs by comparing similar projects in the area. Make sure you, and/or your lawyer, get builders’ quotes.
We would recommend that you instruct your lawyer to draft a building contract with your chosen builder. A building contract makes the builder’s quote legally binding.
Heed Italian rules and regulations when buying a property to renovate
Under no circumstances, should you ignore requirements of the Italian law, as it will eventually catch up with you. Do not undertake any work without first checking whether you need to satisfy requirements such as planning and building permits.
You may also need to notify neighbours or others regarding your renovation plans. Your lawyer can advise you if property deeds contain restrictive covenants, leases or other overriding interests in the property and land.
What are the penalties if you don’t follow the Italian law?
You may think that you can obtain the required planning permission retrospectively. However this is not always possible. Even if you can make a retrospective planning application, it may be rejected. Your illegal work could then constitute a criminal offence. In this case, the Italian State may seize your property. Getting your property back will likely be a very lengthy and costly process.
If you fail to obtain the relevant approvals, you will have to prove compliance. This may mean undoing completed work.
Breaching a restrictive covenant or the terms of a lease can lead to a court injunction, you may have to pay fines or even have to undo your renovations.
Before you can start renovations, you will probably need to do some demolition. As building materials need careful disposal, demolition work is a procedure that will also require authorisation.
With over 55 years of experience as specialist property lawyers throughout Italy, we strongly recommend that you seek independent legal advice before purchasing any property in Italy. If you have already purchased a property but have run into trouble and would like to discuss your situation, please get in touch. We can help!
You may also be interested in Building a House in Italy: a short step by step guide and our Guide to Buying Property in Italy. We also have a number of info videos on the subject of how to buy Italian property safely.