What is a certificate of occupancy?

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Certificate of occupancy in transactions of properties in Italy

The Certificate of Occupancy (also called Certificate of Habitability) certifies the suitability of a residential property as being fit for human habitation.

It is issued by the competent municipal offices following verification that the building and its systems comply with health, safety and structural stability regulations. According to law, prior to issuing the certificate of occupancy, the competent authorities should also verify that the building complies with planning permission.

The case law of the Supreme Court is unanimous in stating that in real estate transactions the certificate of habitability is one of the documents that the vendor must deliver to the buyer before completion. As a matter of fact the buyer has the full right to verify that the property is suitable to satisfy his legitimate interest, that is the usability and marketability of the property. The above mentioned certificate can be considered an essential requirement of the building because it has direct effects on the legal use of the property as stipulated in the contract.

Unless otherwise stipulated in contractual agreements, the responsibility to provide the certificate of habitability belongs to the vendor. In case of delay or failure to deliver a certificate of habitability, there is a clear case of non execution of a contractual obligation (breach of contract). A recent decision by the Supreme Court states that, “The vendor of a property intended for residential use has a duty to deliver to the buyer the certificate of habitability without which the property is unmarketable”. (Cass. 23 of January 2009, n. 1701).

In case of absence of certificate of habitability the property can nevertheless be transferred with a notarial deed of sale but only with the buyer’s express, written consent. Verifying the existence of the certificate of habitability before completion of the purchase of a property should certainly be part of the legal due diligence.

Please note, any statement made in this article is intended to be a general practical introductory explanation only and not formal legal advice. This firm accepts no liability or any responsibility for any statement made.

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