Who is liable for compliance with safety requirements on home renovations in Italy?
Domestic refurbishment works: the implementation of safety measures is to be borne by the homeowner
In the case of even minor construction works, the, “works manager” is responsible for any accidents. This usually corresponds to an architect, engineer or designer to whom the maintenance or renovation work has been delegated. However, if the owner of a building directly procures the services of a worker, it is the homeowner who manages the workers and controls the work. This means the homeowner becomes responsible for any accidents and ensuing criminal and civil consequences.
Imagine you hire a plasterer to render a wall and the plasterer falls from a ladder. Or, you find an electrician to rewire your property and the electrician gets electrocuted. You, as the homeowner, will be held liable. Even if you were not around at the time of the accident, as the legal owner of the goods on the property, in the eyes of the law, you are deemed to be the employer of the worker who has been injured.
Your liability for the accident is not only of a criminal nature, for culpable injuries caused to the worker, but also of a civil nature, i.e. linked to compensation. Compensation that for a broken limb, can amount to several thousand euros. In the worst-case scenario, compensation may be enough to see your property seized.
This is a very intricate legal issue based on technicalities regulated by Italian law and, for this reason, it is fundamental to rely on legal professionals. If you are planning refurbishment work on your property in Italy, make sure all the work meets legal safety requirements, otherwise you run the risk of criminal and civil prosecution; this is an area in which our legal team can help you. Should you wish to discuss your particular case, please get in touch.
Liabilities of the homeowner
When planning refurbishment works on your Italian property, such as renovation or painting works, you are legally obliged to take charge of workers’ safety. The law leans towards the view that anyone regarded as, “non-professional”, such as a homeowner, procuring the services of a third party to carry out any type of home improvement, is responsible for ensuring that workers operate in accordance with health and safety legislation.
Recently, the Supreme Court examined an appeal filed by a homeowner plaintiff who had commissioned a construction company to paint the exterior walls of a cottage. While conducting the work, a painter fell through a hole in the paving. The painter fell several metres into the basement below and tragically, was fatally injured. The hole that caused the accident had previously been covered with boards. However, the boards had been removed by another worker and replaced with polystyrene, which was not strong enough to bear the weight of the painter.
The court of appeal upheld previous rulings which established that the homeowner had a duty of care in relation to the execution of the contract. In this case, the court identified several failures: the absence of a prepared risk assessment plan, the maintenance and risks posed by the opening in to the basement on the walkway around the cottage, the lack of supervision and information given to the workers present on the property at the time of the accident. The court found that these obligations, which are the exclusive competence of an employer, had not been complied with by the homeowner, who was in effect acting as the painter’s employer. While the work was of a “domestic” nature, the court found that the homeowner was not exempt from performing the duties of works manager; that the accident occurred because of the homeowner’s failure to take responsibility for the work and his negligence to act in the role as designated works manager.
In cases such as this, it is therefore crucial to underline the homeowner’s obligation to point out any dangers on site and wherever possible, to provide for their elimination before work starts. A homeowner can only be exempted from liability for accidents if it can be proven that a duty of care has been exercised and all measures have been taken to provide a safe work site.
Thus, it is essential that the building contract includes not only the refurbishment works that represent the object of the contract, it should also indicate that the compliance with safety regulations is delegated to the contractor. In this way it becomes clear, from a legal point of view, that it is the contractor who has the exclusive responsibility for the implementation of safety measures. It is therefore imperative that the building contract is professionally drafted, ensuring that such a sensitive issue is properly addressed.
Whether you are building a new property in Italy, or renovating an existing Italian property, having the right building contract is vital to ensure that everyone involved knows their rights and responsibilities. You might also be interested in reading this article.
De Tullio Law Firm is a legal firm present throughout Italy. We have over 50 years of specialist experience dealing with issues related to property, construction and renovation matters. If you are thinking of undertaking building or refurbishment on your property in Italy, or if you are in a difficult situation concerning liabilities and safety requirements through refurbishment works, we are here to help. Get in touch with us at: firstname.lastname@example.org