Italian Real Estate Agency Services

Italian Real Estate Agency Services

A real estate agents’ role is to connect vendors with buyers

The first step in purchasing a home in Italy is to look for properties that you like. For this, services of a licensed real estate agent provide invaluable support.

Real estate agents facilitate property transactions. They provide relevant information to buyers and vendors. However, Italian real estate agents have no legal obligation to undertake searches of a technical or legal nature (due diligence).

Clearly, a lack of due diligence could in the first instance impact the transaction itself. Further down the line, if you didn’t conduct due diligence prior to buying, you might run into issues. You may discover the property lacks of full or partial planning permission or that renovations do not conform with building regulations. Crucially, a lack of due diligence may effect the future saleability of your property.

Real estate agents in Italy are of course required to disclose information based on the principles of a professional duty of care. This implies an obligation to provide information on any circumstances or issues that potential buyers should know about. Imparting incorrect or false information to an interested party is illegal.

Real estate agents have a duty of care

In 2012, the  Milan Court of Appeal heard a case regarding an estate agency’s duty of care: ruling no. 307 filed on 27th  January 2012.

Clients of a real estate agency took them to court on the grounds that the agent had failed to provide relevant information on adverse encumbrances on a property the clients wished to purchase.

The clients sued the real estate agent for a refund of the €6,000 commission fee they had paid to the agency. They argued that the real estate agency had been derelict in their duty of care. The clients claimed that the real estate agency should have communicated the existence of two mortgage transcriptions on the property. They maintained they would not have signed a reservation offer or a preliminary contract had they known. Signing the latter triggered the commission payment to the real estate agent.

The court dismissed the case.

The onus is on potential buyers to conduct pre-purchase due diligence

In support of the court decision, the judge stated that legal searches did not form part of a real estate agent’s responsibilities. In other words, technical and legal investigations, including land registry, planning, zoning and mortgage searches on a property do not form part of a real estate agent’s remit.

What does Italian law say about the scope of real estate agency services?

Article 1759 of the Italian Civil Code requires real estate agents to notify parties of all known circumstances concerning a property transaction.

In this case,  the real estate agency had done this. They argued that as they had no prior knowledge of the encumbrances, they could not have informed the clients of their existence. The real estate agency had only become aware of the mortgage transcriptions when the clients informed them. The clients had only learned of the encumbrances when they were about to complete the sale.

There was no evidence that the real estate agency had any knowledge of the mortgages. The judge ruled they had not wilfully omitted to advise the clients about the adverse encumbrances. The responsibility for ascertaining this information did not lie with the real estate agent but, with the purchaser.

Article 1176 of the Italian Civil Code states that performance of checks and searches related to a property is not part of the agent’s professional duty of care. Furthermore, estate agents are neither legally responsible, nor qualified, to conduct in-depth due diligence.

Anything pertaining to the legal and technical due diligence of Italian property purchases should therefore be handled by legal and technical professionals.

Real estate agents facilitate the search for an Italian property

However, Italian real estate agents do not provide due diligence services.

When buying or selling a property at home, most people wouldn’t dream of entering into a transaction without the assistance of a lawyer and a surveyor. These are the professionals who conduct legal and technical searches and checks. Yet all too often, we meet foreign buyers who have decided to rely on what an estate agent tells them about a property.

Finally …

The reality is that a property transaction in Italy is an investment. It can quickly become costly – both financially and emotionally if things go wrong. In addition, there are the complexities of the Italian legal, tax and administrative systems. On top of this, there are the language barriers.

Essentially, in order to avoid any problems and before you sign any paperwork, you should engage an experienced, independent lawyer. The need for legal advice is far greater for an overseas transaction than when buying property at home.

De Tullio Law firm specialises in cross-border residential and commercial property transactions in Italy. We recommend that before you sign any paperwork with an estate agent that you seek independent legal advice.

Get in touch if you feel unsure about anything property-related and need advice.

 

You may also be interested in How to get a mortgage in Italy

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 can be a nightmare.

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

Italian Estate Tax

Italian estate tax (imposta di successione)

Italian estate taxAlthough the government abolished Italian estate tax in 2001, it subsequently reintroduced it in 2006.

Italian estate tax is therefore applicable to succession cases prior to October 25, 2001 and those from October 3, 2006 onwards.

In order to comply with the fiscal rules of inheritance law, heirs need in the first instance to file a statement of succession with the Italian tax authorities.

Who is liable for Italian estate tax?

If the deceased was resident in Italy at the time of death, Italian Inheritance Tax applies to the deceased’s worldwide assets. However, if the deceased lived outside Italy, Italian estate tax is only payable on assets located in Italy.

Of course, in order to prevent issues with double taxation, Italy has a number of cross border taxation arrangements in place, including with the UK and the USA.

Unity of inheritance

Italian inheritance law is based on the principle of ‘unity of inheritance’. To clarify this, the law of the country of last domicile deals with any movable assets. Movable assets could, for instance be furniture, cars, jewellery, works of art, bank and post office current accounts, money, investments such as shares, bonds, trust and managed funds.

On the other hand, immovable assets are dealt with according to the law of the country wherever they are located. Examples of immovable assets include houses, shops, buildings, agricultural or building land.

How does Italian estate tax work?

While Italian estate tax appears less onerous, in terms of payments, compared to some other EU Member States, it is nevertheless complex.

In effect, Italian estate tax applies to the net value of the deceased’s estate. This therefore, includes not only movable but also immovable assets.

In addition, equity in non-family businesses and shareholdings in companies are taxable. However, there are exceptions to this.

Indeed, because the range of taxable assets is so broad, it is important to review the balance of ownership of your assets in the above mentioned categories. Above all, if you have children or you stand to inherit assets from an Italian estate.

It may moreover, also be worthwhile considering property ownership changes to protect your assets. In addition, some careful estate planning for the transfer of assets within the family is crucial.

Italian estate Tax on property

As far as a property is concerned, it is important to bear in mind the income value of Italian real estate property. This is calculated on the capitalised cadastral annuity.

In order to ascertain the cadastral value of a property, re-evaluation coefficients are as follows.

– Agricultural land: €112,50

– Buildings – Cat. C/1 and E: € 42,84

– Buildings – Cat. A/10 and D: €63,00

– Buildings – Cat. B: €147,00

– Other buildings: €126,00

– Habitable buildings, primary residences and relative appurtenances: €115,50

Depending on the relationship to the deceased and the category of assets, tax is applied proportionally to individual heirs or legatees.

The table below summarises quotas and exemptions from inheritance tax relating to Italian real estate property:

BENEFICIARY INHERITANCE TAX ASSET CATEGORY REGISTRATION TAX CADASTRAL TAX
Spouse and/or Children Value of assets & rights: 4%

Below €1 million value, tax-exempt.

  • Primary Residence
  • Other property
  • Other assets
€200

2%

€ 168

1%

Siblings Value of assets & rights: 6%

Below €1 million value, tax-exempt.

  • Primary Residence
  • Other property
  • Other assets
€200

2%

€ 168

1%

4th Degree Relative Value of assets & rights: 6%
  • Primary Residence
  • Other property
  • Other assets
€200

2%

€ 168

1%

Other Value of assets & rights: 8%

 

  • Primary Residence
  • Other property
  • Other assets
€200

2%

€ 168

1%

Additionally, in accordance with the Italian Disabilities Act, the threshold from which disabled beneficiaries are liable for inheritance tax is €1.5 million.

Furthermore, quotas mentioned in the table above also apply to lifetime use (usufruct) of a property title deed.

What is excluded from Italian inheritance tax?

As previously mentioned, according to Italian inheritance tax law, certain categories of assets are exempt from Italian inheritance tax. These include government bonds and unit linked whole of life insurance policies. Additionally, shareholdings in family businesses and certain charitable donations are exempt.

EU regulations

Choice of law

In addition to Italian inheritance law, it is also worth mentioning EU succession regulations introduced in 2015.  In brief, these regulations provide testators with an opportunity to amend the Italian principle of unity of inheritance.

As a result of EU succession regulations, non-Italians who are resident in Italy can make a choice of law in their will. In other words, a testator can stipulate that they want the law of their own country, or nationality, to govern their Italian-based assets.

Furthermore, EU regulations do not restrict the choice of law to EU nationals resident in Italy. For example, a US national could nominate US law to apply to the succession of their property in Italy.

It should however be mentioned, that nominating a country law needs careful consideration. Given that a testator needs to take in to account matters such as foreign matrimonial regimes, usufruct, tax consequences, joint ownership structures and other foreign proprietary rights with respect to an estate, it would be wise to seek advice before acting.

European Certificate of Succession

In order to facilitate cross border successions, an additional benefit of the EU succession regulations is the European Certificate of Succession. While this document is issued by the relevant authority dealing with the succession, heirs, legatees, executors and administrators of an estate can use it to prove their status and thereby exercise their rights or powers in other EU Member States.

Finally …

As can be seen, Italian inheritance is a complex matter. While there are actions that you can take to mitigate the impact of Italian inheritance tax law on estates, because each case is different, you should seek professional support and advice.

At De Tullio Law Firm, we have over 55 years of expertise managing cross border succession and estate planning matters throughout Italy. Our firm is also a full member of STEP, the world’s leading association for trust and estate practitioners.

Please contact us if you have any estate tax questions or if would like to discuss your situation.

You may also be interested in Inheritance Law and Taxes

Selling Property in Italy. A Short Guide

The Italian sales process and possible issues for vendors

A Short Guide To Selling Property in ItalyWhen selling property in Italy, certain legal issues need serious consideration. Due to differences in legal systems, a real estate transaction in Italy can appear like a difficult and protracted process for foreign investors.

The Italian law is complex. If you don’t fully understand how it works, you may expose yourself to risks. Considering the high stakes involved in a real estate transaction, you should seek legal advice. You should always choose your own lawyer to avoid possible conflicts of interest.

Selling property in Italy is organised in three stages:

  1. Marketing and Reservation offer
  2. Negotiation and signature of the preliminary contract
  3. Completion of the sale

The first stage is to put the property on the market

Vendors can market a property themselves or through an estate agency

If you are considering appointing an Italian real estate agent, it is important to ensure that the agent is qualified and registered with the local Chamber of Commerce. Registration not only guarantees the professional qualification of real estate agents but also ensures they have professional indemnity insurance.

Unregistered estate agencies could be liable to prosecution for carrying out a reserved activity. This carries the risk of fines and other penalties such as not being entitled to commission fees. The agent is in fact, usually paid a commission (Provvigione) both by the buyer and the vendor. Such a commission is negotiable but generally equivalent to 3% of the sale price.

Frequently, real estate agencies require foreign nationals to sign their standard terms of engagement. These need careful evaluation before signing. It is of course key to assess terms and conditions of the brokerage fees. In addition, however, it is important to understand minimum sales price, duration of the mandate and its exclusivity.

Reservation offer

If a potential buyer chooses your property, they would generally sign the first legally binding document called a, “reservation offer”. If you accept the offer, you need to sign off on it and return it to the buyer. In addition, the buyer should pay a small deposit. The reservation offer effectively removes the property from the market for a period of time.

Due diligence

During the period the property is off the market, the buyer should start the legal due diligence process. This means carrying out checks and searches. It should include surveys, planning and local authority (Comune, Building and Land Registry) searches. Checking local planning, zoning and building regulations is also important.

Amongst others, the buyer will want to ascertain the following points prior to moving on to the next stage of the purchase process.

  • The property exists. It is as in the description and, the seller has the legal right to sell the property.
  • There are no mortgages/charges or any third party rights or other undisclosed encumbrances affecting the property.
  • The property complies with all local planning, zoning and building regulations. Or, where relevant, building plans have consent from the Local Authority (Comune).
  • The property is fit for human habitation, unless selling to reconstruct. A certificate to this effect (Certificato di abitabilità) should be available.
  • The seller has complied with all the relevant Italian tax legislation by lodging tax returns and paying income tax (Imposta sui Redditi), which may have been due in the previous tax years. In default of this requirement, the property may legally be unsaleable. If the vendor is a trader or a company, they should not be bankrupt (Fallito), and no application to this effect should be pending against them.
  • Where the property is in an apartment building (Condominio), all service charge payments should be up to date.

The second stage is negotiating and signing a preliminary contract (Compromesso)

When selling property in Italy, the vendor must ensure that all the statements contained in the contract are true to the best of their knowledge. This means full disclosure regarding the property. Any specific enquiries raised by the buyer must be addressed truthfully.

Preliminary contract deposit

Generally, signing a preliminary contract entails the buyer paying a deposit. This can range between 10% and 30% of the sales price of the property. The implication of such a payment is that in the event the purchaser subsequently backs out of the preliminary contract, the purchaser will automatically lose the whole deposit. Should the seller breach the preliminary contract by backing out, they are required to refund the buyer double the amount of the deposit. In addition, further sums may be payable, if there is proof that damages exceed the amount of the deposit.

Italian law states that both parties to a prospective transaction must act in good faith

Prior to signing a preliminary contract, the seller must provide the buyer, or their legal advisers, with copies of all documentation relating to the property. In addition, the seller must inform them of any material fact which may affect the decision of the buyer to proceed with the purchase of the property.

It is important to ensure that the property complies with all applicable planning and building regulations. Any breach of this legislation may result in the rescission of the purchase contract and heavy penalties. Where the seller has applied for a planning amnesty (Condono Edilizio), the prospective buyer should receive copies of the relevant documentation.

Certificate of habitability

Note that before or at the latest upon completion,  the seller must produce the property’s certificate of habitability (Certificato di abitabilità). The local municipality is responsible for issuing a certificate. It confirms compliance of all the systems installed in the property with Italian law and in respect of the relevant health and safety regulations. This certificate is mandatory. It goes without saying that it is, therefore, advisable for the seller to obtain this certificate prior to signing a preliminary contract and payment of the relevant deposit. Otherwise, the seller may run the risk that the transaction falls through. This would put the seller in a position of breach of contract.

To avoid possible claims and penalties, should a certificate of habitability not be available on exchange of contracts, the seller should disclose the issue prior to signing a preliminary contract and the contract should state either that the buyer is renouncing receipt of the certificate of habitability or alternatively that completion of the purchase is conditional on the seller obtaining this certificate.

Mortgages

If the property is subject to a mortgage, the seller has a duty to redeem the same and cancel the corresponding entry on the Local Land Registry before completion of the sale.  If the buyer is purchasing the property using a mortgage, it is advisable to finalise all the arrangements before signing a preliminary contract. However, this process may become expensive and protracted for the prospective buyer.

Pre-emption rights when selling property in Italy

Particular care should be taken if the sale is a villa or land with statutory farming pre-emption rights (Prelazione agraria) by owners or tenants or immediate neighbours in agricultural areas in Italy. According to Italian law, farmers, tenants and neighbours are entitled to be notified of a proposed sale of a property to third parties. They have first option on buying agricultural land in their immediate neighbourhood. Therefore, immediately before, or if this isn’t possible, after signing the preliminary contract, it will be necessary for the seller to serve a copy of the contract on all parties having pre-emption rights, so that any person with an interest can declare within the statutory term (usually 30 days).

It is important to ensure full compliance with this legislation. A breach of statutory farming pre-emption rights may result in a claim on the property. Anyone making a claim can do so up to a year after the sale. This in turn, would give the buyer a legal claim against the seller.

Breaches can have serious consequences

Essentially, at this stage, the seller should disclose any breaches pertaing to the property as well as proof of remedial action.  This includes any missed tax payments and outstanding breaches or notices from relevant authorities.

These are just some of the points to take into consideration, but there are many others. All have potentially serious consequences for the vendor. It is therefore important that the vendor acts in good faith. A claim for damages based on misrepresentation is just one of the consequences that the seller should aim to avoid.

Selling property in Italy. The third stage: completing the sale

This usually takes place in the offices of a notary (Notaio). In Italy, vendors and purchasers often use the same notary, but you are perfectly within your rights to have your own notary.

A notary must oversee completion of Italian property transactions

Italian Notaries are officials entrusted by the law to transfer the legal title of an Italian real estate. They have a duty to correctly draft the Deed of Sale (Rogito), to ensure its proper execution and registration. In addition, on behalf of the Italian State, they collect payment of all Italian taxes ancillary to the completion.

While notaries are qualified lawyers, Italian law prohibits them from acting on behalf of any of the parties involved in a transaction. They must remain impartial. Only your own lawyer may offer legal advice to protect your interests.

Before completion the vendor should provide the Title Deeds. This could be the Purchase Deed, or the Italian Inheritance Tax Return lodged with the tax authorities. The vendor will also need to produce all the relevant documentation pertaining to the property. This includes for example, planning and building licenses. And, if the sale is of a building, rather than land, an Energy Performance Certificate and a certificate of Habitability.

All parties have a legal duty to provide the notary with information regarding the sale price and the appointed estate agency. This information will appear in the Deed of Sale, in the form of a solemn affirmation under oath (Dichiarazione sostitutiva di atto di notorietà). If this information is missing, incorrect or incomplete, the parties risk a harsher form of taxation on the sale of the property, plus substantial fines.

Fiscal matters

If the vendor benefits from “prima casa” (first home) fiscal reductions, there will be a penalty to pay if resale takes place within five years of the original purchase. The seller can however avoid penalties if they buy a new residential property in Italy within one year of the sale.

Following completion, the seller may be subject to Italian capital gains tax. However, no tax is usually levied if the vendor has owned the property for more than five years.

Finally …

As a general rule, it is wise to familiarise yourself with the legal framework regulating international property sales. If you are thinking of selling property in Italy and would like more detailed information, you might like to read the full version of our Selling Italian Property Guide.

For over 55 years, De Tullio Law Firm has been providing international clients with independent legal advice throughout Italy. We are specialists in cross border property, inheritance and family law.

If you are in need assistance selling property in Italy, we are here to help. We can guide you through the whole process or even organise the whole process on your behalf. Get in touch with us for a free preliminary consultation.

 

 

 

Buying An Italian Property. A Short Guide

This short guide aims to cover the key elements of the Italian purchasing process

For a more in-depth explanation, you may wish to read our comprehensive Italian Property Buying Guide.

Italian Property Buying GuideBuying an Italian property proceeds through 3 key stages:

– Proposta irrevocabile d’acquisto (Reservation offer)

– Contratto preliminare di vendita (Preliminary contract)

– Atto di vendita (Deed of sale)

Once you have chosen your property you should engage the services of a solicitor, whether you buy through a real estate agent or directly from the vendor.

The knowledge that an Italian solicitor has about Italian real estate law is invaluable – plus, your own solicitor is there exclusively to look after your interests.

The first stage. Reservation offer

When buying an Italian property, the first document you will have to sign is a, “proposta irrevocabile d’acquisto” (reservation offer). This is normal practice when purchasing through an estate agent

In contrast, when purchasing directly from the seller (a private sale) a reservation offer is unusual. The implications of dispensing with a reservation offer is one of the many reasons why you should seek legal advice.

By signing the proposta irrevocabile d’acquisto, you secure the removal of the property from the market for a limited period of time, normally 15 days.

It is important to highlight that a reservation offer is only binding upon the buyer when formal written acceptance of the offer has been received from the vendor. Once the agreement has been signed by both parties, it becomes a legally binding contract.

First deposit

You will need to pay a small deposit, which is normally held by the estate agent or solicitor until the vendor has formally accepted the reservation offer.

Should you finalise the purchase, this deposit becomes a part payment of the purchase price. If the seller does not formally accept the offer, your deposit will be refunded.

Due diligence

While the property is off the market, your solicitor, assisted by a surveyor, will make all the necessary searches to ascertain that the property doesn’t have any debts, mortgages, claims etc. Due diligence checks and searches ensure there will be no unpleasant and possibly costly surprises during or after the purchase.

The second stage of buying an Italian property. Preliminary contract

Normally at this stage, buyer and seller having agreed to go ahead with the conveyance, will formalise their agreement through a “contratto preliminare di vendita” (preliminary contract)

Some estate agents (and especially in the case of private sales) choose, or recommend, leaving out this part of the purchase process. However, this legal document really is essential. It sets out the detailed terms and conditions of the sale.

Estate agents often use boilerplate preliminary contract templates. These may not be suitable for your personal situation. Your purchase may be subject to certain terms and conditions. For example, you may have come across some structural issues during due diligence and want to make your purchase contingent on a surveyor’s report. This condition would need to be in the preliminary contract. A solicitor can draft the contract, or at least to examine the estate agent’s template and advise you on any implications before you sign it.

Second deposit

One of the essential legal elements of the preliminary contract is the payment of a deposit (caparra confirmatoria). This is normally equivalent to a minimum of 10% of the purchase price.

If you back out of the contract without a valid legal reason, you will lose this deposit. On the other hand, if the seller changes their mind about the sale, they will have to refund your deposit in full. You would also have the right to claim an amount equal to the deposit through the Italian courts.

In the preliminary contract, the parties also set the date to finalise the conveyance in front of the public notary.

The third Stage of buying an Italian property. Completion of the sale

By law a notary must oversee Italian property transactions. The notary is a public official who has State authority to validate contracts transferring the ownership of a property. The notary is also responsible for paying all land registry fees and cadastral taxes.

A notary must remain absolutely impartial

A notary may not therefore offer legal advice to any party involved in a property transaction. The notary cannot therefore act as a substitute for a solicitor in terms of representing the interests of the buyer.

In order to ensure you have proper legal safeguards, the only way is to engage the services of an independent solicitor. Only by having your own solicitor, can you be confident that no unpleasant surprises will be revealed at this late stage of the purchase process.

Deed of sale

Buying an Italian property concludes with the, “atto di vendita” (deed of sale).

The deed of sale is drafted by the notary and has to be fully compliant with the preliminary contract. In other words, the preliminary contract dictates all the essential elements of the transaction.

Translation

Should any of the parties not understand the Italian language, Italian law requires a translation of the deed of sale. Unless you have an Italian solicitor who speaks your language, the notary may also require that a qualified translator be present at the signing.

Unlike a translator, the advantage of having a solicitor with you is that should any last-minute legal issues arise at the signing, your solicitor will be able to immediately resolve these.

You should be aware that the Italian version of the deed will prevail in a court of law if any issues arise at a later stage.

Signing day

On the appointed signing day, all parties to the transaction convene, usually at the notary’s office. The notary reads the deed aloud and all parties then sign it in front of the notary. Once signed, the buyer pays the balance of the purchase price to the seller and the new owner receives the keys of the property.

New owners can collect a copy of the deed from the notary approximately one month after the signing. It takes approximately one month to register the deed at the relevant land registry office.

If the buyer cannot be present to sign the deed of sale in front of the notary, the buyer can give a power of attorney to their solicitor. This will permit the solicitor to sign the deed of sale on the buyer’s behalf.

Finally …

As a general rule, it is wise to familiarise yourself with the legal framework regulating international property sales.

For over 55 years, De Tullio Law Firm has been providing international clients with independent legal advice throughout Italy. We are specialists in cross border property, inheritance and family law.

If you would like further information about buying an Italian property, we are here to help. We can guide you through the whole process or even organise the whole process on your behalf. Get in touch with us for a free preliminary consultation.

Buying an Italian property. Glossary
  • Proposta irrevocabile di vendita: An initial formal offer with a small deposit. It contains the price you are willing to offer and any conditions.
  • Contratto preliminare di vendita: This contract sets out, in detail, the terms and conditions of the sale and also all the relevant cadastral and land registry information. Also called a, “Compromesso”.
  • Caparra confirmatoria: Italian Civil Code regulates this deposit under art.1385 of the. If a deposit is defined as a “caparra confirmatoria” its payment gives rise to legal rights and obligations on both parties.
  • Atto di Vendita: All parties sign the deed of sale in front of a public notary. The buyer makes outstanding balance of payment and receives the keys to the property. Also called a, “Rogito”.

Holding Accounts in Italy. Property Completion funds

Keep your money safe

Keep Your Money Safe in Italy: Notarial Holding Accounts for Your Italian Property Purchase On 29th August 2017, Italian legislation saw the introduction of holding accounts. The legislation governing payment for the purchase of Italian residential and commercial real estate is part of the Italian Law of Competition.

The law aims to provide better protection to both property buyers and sellers.

Holding accounts are applicable to funds for the completion of the purchase of Italian property. Deposits connected with a reservation offer and preliminary contracts are not subject to this legislation.

The buyer and/ vendor must request their chosen notary to use a holding account. In other words the notary doesn’t automatically use holding accounts.

In addition, the buyer can request the notary to keep funds in a bonded account. Again, the onus is on the buyer to specifically request that the notary use bonded holding accounts. As this may generate problems with the seller, we would recommend that the preliminary contract include a clause that all parties authorise the notary to hold completion funds in bonded holding accounts.

How do holding accounts work?

The buyer acquires legal ownership of the property at the signing of the deed of sale. However, by using a holding account, the notary will delay payment until after registration of the deed.

Following signature by all parties to the transaction, the notary has 30 days to register the deed of sale with the relevant land registry authorities.

Once registration of the deed takes place, the buyer can be certain that the purchase has been completed smoothly. Tranfer of funds to the vendor can then take place.

Keeping funds in holding accounts therefore provides protection to the buyer between signing the deed of sale and its registration.

Between signing and registering the deed, adverse entries pertaining to the property can come to light. Issues might include outstanding debts, mortgages, encumbrances, court applications for seizures and foreclosures.

The Law of Competition states that when purchasing property, all outstanding payments by the buyer to the seller should be kept in dedicated holding accounts belonging to a notary. This sum also includes any amounts the vendor may require to settle liabilities. For instance, the vendor may still be paying off a mortgage on the property. In this case, the buyer would pay the entire balance of payment for the property into the notary’s holding account. However, a part of this will serve to redeem and cancel the vendor’s mortgage lender once the purchase is complete.

Can all notaries hold money?

The Law of Competition stipulates that a notary must have holding accounts in which the notary can receive funds from clients for the delayed payment of real estate property.

A notary has no entitlement to any interest accruing to these holding accounts. Nor can a notary use funds for any other purpose than the payment of a particular property.

Furthermore, if a notary has debts, creditors can not foreclose on money deposited in holding accounts. Should the notary die, any funds in holding accounts do not constitute part of the notary’s estate. And in the event of death, funds do not form part of the notary’s matrimonial property regime.

Finally …

If you are looking for further information about the Italian property purchasing process, you might find our comprehensive guide helpful, or if you need independent legal advice,  please get in touch for a free consultation.

 

You may also find Buying Property in Italy useful.

Buying an Italian property: how to avoid pitfalls

Buying an Italian property should be exciting but, it can also be a complex process

Buying an Italian property: how to avoid pitfallsThe best way to protect your investment when buying an Italian property is to engage an English-speaking Italian lawyer. Instructing an independent, English-speaking Italian lawyer could save you money and stress in the long run.

Choosing the right Italian lawyer is a very important decision. Make sure you instruct an independent English-speaking lawyer, who has experience advising international clients in relation to property purchases in Italy.

Your Italian property lawyer should:

Be independent. Make sure the lawyer is not connected in any way to the estate agent, developer or seller. An independent lawyer will exclusively look after your interests and not the interests of the estate agent or developer. You should find your own lawyer rather than taking recommendations from an estate agent or using a developer’s in-house lawyer.

Speak English. Unless you are a fluent Italian speaker, your lawyer should be English-speaking. You need to know that when you ask a question, your lawyer can fully understand and answer in a way you fully understand. There is no point in paying for advice that you don’t understand.

Have Professional Indemnity Insurance. You should check that your lawyer has adequate insurance. Should any problems arise as a result of advice you receive, you can be certain you are covered.

Why should you instruct a lawyer if you are buying an Italian property?

It is impossible to evaluate a property just from viewing it. By instructing a lawyer you will have a better understanding of the property and the Italian purchase process.

Your lawyer can:

Guide you through the Italian buying process and the obligations of each party.

Check the property title, carry out checks and searches on the property before you sign any paperwork, which may well have binding financial and legal implications.

Arrange structural and geological surveys.

Review the purchase contracts to ensure that everything is as it should be and that your position is protected.

Advise about any inheritance and tax issues that may affect you. This is particularly important in Italy which has rules of ‘forced heirship’.

Help you make a Will to cover your Italian property, which is advisable in planning the succession of your assets.

Assist with matters such as Italian residency, tax codes, setting up a bank account or utility contracts for a property following purchase.

What is the role of the notary in an Italian property transaction?

An Italian notary (Notaio) is a legal representation of the Italian Government. Whilst they are part of the legal profession, it is important to ensure that you do not confuse the role of your lawyer with that of a Notaio.

The role of the Notaio in Italy is to oversee the property transaction, to collect the appropriate tax on behalf of the Italian State and to register the property in the Italian Land Registry. Legally a Notaio must remain impartial in the property purchase. A Notaio cannot, therefore, act on behalf of the buyer or the seller. You should instruct your own independent Lawyer to advise you specifically in relation to your property purchase and related issues.

Do I need to give my Italian lawyer Power of Attorney?

If you are not going to be in Italy during the purchasing process, it is a good idea to provide your lawyer with a Procura Speciale – a Limited Power of Attorney. This is a legal document that gives another person authority to act on your behalf, for example, to sign a property purchase contract.

Conferring a Power of Attorney to another person gives significant power to act on your behalf. You should therefore be comfortable that you fully understand what you are agreeing to, that you are happy with the wording of the document and that your agent is competent and trustworthy.

Finally …

Buying a property in Italy is a complex matter. With our extensive knowledge and experience of Italian and international law, we provide expert conveyancing services throughout Italy. If you are purchasing an Italian property, get in touch with us for a free consultation.

 

Reserved Acceptance – Italian Inheritance

Debts on an Italian inheritance

Accepting an Italian inheritance also implies taking on responsibility for any debts the decedent leaves. Heirs risk having to paying any debts they inherit from their own pockets. For this reason, Italian law confers a choice of whether to renounce or accept an inheritance. There is however, also a third way to mitigate risks: reserved acceptance. To illustrate the concept of reserved acceptance, below we provide a brief case study on this matter.

Silvia and Eric Jones owned a property in Liguria and were resident in Italy for many years. Sadly, in close succession, Silvia and Eric died.

The Jones’ sons, Larry and Tom, got in touch with De Tullio Law Firm about their parents’ Italian Wills. They had concerns regarding what happens when heirs are unsure exactly what they are inheriting. Larry and Tom believed that their parents had a lot of debts. They worry they will have to pay these debts if they accept the inheritance.

Because heirs have the possibility to accept an inheritance using reserved acceptance – “beneficio d’inventario”, it means that Larry and Tom will only be liable to pay their parents’ debts on any sum they inherit.

What is reserved acceptance?

If you are an heir, but you are unsure whether the inheritance contains more liabilities than assets, you can use, “beneficio d’inventario” (reserved acceptance). This avoids any merger between your estate and the decedent’s. Thus you will not be liable to pay off the decedent’s debts with your own money.

If, for example, you inherit €10,000, compared to a debt of €20,000, you will only be liable to pay the debt on the sum you have inherited, namely the €10,000.

Reserved acceptance is however not a good idea if an heir is certain that liabilities outweigh inherited assets (unless the heir wishes to pay debts in order to honour the decedent’s memory). Where certainty of debt exists, renouncing the inheritance is a more appropriate solution.

It is worth mentioning that certain people have to accept an inheritance through “beneficio d’inventario”. These people include minors under the age of eighteen, people in care and legal entities, including the State, associations and foundations.

How does reserved acceptance work?

You need a notarial deed for reserved acceptance. Alternatively, you can make a declaration to a clerk of the court in the district where the decdent had their last domicile.

Finally …

At De Tullio Law Firm, we have over 55 years of expertise managing cross border succession and estate planning matters throughout Italy. Our firm is also a full member of STEP, the world’s leading association for trust and estate practitioners.

If you are unsure about any aspect of an Italian inheritance, please contact us. We will be happy to provide you with more detailed information.

Inheritance Law in Italy

Italian Inheritance Law – An Overview

Property Inheritance Laws in ItalyInheritance law in Italy follows the Roman Law principle. This means it provides some protection to close members of the family. This therefore, partially limits the right of the testator to dispose of assets.

Testamentary Succession consists of the assignment of hereditary assets in compliance with the wishes of the testator as set out in an Italian Will. In the absence of a Will, inheritance devolves following the principles of Legal Succession.

The rights of heirs in Italian inheritance law

Where there is no Will, succession law gives rights to a number of legitimate heirs to the assets of the deceased. These heirs are the spouse of the deceased and relatives that the law identifies as starting from closest kin to those up to a 6th degree of connection.

Inheritance law in Italy reserves a significant quota of an inheritance to very close relatives. The deceased’s spouse, registered partner, ascendants and descendants are all known as, “forced heirs”. This means that the testator cannot exclude them even if there is a Will. When drafting an Italian will, the testator is only able to dispose of a part of his assets. The testator can assign this, “disposable quota” to non-relatives.

The basis of Italian inheritance law is unity of inheritance. This distinguishes between moveable and non-moveable assets.

To clarify, the law of the country of last domicile deals with any movable assets. Movable assets could, for instance be furniture, cars, jewellery, works of art, bank and post office current accounts, money, investments such as shares, bonds, trust and managed funds.

On the other hand, the law of the country where an immovable asset is located applies. Examples of immovable assets include houses, shops, buildings, agricultural or building land.

Therefore, the law of the country where a property is located will apply, unless in accordance with EU Regulations, a choice of country law is stipulated in a will.

The Italian succession procedure formally ends when all assets, rights and pending payments have been transferred to the rightful heirs either by mutual agreement or as consequence of judicial proceedings.

Finally …

For more in depth information about Italian succession, you might find our Succession Guide useful. If you would like to discuss a case, you can reach us here for a free consultation.

Cross border inheritance in Italy

Italian inheritance law

Cross border inheritance in ItalyMany of our clients own property at home and here in Italy. We frequently receive questions about how cross border inheritance in Italy works.

Law no. 218 of 31st May, 1995 regulates the field of Italian inheritance law in the framework of international private law.

Habitual residence of the deceased at the time of death determines the national law which governs succession.

Italian Inheritance legislation adopts the principle of “unity of inheritance”. This principle differs substantially compared to legislation in common law countries. Italian law makes a distinction between a division of movable and immovable assets. Movable assets are subject to the law of the last domicile or last residence of the decedent. Immovable assets are subject to “lex rei sitae” (law of the country where property is located).

One of the most important consequences of asset divisions is that, if a decedent’s estate includes properties located in different countries, the succession of each individual property could be regulated by the law of the country where the property is located.

Cross border deferment to the law of another country

Italian rules governing conflicts of law consider the possibility that the national law of a deceased foreigner might defer to the law of another country.

Here is a practical example. A deceased English national resident in England owned property in Italy. The law of England and Wales therefore governs succession. However, in accordance with the conflict of law of England and Wales, the law applicable to properties abroad is, “lex rei sitae (law of the country where the property is located). This means, Italian succession law governs the assets in Italy.

In 2015, the EU introduced regulations whereby a testator can elect which country law should regulate all assets. This could be the law of the country in which the testator is habitually resident or the country of the testator’s nationality. This choice of law has to be formally expressed in a Will. In addition, it must not prejudice the rights that the Italian law provides for forced heirs, “legittimari”. These are members of family, resident in Italy when the testator dies. Although it may be against the testator’s wishes, forced heirs must receive a legally determined share of the estate.

An Italian will is the best option to manage cross border inheritance in Italy

If you own assets at home as well as in Italy, it is highly advisable to draft an Italian Will for your Italian assets. In order to limit the consequences of “legal succession”, you should seek legal advice in this matter.  If a decedent died intestate, that is without a Will, Italian Inheritance law determines which relatives of the deceased have a right to inherit an estate. This will primarily be the spouse, the legitimate and natural children, and any ascendants. Where no heirs are traceable, Italian assets go to the Italian State.

Finally …

If you would like more details about Italian succession law and procedures, we have produced a comprehensive Italian Inheritance Guide, which we hope you will find helpful. If you would like to discuss a specific case, we are here to help.