Building Defects in Italy. Who Is Liable?

Illegal Construction in Italy (abuso edilizio)

Do you own an Italian property that completely or partially lacks planning permission?

Illegal construction in Italy is not uncommon. The Office for Italian Statistics (ISTAT), estimates that nationally, some 20% of Italian properties are completely illegal builds.

On top of these statistics, many properties are partially illegal. For example, an outbuilding or extension that doesn’t have planning permission.

Before buying any Italian property, you should conduct planning searches in the land registry and municipal planning records. It’s crucial to check that the whole property has all the relevant building consents.

Get Your FREE Guide to Buying Property in Italy

Our PDF guide covers every aspect of the buying process so you're ready to purchase with confidence

Download now

If you are building a property in Italy, you should make sure that you have all the relevant permits and authorisations.

We advise that you seek independent legal advice to avoid the risks of prosecution and buying a property that is later unsaleable.

What is illegal construction?

Illegal construction, “edilizia abusiva” in Italian, is a crime.

If you make changes to a property without relevant consent or, you carry out building work which does not comply with permits, you are breaking the law.

Building work is also illegal if notification of commencement of work notice is missing (comunicazione di inizio lavori, CIL). This is a formal notification by the owner of the property to the municipality regarding the intention to make a change to the internal layout of a building.

There are several categories of illegal construction in Italy

Construction of an entire building without a building permit. This also applies to buildings on land in non-building zones.

An extension to an existing property without a building permit.

Work that diverges from the building permit issued.

A change of use to the property, for instance from business to residential use.

Any internal work without a required CIL notification.

Who is accountable for illegal construction work?

Those at risk of prosecution for Italian planning violations are the person named on a building permit if work is non-compliant with said permit.

Whoever commissioned the work. This may not necessarily be the property owner.

The builder or person who carried out the illegal work or the project manager may also be held liable.

It is also worth noting that if a new owner either commissioned or instigated the vendor to carry out certain illegal work prior to purchasing the property, both parties may be liable.

What are the risks of illegal construction in Italy?

The first possible consequence of commissioning illegal construction is the imposition of an administrative sanction. These vary according to the type of illegal work carried out. Possible administrative sanctions include a demolition order. This would entail removing all illegal building work and restoring the property to its original state.

If the municipality does not issue a demolition order, it may sequester the property and the owner will be given a fine. This will equate to the value of the illegal work or the estimated market value of the work.

Work that diverges from a permit or work done without a CIL notification is subject to a fine. Fines start at 516 Euros. However they can equate to twice the increase in the estimated market value of the property based on the work done.

Provided work complies with planning and building regulations in force at the time the work was carried out, it may be possible to apply for retrospective building permission.

The criminal consequences of illegal construction in Italy

Illegal building work is a criminal act in Italy. As such, it is therefore potentially punishable by arrest and a custodial sentence. More frequently however punishment involves hefty fines.

The penalties vary, depending on the type of crime committed and are in addition to previously mentioned administrative sanctions. More specifically, in the event of non-compliance with building regulations, town-planning laws and building permits, the fine is exclusively pecuniary – up to 10,329 Euros.

In the case where building work differs from a building permit, offenders could face a custodial sentence of up to two years plus a fine ranging from 5,164 to 51,645.00 Euros. Likewise if construction lacks a permit or, despite a work suspension order, work has continued.

Illegal construction on land with no zoning for building purposes can involve a custodial sentence of up to two years and a fine of between 15,493 and 51,64.00 Euros. The same penalty is applicable where illegal building work has been carried out in areas with historical, artistic, archaeological, landscape and/or environmental restrictions.

Finally …

Property buying in Italy is a serious investment. Italy has unique real estate laws and local customs. We recommend having the right team of advisors in place to make your purchasing experience successful. Should you need further information or help concerning illegal construction, please contact us.

You may also like Preliminary Contracts in Italian Property Purchases

Get All Our FREE Guides for Foreigners Planning to Buy, Sell or Live in Italy

Our PDF guides give you all the knowledge you need to move your Italian dream forward with confidence

Download now