Tag Archive for: Conveyancing 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 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

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.

Buying 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 property completion money safe

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.

Do all notaries have holding accounts?

The Law of Competition stipulates that a notary must have a holding account 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.

Property in Italy: Avoiding Pitfalls When Buying Italian Property

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

The 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.

 

What Is An Avvocato? Frequently Asked Questions

What does avvocato mean?

The Italian word, avvocato, has three main equivalent terms in English: lawyer, solicitor, attorney.

How long does it take to become an avvocato?

What is an Avvocato?

Left: Giandomenico De Tullio. Managing Partner. Right Giovanni De Tullio. Founding Partner. De Tullio Law Firm.

The path to becoming an avvocato in Italy involves several years of study and internships.

Firstly, future lawyers need to complete a Bachelor’s Degree in law, (Laurea in Scienze Giuridiche), which takes three years.

Secondly, to proceed along the path towards practising law, students require a two-year post-graduate degree (Laurea Specialistica in Giurisprudenza) or, a further five-year Master’s Degree (Laurea a ciclo unico Magistrale in Giurisprudenza).

Thirdly, after attaining the aforementioned qualifications, an avvocato needs to complete a two-year internship at an established law firm.

Finally, in order to practice law, an avvocato must pass the Italian Bar Exam. After registering with the Italian Law Society (Consiglio dell’Ordine degli Avvocati), Italian lawyers can practice Italian law wherever they choose in Italy.

What is an Italian attorney’s scope of legal practice?

The legal competencies of a qualified avvocato are wide-ranging. They comprise all areas of the law: civil, criminal, labour, bankruptcy, financial, administrative, inheritance and succession cases. In addition an avvocato handles court trials and appeals.

Is an Italian avvocato subject to a code of conduct?

A strict ethical code of conduct governs an Italian avvocato and the performance of their duties. Firstly, Italian attorneys must base their conduct on respect for integrity, dignity and decorum. Failure to comply with this ethical code of conduct leads to disciplinary proceedings.

The legal profession demands honesty and integrity. It is not permissible for an Italian attorney to start a legal action or take part in a proceeding, which may be construed as acting in bad faith.

Secondly, the Italian legal code of conduct safeguards the client. An Italian avvocato has a duty of care and loyalty towards a client. An Italian attorney behaving contrary to clients’ interests, or taking on a case that they are not competent to conduct, would be a breach of this code of conduct.

Does client confidentiality exist in the Italian legal profession?

Yes. Another fundamental duty for an Italian attorney is confidentiality. On the one hand this regards the provision of services to a client. On the other hand it pertains to any information given to a lawyer by the client, or which becomes known to the lawyer. Confidentiality remains valid for information about former clients, or where the attorney, despite knowing the details of a case, does not agree to take on a case.

The relationship between an Italian attorney and a client is fundamentally based on trust; an attorney must defend a client’s interests as well as possible within the framework of legal representation and in compliance with the law and the ethical principles of the legal code of conduct.

Finally …

At De Tullio Law Firm, we have extensive knowledge and experience of Italian and international law. For over 55 years, we have been providing expert legal services throughout Italy. Whatever your legal need in Italy, get in touch with us for a free consultation.

You may also be interested in De Tullio Law Firm: celebrating 55 years in practice.

 

Partition of an Italian estate. Inheritance Law

How does the partition of an Italian Estate work?

In this article we explore the partition of an Italian estate. A testator’s estate comprises assets and rights.

Whenever there is more than one heir in an Italian will, this triggers a condition of joint-ownership of rights and duties.

The co-heirs receive the estate in accordance with their inheritance quota.

This quota may be in  accordance with a will or, where the deceased was intestate, in accordance with Italian inheritance law. Beneficiaries inherit not only assets but also take on any liabilities of the testator.

Partition of an Italian estate refers to the division of assets and liabilities between beneficiaries

At this point, it should be noted that each co-heir has the right to request the partition of an estate at any time following the death of the deceased, unless otherwise stipulated in a will.

As a result, all co-heirs, or their successors (legatees), must take part in the partition of an estate. Failure of one or more beneficiaries to participate, will render their rights invalid. As a matter of fact, absentee co-heirs cannot later rectify this.

According to Italian legislation, the partition of an estate can be executed through three methods:

1. Amicable partition

In order to convert co-heirs’ legitimate rights to a quota of the estate into rights on single assets from the estate, an amicable partition can be made. This would be in the form of a contract. The contract then ensures that the value of the assets individually assigned (known as de facto quotas) equate to the value of the joint ownership quotas.

2. Judicial partition

Should co-heirs disagree on the the partition of an estate, each of them can refer it to the courts. A judgment regarding the partition of an estate may include a number of options. For example:

INVENTORY OF THE INHERITED ESTATE

This includes all the assets and/or liabilities left to the co-heirs by the deceased.

APPRAISAL OF ASSETS

This determines the market value of assets. The testator may have nominated a person or organisation in a will to conduct the appraisal. No estimates are necessary if assets belong in the same asset category. However, in other cases, the estimate of individual assets is essential in order to make portions of value corresponding to the quota of each co-heir in the decedent’s will.  If the decedent died intestate, apportionment is according to Italian inheritance law.

POSSIBLE SALE OF INDIVISIBLE ASSETS

Prior to the partition of an Italian estate, it may be necessary to sell real estate property or to assign property to one of the co-heirs in return for payment. Co-heirs would then receive the proceeds to make up their share of inheritance.

3. Testamentary partition

A testator can stipulate in a will, either the portions to assign to each co-heir, or can simply lay down terms in order to set quotas.

Because the effective value of a testator’s assets may not cover the quotas stipulated in a will and co-heirs dispute the partition of an estate, they have the same recourse: amicable or judicial partition.

Finally …

As a co-heir, it may be difficult for you to manage succession procedures or participate in the partition of the estate in Italy. You can confer a Power of Attorney to sign inheritance documents and paperwork. A specialist Italian inheritance lawyer can assist you and will work in your best interests.

You might find De Tullio Law Firm’s comprehensive Guide to Italian Inheritance useful. If you would like to discuss your situation, you can get in touch with us for a free consultation.

You may also beinterested in Accepting an inheritance with the benefit of inventory in Italy

Off-Plan Property in Italy. Preliminary Contract Checklist

Investing in an off-plan property in Italy

Investing in an off-plan property in Italy entails a buyer commiting to buy a property from developer that has not yet been built or that is in the process of construction.

This type of investment hides a number of risks, the major one being that the developer goes into administration during construction of your property and you lose any money you have already invested.

Off-plan property in Italy. Checklist for preliminary contracts

Legislative decree 122/2005 introduced very strict rules concerning buying an off-plan property in Italy. Article 6 of the above mentioned legislative decree states that the preliminary contract for an off-plan property in Italy should contain key elements. A preliminary contract is a legally binding document. Before you sign one, make sure it contains all of the following items.

A full description of the parties to the transaction

Not only the buyer but also the builder and/ or developer.

Property details

Identification details of the property including cadastral plot references.

Property description

A description of the property including outbuildings for the exclusive use of the buyer.

Building permits

Details relating to the building permit or application for a building permit. In addition, the law explicitly requires the mention of any issue associated with the building permit.

Technical specifications

All technical data relating to the building. The law requires a summary of technical specification in the preliminary contract. Full data must be in an attachment (capitolato). These specifications cannot be modified without the agreement of both parties.

Completion

Deadline date for when the construction will be complete.

Payments

Method of payment. Not only the total price but also a payment plan for deposits and installments. Buyers should only use bank transfers or other traceable methods of payment.

Bank guarantee

Full details of the bank guarantee. Buyers should receive the bank guarantee when they sign the preliminary contract. The guarantee should therefore be in place prior to, or at the latest upon signing the preliminary contract.

Loans

All mortgages or other types of loan for the development. Where a mortgage for the whole development is in the name of the construction company or developer, the company must divide it among all the buyers. Unless this is the case, the notary will not legally be able to sign the deed of sale.

Contractors

A full list of the contractors involved in the construction along with proof of their identities.

Checklist for preliminary contract attachments

As attachments to the preliminary contract buyers should also have the previously mentioned full technical specifications of the property. This should detail all the construction materials as well as listing all the agreed finishes and fittings. In addition, there should be a copy of the plan submitted to request building permits.

What if the preliminary contract lacks one of the elements set out in art. 6?

A preliminary contract not in compliance with the requirements of article 6 may be null and void because it breaches Italian legislation.

Since the above mentioned legal requirements are set out in order to protect the interests of the buyer, only the buyer can object to the validity of the preliminary contract.

Finally …

There are a number of risks involved in off-plan purchases. We have written several articles  about off-plan property purchases in Italy. You can use our search tool to find more on the subject of buying an off-plan property in Italy.

At De Tullio Law Firm, we are property law specialists. We operate throughout Italy. We would always recommend that you engage your own lawyer to ensure that you protect your interests. Before signing any off-plan property-related paperwork, including a preliminary contract, you should seek independent legal advice. If you are unsure about any aspect of your off-plan property purchase in Italy, we are here to help.

You may also like to watch our info videos about buying property in Italy.

Off-Plan Property in Italy. The Italian Law

The main risk with off-plan property purchases in Italy

Another in our series on the important issue of off-plan property purchases in Italy. Use our useful search tool to find our other articles on off-plan property purchases.

Investing off-plan is where a purchaser makes a commitment to buy a property from a developer that has not yet been built or is in the process of being built.

This type of investment can hide any number of risks.

The main risk is that if the developer becomes insolvent, the buyer may well end up out of pocket.

Guarantees for Italian off-plan property

Italian legislation provides a number of measures to protect buyers if the developer goes bankrupt. However, the onus is on the buyer to ensure that these protections are in place.

Guarantee on deposits

Law 122/2005 declares the obligation of the developer to offer a surety bond. This provides a guarantee to the buyer for deposits prior to the transfer of ownership of the property.

Furthermore, in accordance with art.1 of Law 122/2005, the developer must offer the surety bond at the latest when the preliminary contract.

All Italian off-plan property purchases must have a preliminary contract. A surety bond must be in place by the time buyers sign the preliminary contract. The developer must clearly reference the surety bond in the preliminary contract. If there is no mention of a surety bond, the preliminary contract is invalid unless, the buyer explicitly expresses that it should prevail.

According to article 2 of Law 122/2005 surety needs to be a bank, an insurance company or a financial broker authorised by the Bank of Italy. The surety bond guarantees the buyer repayment of all money paid as deposits.

In order to request an excussion of the guarantee, the buyer must first formally withdraw from the preliminary contract. A buyer’s written request to withdraw, together with evidence of deposit payments, is sufficient to activate the guarantee. Italian legislation stipulates that the surety provider should refund all deposits within 30 days.

Guarantee for building defects

According to art.3 of Law 122/2005 the surety bond also covers damages arising from building defects. This includes any damage the buyer discovers after signing the deed of sale.

Article 1699 of the Italian civil code covers building defects. The guarantee for defects has a statute of limitations of ten years from the finalisation of the building work in question.

Where the seller is a different legal entity from the developer of the property

The seller is legally required to request a copy of the surety bond from the developer and provide this to the buyer. This is part of the seller’s contractual obligations and must be referenced in the deed of sale.

Finally …

If you are considering investing in off-plan property in Italy, our advice is to engage your own independent legal adviser. Bear in mind that a lawyer recommended by a developer or seller may have a conflict of interests in this matter so we advise you to choose your own lawyer. If you need any help, we are here to help.

For more comprehensive information about the Italian property purchasing process, you might like to read our guide. You may also like to watch our info videos about Italian property law.

 

Off-Plan Properties in Italy. Advice


This article was originally provided by De Tullio Law Firm to the British Consulate in 2011. While the article pertains to a Calabrian case, information is relevant to off-plan properties throughout Italy.

If you are looking for additional information about off-plan properties purchases in Italy, you will find a series of articles on the subject if you use our search tool, including a post here about your legal position regarding delivery delays.

Buying off-plan homes in Calabria

A large number of British citizens who have bought holiday property in Calabria have recently contacted the British Consulate in Naples. Many of these transactions have been completed to the satisfaction of the purchasers but, a significant number have run into difficulties with the lawyers involved or with the developers. The Consulate has drawn the matter to the attention of the Italian authorities who are investigating, but we strongly advise purchasers encountering problems of this sort to seek legal advice about obtaining redress.

Advice for anyone purchasing off-plan properties in Italy

Seek legal advice before signing a contract and paying any money upfront

Once you have signed a preliminary contract, it may be too late. Choose your own independent lawyer. We advise you not to use lawyers recommended by the developer or contractor so as to avoid possible conflicts of interest.

Use an independent Notary Public

You do not have to use the notary proposed by the developer or contractor for the deed of sale. In fact, to avoid possible conflicts of interest, we would advise against this. Choose your own notary.

Remember that the Italian version of the contract will prevail in an Italian court

So, either commission the translation yourself from an independent translator or, get any translation you receive checked by an independent qualified person.

Deposit

The amount you pay as a deposit for an off-plan development should be up to around 10%. Seek legal advice if you are asked for more than that.

Stato avanzamento lavori

As the building work progresses, the developer should accompany any request for further payments with a list of the work done (‘stato avanzamento lavori’). Ask an independent surveyor or architect to check the list before you make any payment. The preliminary contract should include a payment plan.

Surety and guarantee

When you buy an off-plan property, you should receive a bank loan guarantee. This must be an annex to the preliminary contract. If the developer becomes insolvent, this bank loan guarantee will often represent the only protection you have for your investment. If you have already received a bank loan guarantee, have a qualified professional check that it complies with Italian law.

Finally …

At De Tullio Law Firm, we are Italian and cross border property law specialists. We operate throughout Italy. If you are considering investing in off-plan property in Italy, please get in touch with us for a free consultation. We are here to help.

Building Defects in Italy. Who Is Liable?

A professionally drafted contract is your best protection against any faults with Italian construction work


Building defects include the use of shoddy materials, poorly executed work, deviations from an agreed plan or a request for additional money.

The best advice we can therefore offer before you enter into any arrangement with a construction, building or renovation company is to call your legal advisor.

A professionally drafted contract in both English and Italian will prevent a lot of problems, reduce stress and often save you a considerable amount of money.

A summary of Italian legislation covering building defects

The contractor is responsible for defects and unauthorised variation of construction work. If there are visible defects, you should not accept the work. If you do, you lose the right to claim on the guarantee (art. 1667, first paragraph of the Italian civil code).

In order to formally contest the construction work, you should request your legal advisor to notify the contractor through a formal letter of default. If you accept work with visible defects and/or unauthorised variations of work, you will lose the right to trigger the guarantee unless the defects and variations were caused with malicious intent. A contractor is considered to have acted with malice if, despite being aware of the defects and/or variations, the contractor fails to point these out to the client.

Hidden building defects

The acceptance of work does not compromise your guarantee in the case of hidden defects. You can contest hidden defects when you discover them. A client will need a lawyer to take action in order to make a claim on the guarantee. 

– Report the hidden defects within 60 days of their discovery.

– Take legal action within 2 years from the completion of the work.

If a client does not comply with both of the above mentioned obligations the client will lose the cover of the guarantee. In cases where the contractor not only neglects to point out the defects but also acts in a malicious manner to hide the faults, the time limit for legal action extends to 5 years.

Fault of the contractor 

Once the client proves the defects and/or the unauthorised variations, there is a presumption of fault against the contractor. It is then the contractor’s responsibility to prove any absence of negligence.

Guarantees

According to article. 1668 of the Italian civil code, in the case of visible or hidden defects the client has 4 possible courses of action.

– Request correction with the contractor bearing the total cost.

– Request a price reduction.

If variations or building defects are serious the client can:

– Request the termination of the contract and,

– Request compensation for damages.

Responsibility of the contractor for new build properties

Article 1669 of the Italian civil code provides particular regulations for new buildings. For new builds, the contractor is liable for collapse (total or partial), evident danger of collapse or serious defects in construction.

Jurisprudence extends liability to renovation work which can be expected to be durable. This, for example would include roof waterproofing and floor and wall tiling. The contractor’s responsibility increases to a period of 10 years from the date of completion of the work. Any faults should be contested formally with a letter of default drafted by your lawyer to the contractor within 1 year of discovering them.

Italian Law stipulates that the client has one year from the recorded delivery of a letter of default to starting legal proceedings against the contractor. Once the client has highlighted serious defects, there is a presumption of liability against the contractor. The contractor must prove the contrary.

Examples of serious building defects 

There is significant jurisprudence defining the meaning of “serious defects”. In broad terms, the definition of serious defects is work that seriously compromises the use of the property or has a significant impact on essential structural elements such as stability, efficiency and duration of work. Here are some examples of serious building defects classified in Italian jurisprudence:

– Detachment and rupture of a significant number of tiles.

– Defects concerning the roof of the property causing infiltrations of water.

– Faulty heating system.

– Inadequate thermal insulation.

– Faulty plumbing system.

– Defects of the chimney or flue.

Inspecting construction work 

Article 1665 of the Italian civil code provides the client with the option to inspect completed work before signing-off on it. This right of inspection also extends to work in progress. We would recommend that you involve your lawyer and an independent surveyor in this process before accepting any work.

Article 1665 par. 4, states that where the client accepts the work at the point of signing-off without requesting an inspection or without contesting work, there is a presumption that the client has accepted the work. If the client accepts the work without any formal objection, this constitutes an implicit acceptance. As a consequence, the client loses the guarantee for visible defects or unauthorised variations. There is however an exception for malicious or undeclared issues. In addition, acceptance of work means the client must pay the contractor for the work.

Finally …

For problems concerning your Italian property renovation or construction work, please do not hesitate to contact De Tullio Law Firm. We are Italian property law specialists. We offer legal assistance throughout Italy. While it is always best to engage independent legal services prior to starting a renovation or construction project, contacting a lawyer as early as possible in a dispute can often lead to a settlement thus avoiding lengthy and costly litigation in the Italian courts.

 

You may also be interested in Off-Plan Property in Italy: Insurance And Guarantee. In addition, we have a number of info videos that you may like to watch.