Tag Archive for: Italian Property Attorney

Italian Deed of Sale. Buying A Property in Italy

Italian Property Law. What is a deed of sale?

An Italian deed of sale is the final stage in buying real estate in Italy. It completes your property purchase. If you are not familiar with the Italian property purchasing process, you may like to read our free to download guide.

Buying and selling property in Italy requires the assistance of a Notary Public (notaio).

According to Italian law, a notary must remain impartial towards all parties involved in a property transaction.

Notaries work for the Italian State. Their services are not at all the same as engaging your own lawyer to guide you through the process.

Who is liable for detailed property checks and searches prior to completing a deed of sale?

You may think it is the responsibility of your notary to check these matters, however that is absolutely not the case.

Caveat emptor – buyer beware!

You, as the buyer, are responsible for ensuring that you know exactly what you are buying.

The importance of a certificate of habitability

There are some peculiarities involved in Italian property transactions. One of these oddities relates to requirements and details in a certificate of habitability (certificato di abitabilità).

A certificate of habitability is a document attesting a property is fit for purpose. That is to say, the property meets all health, safety and planning regulations and requirements. It is also a useful document for getting utility connections (power, water, etc.). You will also need a certificate of habitability if you need a mortgage, let your property or when you sell up.

It is crucial to check that a certificate of habitability pertains to the entire property, not just part of it

Take for example the case of Mr and Mrs Smith, who purchased a second home in the hills of the Abruzzo countryside. One of the features that attracted the Smiths to the property was the potential to transform the spacious attic into additional accommodation.

According to the deed of sale, the real estate had a certificate of habitability. The Smiths assumed that their notary had checked the details of the certificate. When the Smiths started to plan their project with a local architect, they discovered that the attic was not part of the certificate of habitability. Where did they stand from a legal point of view?

Limitations and obligations of a notary regarding an Italian deed of sale

You may think the Smiths’ is an unusual situation, however over the years, there have been numerous similar cases. Many of these have landed in the Italian courts.

In one case, the buyers of a property sued a notary for professional failure to verify whether a certificate of habitability pertained to the whole property.

The court rejected any professional liability claim against the notary. The buyers appealed, but to no avail. The judgment stated that:

“a notary’s liability is limited to obtaining a vendor’s declaration that the property is fit for purpose”.

A notary is not responsible for checking property details

The buyers further appealed in the Supreme Court. They argued that a notary, in fulfilling his role as guarantor to the certainty and seriousness of property purchase, has a legal obligation to take all necessary steps to ensure that a property purchase is safe and secure.

The Supreme Court rejected the buyers’ appeal. The ruling established precise boundaries regarding a notary’s professional responsibilities. The ruling stated that a notary must conduct land registry and mortgage searches to ensure there are no legal impediments and/or encumbrances.

Where issues come to light, the notary has a duty to inform parties to the transaction. A notary’s obligations cannot however extend to ascertaining, in practice, the existence of qualities that do not affect the marketability of the property.

In other words, a notary must merely verify the existence of a certificate of habitability. The technicalities and details of what a certificate covers are beyond the notary’s remit and liability.

What if there is no certificate of habitability?

Where a property completely lacks a certificate of habitability, the notary must inform the parties of this and outline legal consequences.

If a property doesn’t have a certificate of habitability, it is still marketable. A certificate of habitability endorses that there are no issues that compromise health and safety. However the absence of a certificate is neither an impediment to the sale or purchase of property nor does it affect the validity of a deed of sale.

The notary will however need to stipulate that the buyer agrees to purchase despite the lack of certificate in the deed of sale. The notary may also add a clause designating one of the parties to the transaction as being responsible for obtaining the relevant certificate.

Planning permission, other checks and searches

It is also worth underlining the aspect of planning permission checks. A notary must verify the presence of planning permission for a property. However, a notary is not responsible for ensuring that the property actually complies with the planning permission.

As with the certificate of habitability and other aspects, the onus is on the buyer to conduct searches relating to planning.

Due diligence is key before you sign an Italian deed of sale. Failure to check everything thoroughly can lead to expense and pain later on. It may also impact future saleability of your Italian property.

Finally …

Liability related to an Italian deed of sale, involving not only the selling and buying parties but also a notary public, represents a complex legal matter which can have far-reaching consequences.

For many, buying a property in Italy represents a huge investment. For this reason, it is of the utmost importance to engage an independent lawyer for guidance and to review the Italian deed of sale before you sign it. Such a review is typically inexpensive and serves to make sure your interests are protected.

If you are buying a property in Italy, you should always seek independent legal advice. Should you need further information concerning a deed of sale, please contact our legal professionals at De Tullio Law Firm.

You may also be interested in Estate agents are neither lawyers nor independent. We are both.

Italian Property Transaction? Seek Legal Advice

Don’t Leave Your Italian Property Transaction To Chance …

When buying or selling a property at home, most people wouldn’t dream of doing so without the assistance of a qualified and independent lawyer. Yet in Italy, many buyers and sellers, particularly foreigners, decide not to instruct a lawyer and instead rely on an estate agent to advise them about their Italian property transaction.

Many foreign property buyers find their way to our law practice after encountering serious problems during or after their property transaction. Sadly, some have lost everything.

The reality is that buying an Italian property is an investment. You may not be familiar with the Italian language. Add to this unfamiliar legal, tax and administrative systems and procedures and you are looking at a very complex situation.

Essentially, the need for an experienced, independent lawyer is far greater for your Italian property transaction than when buying property at home.

Italian real estate agents are not qualified to provide legal advice

In many instances, an estate agency will offer to handle all the paperwork for a buyer. With registered and reputable agencies, the intentions are genuine and the conveyancing may well complete satisfactorily. However, estate agents are not trained lawyers. Many have no professional liability or indemnity insurance to cover you in case your property transaction goes wrong or if they miss something crucial.

Real estate agents act on a vendor’s behalf in an Italian property transaction

Also bear in mind that an estate agent is not independent. In fact, they have a potential conflict of interests in offering you advice. Remember that the estate agent is acting for the vendor.

The agent’s primary goal is to sell the property on the seller’s behalf in order to earn their commission. If the sale doesn’t go through because somebody spots an irregularity or a legal problem, the estate agent earns nothing. You, on the other hand, may face a potentially costly and time-consuming ordeal to sort out the issue. You may even expose yourself to prosecution.

Appoint a lawyer in your home country?

As an alternative, some clients look to instruct a lawyer in their home country. However, it is unlikely that the lawyer will have local knowledge of Italy. In addition, it is costly to fly a lawyer to Italy several times in order to conduct searches and checks and to attend completion at a notary’s office.

A lawyer overseas will in all likelihood subcontract the work to a local lawyer in Italy. This may be a lawyer who lacks experience and/ or expertise in cross border and Italian property law.

Because everything needs to go through a number of people, there will inevitably be delays with information and documentation. On top of this, both the foreign and local lawyers will expect to get paid, so in essence, you end up paying twice for the same service.

Finally …

De Tullio Law Firm specialises in Italian and cross border property, inheritance and family legal matters. We are regulated by the Italian Bar Association and a full member of STEP (Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners), the leading worldwide professional body for practitioners in the fields of trusts, estates and related issues.

Our knowledgeable, experienced and multilingual team of professionals manage client cases throughout Italy.

Our clients also benefit from De Tullio Law Firm’s Professional Indemnity Insurance. This is in place should something go wrong during an Italian property transaction due to negligence by our firm. Our clients can however rest assured that in more than 55 years of operations, we have never had to make a claim.

Why leave your property transaction to chance? Get in touch with De Tullio Law Firm. We are here to help make sure your Italian property transaction is a safe and smooth experience.

 

You may also be interested in Buying property in Italy

Selling Property in Italy. A Short Guide

The Italian sales process and possible issues for vendors

When 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.

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.