Tag Archive for: Law Firms in Italy

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.

Real Estate Transaction in Italy. Legal Translations

An accurate understanding of the Italian legal system is essential for a translator dealing with an Italian real estate transaction


All legal documents relating to an Italian real estate transaction must be in Italian, regardless of the nationality of the parties.

Italian legal writing is highly technical, ritualistic and often archaic due to close links with Roman Law. Legal language can seem obscure for people without a solid legal background in Italian law. 

There are huge differences between Common Law and Italian Civil Law. This can add to the confusion. In fact, there are legal concepts in Roman Law that simply do not exist in Common Law and vice versa. There are concepts bearing the same name in the two systems but with different meanings.

An accurate understanding of legal systems and processes is therefore essential for translators or interpreters dealing with Italian real estate transactions. Translators require an in-depth knowledge of specialist terminology as well as knowledge of legal concepts. 

This is why you should never sign a legal document without a lawyer to explain commitments in your own language.

Italian versions of contracts prevail in a court of law 

Italian real estate agents often use pre-printed contracts with an English translation. In reality, these translations are rarely faithful and can often be misleading for the buyer. It’s important to underline that in case of litigation, the Italian version of any contract will always prevail in a court of law.

In the most crucial completion phase of the real estate transaction, you will have to sign the deed of sale in the presence of a public notary. The Italian law requires the presence of an interpreter if one or more parties does not speak fluent Italian.

Our advice is to make sure that your interpreter is qualified not only from a linguistic point of view, but also in terms of legal background.

Another crucial aspect to bear in mind is the independence of the interpreter in order to avoid any conflict of interest. This precludes using the real estate agent, a relative or a friend of any parties involved in the transaction.

Finally …

Engaging a bilingual property lawyer will ensure you have the right expertise throughout your Italian real estate transaction. Your lawyer will always make sure you have a full understanding of all documents before you sign them. In addition, a lawyer can act as your interpreter to explain all the legal ramifications. If you need any assistance with your property purchase in Italy, Please get in touch.

Insurance Policy for Off-Plan Properties

What defects does an off-plan insurance policy cover?

In accordance with article 4 of legislative decree 122/2005, a construction company must provide off-plan property buyers with an insurance policy.

Essentially, this is a guarantee which covers any serious construction defects. The guarantee should provide 10 years of cover.

Off-plan buyers should obtain the insurance policy when the transfer of ownership takes place.

Because by law, a notary public must handle completion of Italian property conveyancing, we would advise you to request that the notary explicitly references the insurance policy in your deed of sale.

What constitutes a serious construction defect?

The notion of serious construction defects has developed substantially over time. This is thanks, in large part, to jurisprudence. Originally, the notion only included defects involving prejudice to the safety and stability of the property.

However, nowadays, the notion has a wider meaning. It therefore includes all defects that can be defined as provoking significant detriment to the use of the property. Consequently, the guarantee should cover any damage that might impact the owner’s regular, day-to-day use of the property.

Does the insurance policy also cover the use of poor quality materials?

If the construction defect impacts on the regular use of the property, it may involve secondary elements of the construction. Thus, if the fault inhibits an owner’s ability to live in the property and implies maintenance work, the use of poor or inadequate materials may also constitute a serious defect.

For example, floor tile detachment in some areas of a property may constitute a slip and fall hazard. Another example could be poor sealing of the roof which allows water ingress. Both examples clearly demonstrate that the notion of serious construction defects is quite broad.

Who can make a claim on an off-plan insurance policy?

The law limits the right to make a claim on a serious defect insurance policy to buyers who are private individuals. According to a more restrictive interpretation of the law, the buyer should be a “consumer”. In other words, an owner can only claim on the insurance policy if they purchased the property for personal use. The insurance policy excludes tenanted, entrepreneurial or professional use of the property.

Finally …

There are many risks related to buying off-plan property in Italy. We have written a number of posts on the subject, which you can access using our search tool.

Off-plan property purchases in Italy are complex. There are many hidden risks. We would therefore always advise that you seek independent legal advice before signing any documents or paperwork.

De Tullio Law Firm can advise and guide you throughout your Italian property purchasing journey. We have over 55 years of experience working with clients on their Italian and cross border property, family and inheritance matters. Get in touch.

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.

English-Speaking Italian Property Lawyer

How Can An English-Speaking Italian Property Lawyer Advise with The Purchase of A Property in Italy?

Buying a home anywhere, including Italy, is probably one of the largest and most significant investments you will make in your life. Italian property law is complex. It raises special issues of practice as well as points of law not present in other transactions and or jurisdictions. An English-speaking Italian property lawyer is a trained legal specialist, experienced at dealing with these problems.

The Italian property sales and purchase process

Briefly, in the typical Italian home purchase, the buyer enters into a brokerage contract with a real estate agent, usually in writing. Negotiations with the vendor go through the real estate agent, who acts as an intermediary.

In the first stage of the Italian property purchasing process, the buyer and seller enter into a formal written contract for the sale, a reservation offer. The buyer pays a small deposit. Once the reservation offer is in place, the buyer undertakes initial due diligence. Amongst other things, this includes checking title deeds and ascertaining the property has all the correct planning permits.

The second stage in the Italian purchasing process is to sign a preliminary contract. This contains all the terms and conditions of the transaction and is a legally binding document. Another deposit is due at this stage.

The third and final stage is when all parties to the transaction sign the deed of sale in the presence of a notary. In effect, this is the transfer of ownership when the seller receives the remainder of the purchase price.

The Italian property sales and purchase process may seem straightforward. However, having a specialist Italian property lawyer specialised in Italian property on your side will help you avoid some common pitfalls. 

Estate agency agreements

For example, a buyer may sign a brokerage agreement with a real estate agent that does not deal with a number of legal matters. This is a common occurrence. Estate agents often use standard forms, expecting that they will cover all circumstances. However this ‘one size fits all’ approach is not easily customisable for unusual circumstances.

In the absence of an agreement to the contrary, the buyer may be liable to pay a brokerage commission even if a sale does not occur, or to pay more than one brokerage commission. An English-speaking Italian property lawyer can explain the implications before you sign a brokerage agreement. In addition, your lawyer can negotiate the agent’s rights if the seller withdraws the property from the market, or can’t deliver a marketable title.

Due Diligence

An English-speaking Italian property lawyer can execute title searches, explain the title, determine if the legal description is correct and whether there are problems with co-­owners or prior owners. A lawyer can also explain the effect of easements, agreements or restrictions imposed by a prior owner.

In addition your lawyer can ascertain whether there are any legal restrictions. For instance zoning legislation may impair your ability to change use or make alterations to the property.

The title search does not tell the buyer anything about existing and prospective plans in the area. Having your own Italian legal advisor will enable you to obtain this type of information more accurately, thoroughly and easily than trying to do it yourself.

You may have plans to alter, renovate or extend the property. It is important to ascertain that your plans are possible from a legal point of view. Your lawyer can help this and can engage a surveyor or architect to inspect the property to ascertain  whether your plans are possible.

We would advise buyers to have a survey of the property. Not just structural but also measured. In addition, the survey should check for materials such as asbestos and lead-based paint and check the land for hazardous waste.

A buyer or seller may also find it useful to consult with a lawyer regarding purchasing structures, tax and inheritance implications of a cross-­border transaction.

The preliminary contract is the single most important document in a property transaction

Because a preliminary contract is so important, it is crucial that it reflects the buyer’s wishes. Again, Italian estate agents tend to use standard printed forms for preliminary contracts. Although these are useful, we would advise you to consult a lawyer for an explanation and clarification of the form.

You may need to make changes or add tailored conditions to reflect your personal circumstances. For example, is your purchase contingent on being able to get a mortgage? Are there any alterations to the property? If so, are they lawful? Does the whole property have full planning permission? What are the legal consequences if completion is delayed or doesn’t take place? What happens to deposits? This also raises related questions. Who will hold the deposits? Will they held in escrow by the estate agent?

Again, it is important to remember that printed contract forms are generally inadequate to incorporate the real understanding of the buyer and seller without significant changes. Once you sign a preliminary contract, it is not easy to back out of it and remember, you have paid deposits that you risk losing.

Deed of Sale

Completion is the most important event in the purchase and sale transaction. When you purchase a property in Italy you must do so through a notary. A notary is a government official. As such, the law requires notaries to remain impartial in all property transactions. They cannot therefore offer legal advice to any party to a transaction. A notary’s main tasks are to ensure that all documents are authentic. They also deal with registration and tax matters on behalf of the Italian State.

Although the role of notary is to ensure that the transaction meets all legal requirements, this does not mean that the notary is acting on the buyer’s behalf to ensure the buyer gets the best deal. Furthermore, contrary to what many people believe, the notary cannot guarantee the absence of legal issues such as any unlawful work to a property – (abusivi). While a notary will check planning permission, a notary will not make a site inspection of the property to ensure there are no additional illegal work.

The notary will require the presence of a translator if any party to the transaction is not a fluent Italian speaker. Having an English-speaking Italian legal advisor means buyers benefit not only from translation ability, but also legal know-how and expertise.

The closing process can be confusing and crowded. Those present include the buyers and sellers, their respective attorneys, and the real estate broker. There may be last minute disputes about delivering possession and personal property or the adjustment of various costs. If you are the only person without a lawyer, your rights may be at risk.

Conflicts of interest

Perhaps the most important reason to engage a lawyer is conflicting interests of the parties. Throughout the process, a buyer’s and seller’s interests can be at odds with each other.

The estate agent generally serves the seller. Both the seller and estate agent want to close the deal since this is how they will get paid. Because of this, we would advise you to choose your own English-speaking Italian property lawyer rather than one recommended by the estate agent or vendor.

Finally …

If you are looking at a real estate investment in Italy, why not talk to us? De Tullio Law Firm can advise and guide you throughout your Italian property purchasing journey. We have over 55 years of experience working with clients on their Italian and cross border property, family and inheritance matters. Get in touch.

Leasehold or Emphyteusis in Italy: What You Should Know

Emphyteusis is a type of leasehold arrangement

The closest Common Law legal term to Emphyteusis is a leasehold.

The landlord retains the ownership of property. However, a tenant has the right to use it for a contractually agreed period of time. In this type of leasehold or Emphyteutical arrangement, the tenant must both maintain and improve the property.

Leasehold or Emphyteusis is a contractual arrangement which has its roots in Roman Law. It formed part of the feudal system and has connections to the agricultural economy. Farmers had the possibility to cultivate land thereby sustaining themselves. In return, farmers paid an annual ground rent or canon in money and or in kind.

Italian leasehold or Emphyteusis arrangements are applicable to all types of physical assets

Contractual arrangements exist between two parties. On the one hand, the Dominium Directum, the freehold owner the (dominus) or landlord of the property. And, on the other hand, the Dominium Utile – the tenant (emphyteuta) who has the right to use property on a leasehold basis.

Emphyteusis is applicable to both land and buildings, including villas and apartments.

For the duration of an Emphyteusis contract, where land is involved, the tenant has the right to alter the surface of the land. This includes ploughing up pastures to cultivate a crop or plant trees.

Where the arrangement concerns buildings, a tenant may alter these. However, alterations must not cause any deterioration of the building. Therefore, if the tenant wishes to build an extension or add to existing structures, the tenant may do so.

The contract between the ‘landlord’ and the ‘tenant’ must be in writing. Rent payments are recurring and the duty to pay rent only ceases if the estate is destroyed. Destruction may either be due to human causes  such as a fire or through natural events for example, an earthquake.

Duration and obligations of leasehold or Emphyteusis contracts

Emphyteusis can be in perpetuity or limited to a minimum of 20 years. In either case, entitlements are the same.

In other words, a tenant may sublet the property, receive compensation for improvements made and even retain the property until full payment of his credit is rightfully received. These things, as well as those previously mentioned, do not require the consent of the landlord.

If the Emphyteusis has a duration of 20 years, the tenant cannot contractually transfer rights to another party. The right of pre-emption does not apply to the tenant in the same way it does to farmers. This means that the tenant in a leasehold or Empyteutical contract arrangement does not have right of first refusal to purchase land.

The tenant has a very broad right to dispose of the property held under perpetual Emphyteusis. Thus a tenant may dispose of the emphyteutical property by means of a deed in compliance with Italian Civil Code. This can either be an act inter vivos, i.e. made during the tenant’s lifetime, or causa mortis, i.e. after death. In the event of death, disposal is by means of a will.

Redemption of leasehold or Emphyteusis contracts

A tenant can acquire full ownership of Emphyteutical property through the payment of a price corresponding to fifteen times the annual rent. A tenant can make use of this redemption right at any time.

This redemption right prevails as an equivalent right accorded to the landlord in case of breach of contract by the tenant, known as the “devolution” (devoluzione).

Redemption may be settled either out of court, by means of an agreement between the landlord and tenant. A notarised deed must reflect the settlement. Where the landlord and tenant cannot reach agreement, the dispute can be settled in court.

Check the title deeds of an Italian property before you buy

A tenant must increase the productivity, the usefulness or the value of the estate, rural or urban. This obligation lasts for the duration of the term of Emphyteusis and must be in writing. Annual rents to the landlord are payable annually.

The landlord has the right to request the end of the Emphyteusis due to a breach of contract by the tenant. The landlord must refund any improvements the tenant has made. Payments should be proportional to the increase of value of the estate when it returns to the landlord.

Finally …

Acquiring, redeeming or disposing of property subject to leasehold or Emphyteusis arrangements can present challenges. Other types of leasehold arrangements also exist in Italian law. It is advisable that you contact an Italian lawyer to ensure you understand all the implications of such arrangements.

If you are looking at a real estate investment in Italy, why not talk to us? De Tullio Law Firm can advise and guide you throughout your Italian property purchasing journey. We have over 55 years of experience working with clients on their Italian and cross border property, family and inheritance matters. We are here to help.  Get in touch with us.

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.

Certificato di Abitabilità – Certificate of Habitability

What is a certificato di abitabilità?

A certificate of habitability, or a certificato di abitabilità in Italian. This is a document that validates the suitability of a residential property for human habitation.

The certification is issued by local municipal offices. It follows verification that the building and its systems comply with health, safety and building regulations.

According to Italian law, prior to issuing this certificate, the competent authorities should also verify that the building complies with planning permission.

The case law of the Italian Supreme Court is unanimous. In property transactions, the vendor must supply a certificate of habitability to the buyer. Furthermore, the vendor must give the document to the buyer before, or at the latest, at the signing of the deed of sale.

“The vendor of a property intended for residential use has a duty to deliver to the buyer the Certificate of Habitability without which the property is unmarketable”. (Cass. 23rd January 2009, n. 1701).

A buyer has the right to verify that the property is suitable, that it is useable and will be saleable at a later date. Because it has direct effects on the legal use of the property as stipulated in the contract, a certificato di abitabilità is an essential requirement for all properties.

Does a lack of a certificato di abitabilità consitute a breach of contract?

Unless otherwise stipulated in contractual agreements, the responsibility to provide the certificate of habitability belongs to the vendor. Where there is a delay or a failure to supply the certificato di abitabilità, there is a clear case of non-execution of a contractual obligation (breach of contract).

Where no certificate of habitability exists, a buyer can still buy the property. However, the buyer must expressly consent to the lack of certification. In addition, the lack of certification must be included in the notarial deed of sale. The onus is on the buyer to verify the existence of the certificate of habitability before completion. It should form part of the buyer’s legal due diligence.

Finally …

If you are looking at a real estate investment in Italy, why not talk to us? De Tullio Law Firm can advise and guide you throughout your Italian property purchasing journey. We have over 55 years of experience working with clients on their Italian and cross border property, family and inheritance matters. Get in touch.

 

For more information, you may find our buying and selling property in Italy guides useful.

Off-Plan Properties in Italy: Delivery Delays

Late delivery: one of the risks in buying Italian off-plan properties

This article is part of a series about the risks of buying off-plan properties in Italy. To read more on the topic, please use our search tool to look for off-plan properties in Italy.

Significant delays in delivery of Italian off-plan properties is one aspect that investors report as being particularly irritating.

Developers and builders can be very persuasive. Whatever you do, don’t feel obliged to sign anything without first seeking independent legal advice.

Penalty clause for late delivery of off-plan properties

Broadly-speaking, a penalty clause is a contractual provision which levies a monetary sum in the event of a breach of terms in the contract. It does not include any compensation payment for actual damages.

Buyers often try to insert a late delivery penalty clause into their contracts for off-plan properties in Italy. However, penalty clauses are generally unenforceable and ineffective under Italian law. 

Generally, the off-plan developer or builder draws up a contract. Often these are major companies. The buyer is therefore unlikely to be able to mutually agree a penalty clause. The agreement will therefore unilaterally favour the company.

The importance of a preliminary contract

The Preliminary Contract (Compromesso) is key in off-plan property purchases. If they are fortunate, off-plan buyers may manage to insert a penalty clause in the compromesso. This would see the refund of a buyer’s deposit. However, in accordance with binding terms of the contract, the buyer would still have to wait for the developer or builder to deliver the property.

Termination clause for late delivery of off-plan properties

A more effective legal safeguard would be to integrate an express termination clause in the compromesso. In effect, the termination of the preliminary contract would automatically occur – whether or not the buyer notifies the seller of the intention to terminate.

To make the clause enforceable and effective, the compresso must explicitly reference the length of delay.

If the seller exceeds the delivery date, either party can negotiate an extension and a new compromesso. Or, the buyer can claim a refund of deposits and/or any other advance payments.

Essential Term

Unfortunately, buyers of Italian off-plan properties sometimes sign a compromesso which promises more than it can deliver. Then, when delivery day arrives and buyers do not receive the keys to their property, the buyer discovers that the Italian law does not provide much protection.

If a compromesso does not include an express termination clause, the buyer can send the developer or builder a formal request to respect terms and conditions. Italian law calls this particular provision an, “essential term”.

The buyer’s formal request should warn the vendor that failure to respect terms and conditions will terminate the contract. The vendor must fulfil contractual obligations within a certain time, which cannot be less than 15 days.

Case law

In a recent court case, where the vendor had failed to comply with an, “essential term”, the Court of Vicenza (judgement n.187/2016) ruled that:

“whenever a delay is considered unbearable, it is possible to start legal proceedings against the builder, or the building company, and to obtain a refund of any advance payments. Furthermore but, only in the case of proven damages, the purchasing party can claim additional compensation”.

Either way, before taking legal action to resolve the situation and/or to make a claim for compensation for damages, an amicable settlement is always preferable. Because legal action through the Italian courts can take at least 5 years and can be very costly, an amicable settlement is likely to be quicker and more favourable. It is the route we would recommend.

Finally …

There are a number of risks involved in off-plan purchases. At De Tullio Law Firm, we are property law specialists. We are present throughout Italy. We would always recommend that you engage a lawyer you choose to ensure that you protect your interests. If the vendor recommends a lawyer, we would caution against it on the grounds of conflict of interest. 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 purchasing off-plan properties in Italy, we are here to help.

 

You may also be interested in Off-Plan Property in Italy: Insurance And Guarantee. You may also like to watch our info videos about Italian property law.

Italian House: Structural Issues. Where Do You Stand?

I bought an Italian house then discovered big cracks in the walls 

According to your email, you have just moved into the Italian house you purchased three months ago. Unfortunately you have discovered some serious cracks in the living room and kitchen walls.

You immediately called in a surveyor (geometra), who has informed you that there’s a serious structural problem. In effect, the problem means the property is uninhabitable. You expect to receive a full written report from the surveyor within the next few days. 

What legal action can you take regarding the defects in your Italian house

In this case, you have a legal entitlement to dispute the legality of the deed of sale (atto di vendita). However, you will need to take prompt action.

According to Italian Civil Code Sales Contract Law, the vendor is only liable for a short period.

Article 1495 of the Italian Civil Code provides that the purchaser must take legal action within one year from the delivery date of a product. In your case this would be the date you signed the deed of sale for your Italian house.

In addition, you can only take legal action if you, the purchaser, have declared the defect to the vendor within 8 days of discovering the issue.

What does Italian case law say about latent defects in an Italian house?

A ruling by the Court of Caltanissetta in May 2016 stated that if a vendor hides serious structural issues from a purchaser, this constitutes a breach of contract.

Structural defects, such as big cracks in the walls, significantly reduce the value of real estate property and may even render the property uninhabitable.

If a buyer discovers defects in an Italian property after signing the deed of sale, the buyer has the right to reverse the property transaction. This must however take place within the previously mentioned time frame.

Under Italian Civil Code, if the buyer and vendor cannot reach an amicable resolution, the buyer can institute legal proceedings against the vendor. This is with a view to obtaining restitution of the price the purchaser paid for the property. In exchange, the purchaser must return the property to the vendor.

The buyer has the right to rescind the transaction regardless of the cause of structural defects

In essence, a purchaser has the right to rescind the deed of sale either on the grounds of construction defects, namely the builder’s responsibility, or because of external factors such as subsidence.

This is valid even if the buyer had the property inspected by a surveyor prior to purchasing it. Structural defects are deemed latent. In other words, they are hidden or difficult to see with the naked eye. Therefore, even if a surveyor inspected the property, the defects may not have been visible.

It should be pointed out that patent defects would not entitle a buyer to rescind a deed of sale. Patent defects are those that are easy to see or visible, such as a window that does not close properly, or missing tiling.

Litigation is the traditional process for resolving legal disputes on civil matters

Litigation involves a party starting court action. The plaintiff or claimant is seeking a legal or equitable remedy. By law, a defendant must respond to the plaintiff’s complaint. If the plaintiff is successful, a court will find in the plaintiff’s favour.

In Italy, court cases are generally costly and protracted processes. We would advise you wherever possible, to settle out of court. Parties can settle at any stage. If the dispute cannot be resolved through negotiation, as a last resort, it will need to go to court.

Litigation is tried and tested with a vast body of case law. The court will impose a final decision that parties must respect. The outcomes of litigation are, without exception, legally binding and enforceable, while being subject to appeal.

Ruling by the Court of Caltanissetta

The case we previously mentioned, involved the purchase of a newly constructed apartment. Shortly after moving in, the new owners noticed some cracks on the walls and floors. They spoke to neighbours in their building and discovered that other neighbours had similar problems.

The owners got together and started a litigation against the vendors. The plaintiffs were seeking reversal of their purchase contracts and compensation for damage. The plaintiffs accused the vendors of deliberately hiding the real condition of the properties. For their part, the defendants claimed the buyers had seen the properties before signing the deed of sale.

However, the purchasing parties had only noticed, “a few little holes”, maintaining that, “the real problem hadn’t yet emerged.” Despite the defendants’ declarations, the court ruled that the vendors knew the true state of the apartments because they had participated in a meeting at the Town Hall’s Technical Office, to discuss geological issues related to the site.

The court ruled in the plaintiffs’ favour.

Vendor’s duty

Anyone who sells a good – a mobile phone, a garment, a pair of shoes, or any other item including an Italian house or property – has to guarantee that the good has no inherent flaw. In effect, this guarantees that the item is fit for purpose.

Italian Civil Code states that a vendor of any item must guarantee that the item has no faults, which would make it unusable or unsuitable for its intended use, or would significantly reduce its value.

In the Caltanissetta case, the property presented defects which could cause instability. That would entail a huge risk for the new owner’s safety.

Finally …

Italian contract law is complex. In the case of a litigation, the deed of sale is of great importance. It is vital that you understand the contractual terms and conditions. The deed of sale affects your options to make claims against the vendor. You should always seek independent legal advice when you purchase an Italian property. In order to avoid any conflicts of interest, this should be a lawyer who is not involved with any other parties (vendor, developer).

At De Tullio Law Firm, we have over 55 years of experience managing property transactions throughout Italy. We are always pleased to hear from our readers. If you have a question that you would like us to answer, please get in touch with us.

If you are looking for more information about the Italian property purchasing process, please read our free Guide To Buying Italian Property. You may also like to watch our info videos about Italian property law.

A Home in Italy: Voices of Experience

Having a home in Italy is a dream for many

Buying a home in Italy is also a major investment. There are many aspects that need careful consideration before taking the plunge: buying structures, tax and inheritance to name but a few.

If you are considering buying a property in Italy, think long-term. Make sure it’s for the right reasons and that you have done your research absolutely thoroughly. We asked some of our clients who own Italian property, what tips they would give to prospective buyers in Italy. Here’s a selection of what they said:

If you think an Italian property is potentially an easy, passive income generator, think again

To be a success, you will need to work hard to create, market and operate an attractive holiday rental business. If you need to borrow money to finance the purchase of your Italian holiday property and you already have a mortgage at home, you’ll have two debts to service and in reality, your rental income may not cover repayments for your Italian property.

Remember too, that all the maintenance and running costs will be your responsibility and unless you are living locally, you will probably need a management company – or very understanding local friends – to deal with the property on a day to day basis for you.

“Identify your reasons for buying a home in Italy …

… for example: are you looking at retirement, relocation, holiday home or a buy-to-let investment? Always use a licensed, unbiased real estate agent who can work with you to achieve your objectives. Don’t feel pressurised to buy. Take your time – it took us over five years before we committed to our purchase”.

“Ask lots and lots of questions

When choosing a home in Italy, the priorities are about personal preferences, choices and taste. We bought our property for investment purposes, which is totally different. When you are buying a property for buy-to-let purposes, you are starting a business so you need a plan. There are so many things to consider: exit strategies, growth forecasts, potential rental incomes, neighbourhood, property taxes, amenities, infrastructure, transport and future developments in the area. This is where it pays to get professional advice and second opinions from good real estate agents, lawyers and financial advisors”.

“Get your sums right. What can you really afford?

It’s not just about the cost of buying a home in Italy, you might need to add renovation costs or there may be extra costs for shared areas. Not to mention running costs. Investigate and understand the Italian property market. It’s totally different to the US property market. When it comes to selling your property later, even if it’s a really attractive proposition, you need to understand that it’s not likely to get sold fast.”

“Bring in the professionals to help with buying a home in Italy.

Seek legal advice early on. Use your own independent English-speaking solicitor, who has absolutely no links to your seller, estate agent or developer. Do not sign anything prior to your lawyer’s review. Do not make any money transfers until they have been checked and signed-off by your lawyer. If anybody uses terms like capital growth or rental yields when viewing a property, be very sceptical. Ask to see evidence. Before deciding whether it’s a good buy, factor in all the likely costs, taxes and above all, don’t forget maintaining the property and managing the rentals. Think carefully about the pros and cons of different ways of buying the property and check for the best deal on mortgages and currency”.

“Viewing the property at different times of day is important.

For example, we viewed a property during afternoon siesta and it seemed perfect … a really attractive property in a quiet location. But, when we revisited the place another day around mid-morning, we discovered we could hear the loud rumble of traffic on a nearby main road. Consult a good property lawyer before making any final decision. Many lawyers will offer a free consultation to discuss your general situation. Ensure you double-check everything with your lawyer and a tax advisor before making any decisions. The person at the local bar or the village shop might know a thing or two from experience, but those experiences shouldn’t inform your decision-making.”

“Research is key when buying a home in Italy.

When we were researching properties online, the maps on website listings were not always 100% accurate and showed the nearest village rather than the property itself. This is for safety reasons as houses used as second homes are often empty for long periods of the year and can become targets for burglars. Contact the estate agent and get coordinates for a satellite view of the property and surrounding area. Study it closely. In many parts of Tuscany, for example, it’s difficult to find a country house within walking distance of a village. It means that you, or your rental guests, will have to drive to the nearest shops, bars and restaurants.”

“Understand the rules regarding Italian tax …

… so that you know what you are in for. Remember that when purchasing property in Italy, you need to take into account agents’ commission, notary fees, and registration fees as well as future property tax and other costs. If you are planning to live in Italy, find out about residency rules. Have your financing in place and get a good international residential conveyancing lawyer.”

“Always negotiate on the price …

… use a reputable real estate agency and engage an Italian lawyer. Never part with any money unless you have the express approval of your lawyer. If, like us, you are buying off-plan or during construction of a new build, getting independent legal advice is even more important. Your lawyer will make sure that all the necessary contractual, bank guarantees and insurances are in place to protect you if something goes wrong like the completion of the building does not occur on time.”

“Get a good lawyer to represent you in the purchase.

If possible agree legal fees up front. Find a reputable estate agent to assist you in your property search. But don’t rely on the agency to put together contracts and handle the conveyancing. Make sure your professional team speaks your language. Make sure that they fully understand your requirements and that they don’t waste time showing you properties or areas that don’t match your brief. Ensure that you fully understand all the costs, taxes and fees involved with the purchase. It can impact hugely on your budget. Always instruct a surveyor to carry out a survey to ensure that there are no structural, planning, zoning or geological issues with the property. Take your time. Don’t rush into the first deal presented to you. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Take a step back and get a second opinion.”

“Start by asking yourself: how easy it’ll be to sell this property should you need to?

Location, location location! If you want to make money, this will only actually materialise when you rent or sell the property. Until then it’s all just a theoretical paper profit. If you are looking at the property as an investment, think about the property. Why would people want to rent it? Why would people want to buy it from you? The reasons will tell you whether the property is likely to be a good investment.”

Finally …

De Tullio Law Firm has been guiding overseas buyers with their Italian property investments for over 55 years. If you need any advice about buying or selling a property in Italy, if you need an independent second opinion or, if you would just like to discuss your options with a specialist, we are here to help.

You may also be interested in Buying property in Italy. You may also like to watch some of our info videos on Italian property, sucession and family law.

Buying Italian Property. Advice for Expats

If you are buying Italian property, never sign any paperwork without fully understanding the implications

The most important piece of advice for expats buying Italian property is that they should never sign any paperwork without getting it checked.

If you don’t fully understand all the legal implications of paperwork, your signature could result in potential financial and/or legal problems. In addition, your signature may negate any possibility of complaints at a later date.

We would always recommend that you use an experienced, independent property lawyer to safeguard your Italian purchase. A surprising number of expats buying Italian property don’t use a lawyer. Instead, they take a DIY approach or use someone unqualified such as the estate agent or vendor. It is not uncommon that this ends up being a stressful and expensive mistake.

Expats buying in Italy may encounter language barriers

If you are not a fluent Italian speaker, it’s important to engage a lawyer who speaks your language. This ensures you not only have crucial legal advice but also a someone who can act as a legal translator. As previously mentioned, the issue of signing paperwork is critical. Expats should only sign documents that they fully understand, which may mean that documents need translating. In fact, when you complete the purchase, the Italian notary may require a translation of the deed of sale. In addition, you may also have to engage an interpreter at completion. However, if you have a lawyer who speaks your language, this will not be necessary.

In order to avoid conflicts of interest, the lawyer should be independent of the estate agent and/or the vendor.

Make sure your lawyer has a license to practice. In other words, your lawyer should be a member of the Italian Bar Association. The lawyer should also have public liability insurance.

Estate Agents

It is worth bearing in mind that regardless of how charming and friendly an estate agent is, at the end of the day, an estate agent is a sales person working on a commission from the sale of the property. They are not qualified to provide legal advice and do not conduct due diligence on properties. The base their sales information on what the vendor tells them.

An estate agent may ask you to sign an agent’s brokerage contract, which could include up front fees.

Make sure that your estate agent is from a reputable company. Italian estate agents must register with their local chamber of commerce. They should have a certificate issued by the local town hall as proof of their professional registration.

Surveys

Many expats buying Italian property decide not to invest in the knowledge and expertise of a professional surveyor.

Construction quality varies hugely in Italy and you cannot know everything about a property just from viewing it with the vendor or estate agent. Buyers should ensure the property they want to purchase is actually worth the money they are paying. This means checking there are no fundamental problems. Amongst other things, structure, planning, zoning, ownership and geological location.

Certificate of Habitability

It’s also surprising how many expats buy a property that has neither electricity nor water connections. If a property has no utility connections, it may indicate a problem. It suggests that the property may not have a Certificate of Habitability. If this is the case, the property may never gain mains utilities despite what the vendor or estate agent claims. When it comes to reselling the property, later on, it is likely to be a struggle to find a buyer.

Buying an Italian off-plan property

Expats should exercise caution if buying an off-plan property. There are many risks entailed with buying Italian off-plan property. One of the major risks is that a developer becomes insolvent during the build. Never make large payments as a deposit to secure what appears to be a dream home.

Ensure, amongst other things, that the developer or building company has a building licence for the property before parting with any cash. Don’t be afraid to ask the property developer about their portfolio, their history of delivering quality buildings, on time. Ask for references. If you are buying a resale property, check that there are no hidden fees or legal complications.

Take your time. Don’t be rushed

When buying a property in Italy, don’t rush into a purchase and, never buy a home on impulse. Think long term. Always assess the pros and cons, research the area and understand all the present and future legal and tax aspects.

Familiarise yourself with the process of buying Italian property

Because the process of buying a property in Italy can move quickly and expats should be prepared for the purchase completion taking between four to eight weeks on average.

The purchasing process in Italy is completely different to the UK, the USA and many other parts of the world. First, the buyer makes an offer on the property. If it’s accepted, then the buyer and vendor will sign a reservation offer and the buyer will pay a small deposit. Second, the buyer and seller will sign a preliminary contract at which point the buyer will pay another deposit, usually a minimum of 10% of the sale price. Finally, at completion, the new owners pay the balance of the sale price, along with other costs and taxes.

It is important that expats appreciate all the financial and legal implications of each stage of the process.

Finally …

For over 55 years, De Tullio Law Firm has been providing international clients with independent legal advice. We offer services in all the major fields of Italian law. Our particular expertise is in cross-border real estate, family law and inheritance matters. If you would like more information, or you need advice and support with your Italian property purchase, please get in touch with us.