Make sure you fully understand documents before you sign them
Translating legal documents is a highly specialised field. It demands not only legal experience but linguistic expertise.
In the event of any issues or litigation, the Italian version of contracts will always prevail. So it’s crucial to ensure that you understand every document thoroughly before you sign it.
Italian versions of legal documents prevail
All legal documents relating to Italian property real estate transactions need to go through a notary public (notaio).
The role of a notary is to oversee the sale and purchase, draw up the deed of sale and authenticate the transaction. In addition, the notary collects tax related to the transaction.
As Italian law is applicable to property sales in Italy, documents must be in Italian, independent of the nationality of the parties.
Many buyers from abroad prefer to have a version of documents in their own language. In fact, if buyers are not fluent in the Italian language, it is a legal requirement to have the deed of sale translated. A translator will also need to attend the signing of the deed of sale.
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The Italian property buying process
The process of buying a property in Italy is different to many other parts of the world. Firstly, the buyer makes an offer on the property. If accepted, the buyer and vendor sign a Reservation Offer and the buyer puts down a small deposit. Secondly, if you decide to proceed with the purchase, the buyer and vendor sign a Preliminary Contract. At this point, the buyer puts down a further deposit, usually a minimum of 10% of the sale price. Thirdly, the parties sign the Deed of Sale. At completion, the balance of the sales price, along with other costs and taxes are payable.
It is important that parties to the transaction appreciate the implications of each of these steps. Deposits can be very difficult to get back and you may incur penalties if you back out of the sale. It is essential to ensure that your contracts stipulate certain terms and conditions.
Everything you sign during the purchase process has legal and financial implications
As purchasers, whether you are about to sign a proposta irrevocabile d’acquisto (Reservation Offer), a contratto preliminare di vendita (Preliminary Contract) or the atto di vendita (Deed of Sale), or any other property-related document. Everything that you sign sets out legal and financial terms pertaining to your Italian property purchase.
Translating legal documents
Many real estate agents use standard forms for contracts. The type of form where you fill in the blanks. Often, estate agents provide a translation of these. While the translation can of course be useful in gaining an overview, Italian legal language is technical, ritualistic, archaic and complex. These standard form translations are seldom completely accurate and can even be misleading.
We have managed a number of cases where buyers have been caught out by aspects of “boilerplate translations” relating to their Italian property purchases.
When signing the deed of sale, in the presence of a public notary, Italian law requires that a translator is present if purchasers are not fluent Italian speakers.
Our advice is to make sure that anyone you use for translating legal documents is qualified. Not only from a linguistic point of view but also in terms of legal knowledge. It is also important that you choose someone who does not have a vested interest in the transaction.
Although it is not a legal requirement in Italy to engage a lawyer (avvocato), most experts advise that you seek independent legal advice before signing any paperwork. One of the main reasons for engaging your own lawyer is to safeguard your interests through the inclusion of any conditional clauses in contracts.
If you need any support or advice regarding a property transaction in Italy or translating legal documents, please get in touch. The De Tullio Law Firm team of lawyers, translators and professionals are here to help.
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