Unauthorised construction in Italy is not uncommon
Unauthorised construction in Italy is a common issue that you might have encountered if you have bought, or are in the process of buying, an Italian property.
What constitutes unauthorised construction in Italy?
In general terms, unauthorised construction occurs when someone makes changes to a property without obtaining legally required permission.
Depending on the seriousness of the offence, a range of sanctions is applicable. There are three categories of unauthorised construction offences in Italy.
1) Total violation
Work without a building permit or where the work is in total breach of permission. In other words, there is no permit or the building completely differs from the provisions of the permit.
2) Substantial violation
This is work that substantially diverges from the building permit. The work comprises significant qualitative and quantitative differences compared to the authorised project.
3) Partial violation
Here, work partially deviates from the building permit. That is to say, although the work has authorisation, it is not in accordance with the permit.
Unauthorised construction in Italy is a criminal offence
All of the above violations are criminal offences. As such, they are subject to criminal prosecution as well as sanctions. Building offences are punishable not only with administrative sanctions but may also involve arrest and a fine.
In some cases, where someone has unlawfully developed land not zoned for construction purposes, a judge may order the confiscation of the land and property. The land and property therefore become the property of the local municipality and owner receives neither compensation nor damages.
Article 44 of the Consolidated Law on Construction (Presidential Decree no. 380/2001) provides for fines ranging from a minimum of €10,328.00 to a maximum of €103,290.00 depending on the type of offence. In addition, offenders may receive a custodial sentence of up to two years.
Remedial action is possible
For example, you may have increased the volume of your property or carried out renovation work without following the legally required administrative procedure. Or, perhaps you have inherited a property along with zoning and cadastral discrepancies. In both cases legal remedies are available.
Regarding total and substantial violations of building permits you will need a, “Permesso di Costruire in sanatoria”. This may provide an amnesty (condono) which regularises the property. However, this remedy is not applicable to properties in heritage zones or on land in zones where property development is unlawful.
The process of obtaining a Permesso di Costruire in sanatoria is both complex and costly. It involves paying the municipality the normal fee to obtain a building permit to start a new construction project. In addition, penalty payments may amount to double the fee for a building permit. Precise amounts are set by the Italian Regions in accordance with the Consolidated Law on Construction.
A CILA offers a retroactive remedy for partial violations. CILA stands for Comunicazione Inizio Lavori Asseverata (Notice of commencement of certified works). It is a notice you must submit to the municipality prior to undertaking non-routine work on a property. For example, work that does not change the structure of the building but impacts internal layout.
If you submit a CILA once work has started or after the work has finished, this is a CILA “in sanatoria”. Because it is a communication after the event, it entails a fine. €1,000 if the work is already complete and a penalty of €333.33 euros if the work is still in progress.
The Office for Italian Statistics (ISTAT), estimates that nationally, some 20% of Italian properties constitute unauthorised constructions. Even more in the southern regions of Italy. On top of these statistics, many properties partially violate legal requirements. For example, they comprise an unauthorised outbuilding or extension.
When you buy an Italian property, it is impossible to tell if there is any unauthorised construction work just from viewing it. To avoid issues such as finding your property is difficult to sell or even unsaleable later on, you should check municipal planning and zoning records and land registry files to ensure that the whole property has all the relevant consents.
The key to making your Italian property project as safe and smooth as possible is to appoint a legal team that speaks your language. De Tullio Law Firm has a thorough understanding of Italian property law and decades of experience managing Italian property transactions.
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