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Renovating a Property in Italy – How To Avoid Common Mistakes

Property in ItalyBuying a Property in Italy

Spring has arrived so it would be timely to discuss a common issue I encounter every year; foreign buyers being seduced by an inexpensive house and an idyllic location. Buying a property in Italy and renovating it is an all-too‐common scenario in the Bel Paese. It is also an all‐too‐common scenario for these projects to end in heartache. Unfortunately, I usually don’t get to meet these buyers until they have spent far more than they expected and need to fix the problems they are experiencing. If you are thinking of taking on a house renovation project in Italy this year, taking on an Italian lawyer at the outset will save you time, money and anguish.
What are some of the common mistakes buyers make and how can they avoid them?

Property in Italy: the Right Project for You?
No matter how experienced you are, renovating is a stressful and time-­‐consuming process. Even more so if you are abroad, can only visit Italy periodically and you may not be a fluent Italian speaker. Unless a project is guaranteed to give you your dream home, or make you money, you may be taking on the wrong property. It is vital you assess the property’s potential and have a clear idea of your goals.

Make Sure You Know What You Are Buying
Don’t wait to discover major structural defects or additions built without planning permission until it is too late. Engage an Italian lawyer who speaks your language. Your lawyer will work
on your behalf to conduct thorough due diligence during the purchasing process – any non­-compliant additions, features or legal issues will be discovered before you buy the property. A lawyer can also assist you with obtaining a building survey. Undertaken by a geometra, a survey will provide information on the construction and materials used, and will give details of any defects found, their remedy and an indication of the likely cost. It is also worth commissioning a measured survey of the building, providing you with a detailed set of floorplans and elevations upon which to base your proposed alterations.

Even minor renovation can turn into a nightmare if your builders or subcontractors fail to do a good job. Always ask for references, and speak to previous clients. Your lawyer can help you make sure that you hire reputable builders and can also act as project manager on your behalf throughout the project.

Renovation Costs
Work always costs more than you expect. This is because some problems are not revealed until work is started. Often people forget items from the budget, or change their mind and alter the design or specification. Always have a contingency of 10-­‐20% to cover unforeseen costs and fully expect to spend it. Make sure your plans are as detailed as possible; prepare your budget by listing all tasks, materials required, and who is going to do the work. Don’t forget to allow for skips, scaffold hire, plant hire, and tools. Estimate costs by look at similar projects in the area. Make sure you, and or your lawyer, get builders’ quotes. I would recommend that you instruct your lawyer to draft a building contract with your chosen builder. A building contract makes the builder’s quote legally binding.

Rules & Regulations When Buying a Property in Italy
Under no circumstances, should you ignore requirements of the Italian law, as it will eventually catch up with you, so do not undertake any work without first checking whether you need to satisfy the following requirements:

• Planning permission
• Building Regulations approval
• Notification of neighbours
• Notification or permission from others. Your lawyer could advise you if the deeds contain restrictive covenants, leases or other overriding interests in the property and land estate.

If you do not obtain in advance the required planning permission, you may apply retrospectively, but this is not always possible and if the Italian Court rejects your retrospective application, your illegal works can constitute a criminal offence and the Italian State may seize your property. It is likely to be a very lengthy and costly process to get your property back.

What if You Fail?

If you fail to get Building Regulations approval, you will have to prove compliance. This may mean undoing completed work.

Breaching a restrictive covenant or the terms of a lease can lead to an injunction, and you may have to make a financial settlement or remove your alterations or extensions.

Mainly because of building materials need to be disposed of carefully, demolition work is a procedure which requires authorisation. This applies both to existing building features you wish to alter and works carried out without relevant permission. Therefore, unauthorised work can turn out to be both complex and costly.

Who Should You Contact?

Ask your lawyer to assist you with permits and authorisations.

Contact us today. We can help.

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