Buying a property anywhere is a major financial investment for most people and a process which can entail some element of risk.
If you’ve ever bought property in the UK, it is more than likely you would've instructed a solicitor to manage the legalities on your behalf.
Read below to find out how a lawyer in Italy will work for you.
Finding a lawyer in Italy
In Italy, both a notary and lawyer (if you chose to have one) are involved with the purchase process. (This is different to the UK process of having two solicitors, one for each party). Italy follows a notarial system.
As in the UK, there is no legal requirement to engage the services of a lawyer when buying a property in Italy. However, it’s highly advised because although the purchase process in Italy is different to the UK, it is equally complex in terms of due diligence, searches and conveyancing. Plus, everything is written and communicated in Italian - making it imperative to seek legal advice from professionals who understand the language inside out.
Ideally, you should engage the services of a bilingual lawyer specialised in Italian property law who’ll support you throughout the entire buying process. Having your own lawyer will ensure you obtain the most favourable terms and conditions for your transaction and that you identify and address all legal issues prior to making any binding decisions. You will also have someone trustworthy on whom you can confer a power of attorney should you be unable to attend completion of the Deed of Sale in person.
What will a lawyer in Italy do?
A lawyer will investigate all planning permissions and ensure that all work has been carried out legally. If the correct planning permissions have not been permitted, your lawyer will go back to the vendor to rectify this for you to ensure there are no problems down the line. Alongside this they will also check the habitation certificate, which is a document ensuring the property conforms to building regulations (note that houses built before 1967 do not have a habitation certificate).
Contracts need to be negotiated and agreed between both parties and an agreed percentage of the purchase price will need to be paid as a deposit with the balance paid at completion. A deed of sale needs to be signed and authenticated by an Italian notary and then registered at the relevant land registry to reflect the change of ownership. Although superficially this may seem pretty much the same as at home, it is important to understand that the legal process, buying costs and timescales are very different in Italy.
What is the difference between a notary and a lawyer?
Many foreign buyers assume that the notary is acting as their lawyer and that if anything untoward is found, the notary will inform the buyers - but this isn’t the case. The notary is an impartial public officer employed by the Italian State to oversee completion of the transaction.
Legally, a notary cannot specifically protect the interests of one of the parties to the transaction. All three stages of the purchase process involve signing legally binding paperwork. While these documents can be translated into English, Italian versions will prevail in a court of law, so you should always get your lawyer to look at paperwork before you sign it.
You will also be required to make deposits at each stage. If something goes wrong and you do not have your own legal representation, you may find it a costly, difficult and protracted process to get your money refunded.
A noitare is employed for three main tasks:
- To ensure both the vendor and seller are legitimate
- To make sure any money transfers are carried out correctly
- To see if there is any taxation due by the buyer and the seller pays any capital gains tax (if applicable)
Further checks will include searches for bankruptcy, repeat title searches the day before completion and ensure there are no outstanding debts or any other registrations against the title. If there are any debts owed that aren’t identified during the buying process, once you have purchased that property, the debt transfers to you – it is tied to the property as opposed to the individual (if this has not been picked up the noitare, this opens up rights to sue them).
It is possible to have your two noitares working on the transaction but it is more common to only use one, the one currently dealing with the seller. It is more than likely that they would have worked with the property before so will know it well.
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