After you’ve bought a new property in Italy you’ll need to think about the types of renovation that you will undertake. Of course, you should have considered this long before you picked up the keys but even so, once you have the title deeds in your hand the renovation process becomes a reality.
Each property is unique and will require different levels of renovation to bring it up to the standards that you want. This can range from a total ruin right up to a well-maintained property that just needs some cosmetic treatment to allow its qualities to really shine through.
Renovations in Italy can be quite complex, to say the least, mainly because of the regulations and housing codes that are very strict and vary from one municipality to another. One thing you should certainly be prepared for is to work with a local Italian expert during the renovation to help you navigate the bureaucracy and red tape involved in the process.
Generally speaking, your first point of call will be a Geometra who can handle much of the legal paperwork and will oversee the day-to-day activities of the builders and contractors in the renovation.
However, for larger scale projects, you may also want to employ a local lawyer to provide English language translations of the documents and ensure that your renovations are in full compliance with all the relevant regulations.
Brief Overview Of The CILA, SCIA, Building Permits And Soprintendenza.
For most renovation projects you will have to ensure that you are in compliance with either the CILA and SCIA protocols. These are very simple and your Geometra or lawyer should be able to take care of them for you.
The CILA (Communicazione Inizio Lavori Asseverata) is a notice that your Geometra must submit to the local municipality to let them know that you are commencing on renovation works at your property. The CILA only relates to small scale renovations work on a property.
The SCIA (Segnalazione Certificata di Inizio Attività) must be submitted to the municipality to declare that you plan to undertake major renovations such as demolitions, external expansion work or large scale renovations of a property. No construction work on the building site can begin until your SCIA has been submitted.
For more extensive renovations you will need to determine whether or not you need to apply for a building permit. Building permits must be approved by the local authorities before you can start on any major renovations on your property.
Essentially, the building permit is a license that is issued to you by the municipality and allows you to commence with the construction work. The building permit is a legal document that ensures that your renovations are in compliance with the local town planning provisions.
You will also need to establish whether or not you need permission from the Soprintendenza Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paseaggio to start your renovation. The Soprintendenza Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paesaggio is a division of the national Ministry for Cultural Heritage and seeks to preserve the atmosphere and beauty of Italy’s historic city centers and architecture. This means that you cannot conduct renovations on a property that will take away from the heritage of a historical location. For example, they will not let you install large, modern features on the outside of a building that is not in keeping with the local heritage of a historic town center.
However, it’s not always clear what bureaucratic procedures you need to follow to get started on your renovation project. So, we’ll run over the different types of property renovation in Italy to clarify these details for you.
Ordinary Renovation Project – Requires No Paperwork.
An ordinary renovation or maintenance project does not need any official permission to proceed. An ordinary renovation project includes any cosmetic work that is done to improve the appearance or functionality of the building without changing its size or modifying its structure.
This includes the erection of scaffolding to fix window shutters or repair roofing tiles for example; and provided that the scaffolding will only be in place for up to 90 days no permissions are needed to get started.
Ordinary renovations can also be undertaken to incorporate modern technologies into an older building. It also allows you to repair existing parts of the building without applying for any official permissions as long as they are in keeping with the original features.
Examples of the types of renovation projects that do not require any special paperwork or permissions include:
- Replacing internal doors, windows, skylights or their frames to bring them up to date with modern energy standards or to improve their appearance. However, external doors and windows do require a SCIA or a CILA.
- Basic internal maintenance, such as painting the walls or ceilings. However, if you’re renovating a historic building you will need permission from the Soprintendenze office to modify frescoes and plastering.
- Installing awnings – as long as they are in line with the condo regulations.
- Replacing toilets, bathroom facilities, fireplaces and other internal white goods.
- Repairing internal facilities such as fireplaces, bathroom features and white goods.
- Installing antennas, cameras, curtains, intercom systems, fences and gates.
Essentially, you are entitled to conduct basic renovation works within the property as long as it’s not a historical building because internal features, such as frescoes, are often protected by the municipality. However, if you’re just repainting a wall in a modern apartment or fixing a broken door then you don’t need to let the municipality know about your plans.
Extraordinary Maintenance – CILA Or SCIA Is Required.
Extraordinary maintenance refers to any renovations that include modifying or replacing external parts of the building. These renovations can also be undertaken to integrate new sanitation facilities and other technological systems into the external structure of the building. However, they must not increase the overall size or volume of the building and cannot involve any major changes to the environment.
All extraordinary maintenance projects require either an SCIA or a CILA in order to proceed with the work.
Examples of projects that require a CILA include:
- Reconstruction work on external sewer systems to change or modify their route.
- Projects the change or reorganize the interior spaces of the property. This includes projects that create false ceilings, add partitions to existing rooms or update plumbing, air conditioning, heating or electrical systems in the structure.
- Adding or removing doors within the property.
Examples of projects that require a SCIA include:
- Structural works such as demolition, expansion works or restoration of features such as wooden beams and partition walls.
- Building a new attic, conservatory or outdoor garden structure.
- Large scale reconstruction work on the roof.
- Repairs or construction on the building’s foundations, beams or pillars.
After the work is completed your engineer, Geometra or a qualified technician must present a final inspection certificate to the local authorities to confirm that the project complied with the work outlined in the initial SCIA application.
When Do You Need To Apply For A Building Permit?
If you want to build any new features, external constructions or conduct heavy renovation works you will need to have applied for a building permit in advance. However, your Geometra will be able to advise you on whether or not this is required before the project gets started.
When Do You Need To Get Permission From The Soprintendenza?
If you want to conduct renovations in any building that has artistic, historical, environmental or hydro-geological protections then you first have to be issued with permission from the Soprintendenza Archeologia, Belle Arti e Paseaggio. Italy has strict rules in place to protect their cultural and historical heritage and so you may be quite restricted in what you can do in any renovation project in certain buildings and locations.
Should You Work With A Real Estate Agency In Your Renovation Project?
Handling all the paperwork and navigating the complex web of local and national bureaucracy in Italy can be a serious headache and take the joy out of your renovation project!
That’s why it’s a good idea to work with a local real estate agent who can provide additional services to help you with your renovations. With their local knowledge, they can quickly source materials, contractors and vouch for the reliability and quality of the people they employ on your behalf.
Can Your Italian Real Estate Agency Help You With Renovations?
At a bare minimum, your Italian real estate agency should be able to provide you with the following contacts: Architect, Geometra, Primary Contractors and Property Managers. Many real estate agencies (particularly those ones that focus on the overseas buyers), have their own property management, translation, legal and construction divisions. Such agencies can provide the following services also:
- Manage building and renovation work on your behalf.
- Oversee the sourcing of reliable contractors and local building companies.
- Assign the necessary jobs to appropriate contractors.
- Ensure that you get a good price for the work being conducted in your renovation project.
- Handle the paperwork and provide trusted legal advice for you throughout the process.
- Submit the necessary documents to the local authorities on your behalf.
- Provide translated documents for you to read through before you sign anything.
- Offer you tips, advice and recommendations on how to increase the value or rental income of the property.
- Deliver a preliminary estimate of the costs for all aspects of the renovation project before you commit to any contracts.
- Help to prepare designs and blueprints for the renovation.
- Update the Cadastral Map and Plan after the renovation is complete.
- Deliver technical and structural reports on the property before and after the renovation.
You can manage the renovation project on your own but working with an estate agent can make the process much easier. Of course, you will have to pay fees for their services but it’s still often worth it to ensure that your renovations go smoothly and that everything is in compliance with the local regulations.
A good estate agent will also provide you with English language translations of the relevant documents and leverage their network of professional contacts to make sure that the renovations are a success.
The Red Tape Can Be A Little Confusing – But When In Doubt, Reach Out!
It can be very confusing for an Expat to know exactly what bureaucratic protocols they need to comply with when planning to undertake renovations on their property. This means that if you’re in any doubt at all you should reach out to a local lawyer or Geometra to get clear advice on the paperwork that you’ll have to submit before you proceed with your renovation project.