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When you’re buying a property in Italy you’ll have to sign a Preliminary Purchase Agreement, which is known as a ‘Compromesso’, before you can proceed with the purchase. This part of the purchasing process can be quite complicated so you may well need a local lawyer to go over the paperwork and documents with you.
These documents will then provide the legal proof that you need to proceed with the purchase of the property and must, therefore, be done right because the last thing you want is to have problems later on in the process. After you’ve signed the Preliminary Contract of Sale you can sign the Final Contract and take ownership of the property.
What is a Preliminary Contract of Sale?
A Preliminary Contract of Sale is an agreement which lays out the main parts of the details of the property sale in advance of signing a complete and more comprehensive Final Contract. Your Preliminary Contract of Sale should include the price of the property as well as the expected date of purchase.
The period before you sign the Preliminary Contract with the seller of the property includes all the arrangements, due diligence and negotiations that must occur before you can sign the final purchase contract. You must check over all the legal documents, both state and municipal, that relate to the property in this period.
Once you have signed a Preliminary Contract you cannot enter into other agreements and drop the purchase without losing your deposit. This protects the seller and the buyer by ensuring that the sale of the property remains secure while the details and legalities are finalized. After signing a Preliminary Contract of Sale the seller of the property should not offer it to anyone else.
After the details of your purchase have been ironed out and finalized you can then sign the sale contract.
What To Do Before You Sign A Preliminary Contract of Sale?
Before you go ahead and sign the Preliminary Contract of Sale there’s a number of documents that you have to thoroughly check first. You will need the help of a property lawyer or real estate firm to give you the legal advice and local knowledge required to complete this part of the process.
Buying a home is complicated enough in your own country but when you’re buying a property in Italy and all the forms and documents are in Italian, unless you are fluent in the language you are bound to need some local help. There are also numerous national and local regulations that you need to comply with, including taxes and rules that cover everything from renovations to energy efficiency; however a local lawyer can handle all these aspects of the sale.
It can even be a difficult task to find all the relevant documents on your own since you have to contact multiple agencies and administrative authorities, however, once again, your lawyer can oversee this part of the process on your behalf.
The documents that you need to check and review before you sign a preliminary contract of sale are. The documents will vary depending on your personal situation.
The Deed Of The Property.
Known as the ‘Titolo di Proprieta e/o di Provenienza’, the property deed must be inspected before you can continue with the purchase. This is the legal document which confirms that the seller owns the property and has the right to sell it.
It also confirms any restrictions that may be in place on the property, easements and mortgages that could negatively impact on the property. It’s especially important to go over this document if it was received as part of an inheritance because some of the legalities may have changed since it was first issued.
Verifying Ownership Of The Property.
Every jurisdiction in Italy has its own ‘Catasto’ office which holds copies of all the documents that relate to the properties within their district. The central offices issue ‘Catasto’ documents which legally certify the ownership of the property as well as any documents that concern third party rights to the property. These ‘Documentazione Catastale’ should be carefully reviewed before you proceed with any purchase to establish whether the previous owners have been in compliance with any relevant cadastral regulations and laws.
Verifying The Building Permit.
This document, called the ‘Certificato di Destinazione Urbanistica’, contains all the information that pertains to the use of land in accordance with the General Urban Development Plan, or the ‘Piano Regolatore Urbanistico’. This document is created and provided by the local municipality and it is essential to check that it is in order before you proceed.
Permissions For Remodeling.
The retrospective planning permission, or ‘Concessione in Sanatoria’, is the legal document that lays out any construction or renovation work that has been done on the property in the past without having needed the modern administrative permits – these changes are effectively given retrospective permission with this document.
Is The Property Part Of A Subdivision?
Taking an old building and subdividing them into various apartments is relatively common in Italy. Under the Italian law, it is actually illegal to purchase a property without having the subdivision permit, or the ‘Autorizzazione alla Lottizzazione’. Make sure your lawyer goes over this document with you and checks in with the municipality authorities to ensure that it is still valid.
Does The Property Have Historical Value?
In Italy there are many beautiful properties which are considered by the authorities to have significant historical or artistic value to the region and community. As a result, if you want to purchase one of these properties you should be aware that the Italian Ministry of Cultural Heritage and Cultural Activities has the right of first refusal on the sale, known in Italian as the ‘Diritti di Prelazione’. After they have refused to purchase the property you can proceed with your own arrangements with the seller. This seemingly strict practise has helped to maintain the traditional aesthetics of Italian towns and cities.
Health, Safety And Energy Compliance Certificate.
This is a document that is provided by the local municipality, known as the ‘Certificato di Agibilita’, which confirms that the property is in compliance with the strict health and safety regulations and modern energy efficiency codes. These energy efficiency codes are updated on a fairly frequent basis so you need to make sure that the property is fully up to date.
As well as examining these documents you should also ask for the ‘Mappa Catastale’ so you can check it against the physical structure of the property to make sure that there are no differences between the physical property and what is recorded at the Catasto office. If you do find any discrepancies you will have to fill out a ‘Denuncia di Variazione’; after which the property can be brought back into compliance.
It should also be noted that every building that has been constructed since 1996 has a logbook for health and safety procedures that is called the ‘Fascicolo del Fabbricato’. You need to review these logbooks to ensure that your property is up to the high health and safety standards in Italy and has not fallen behind in any required inspections or safety repairs. Properties that were built after 1989 also require special certificates which confirm their level of accessibility, adaptability and their health and safety compliance.
Local Environmental Regulations.
The Italian authorities take their environmental responsibilities very seriously and as a consequence you need to make sure that property is in full compliance with any local environmental regulations and codes of best practise. Your lawyer can help you find out exactly what these are because they vary from region to region but must be complied with.
Verifying The Condominium Rules.
Each condominium or apartment block may have its own set of internal rules and regulations, known as ‘Regolamenti Condominiali’, which define the rights that you have to the common areas as well as the responsibilities that you will be required to comply with. For instance, you may need to pay fees for the upkeep, maintenance and cleaning of the building and communal areas.
The Steps You Have To Take Before Signing The Preliminary Contract Of Sale.
Before you can sign a Preliminary Contract of Sale for a property there is quite a lot of documentation and paperwork to check and review to ensure that the building is in compliance. These documents are written in Italian and so unless you speak the language to a very high standard you’ll need to hire the assistance of a bilingual real estate lawyer.
Even if your Italian is good enough to understand the nuances of the complex documentation you will still need a lawyer, or the help of a real estate firm, to wade through the local regulations and municipality rules and codes.
Many of the better real estate firms can provide you with pre-printed contracts and preliminary contract agreements which have an English translation for foreigners buying property in the country. These bilingual documents can be extremely useful if you are going through the process of purchasing a property and so where possible you should always try to find a real estate firm that can cater to your linguistic needs.