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Purchasing Support service is a key phase for those looking to purchase a property. The service involves a series of land registry and town planning checks which provide the purchaser with a full picture of the fiscal and town planning situation of the property being sold.
We are often led to believe that these checks are carried out by the notary (notaio) upon exchange of contracts, but this is not the case. The notary is neither a technical expert nor familiar with the situation of the property on the ground, and therefore merely certifies the vendor’s declaration.
A technical expert, on the other hand, conducts a site inspection, first of all verifying that the information obtained visually complies with the plan filed with the Italian Inland Revenue Land Office (Agenzia delle Entrate – Territorio), formerly the Land Registry Office (Catasto).
This initial operation makes it possible to ascertain the legitimacy of the building’s land registry information. If the situation found on the ground corresponds to the plan, the property information is considered legitimate. If not, the land registry plan (planimetria catastale) must be updated.
In the majority of cases, particularly if the purchaser is not informed of the problems that could arise in the event of failure to comply with town planning regulations or if the estate agency in question is not sufficiently professional, the checks prior to exchange of contracts end with this operation.
Land registry checks and compliance of the property with the land registry plan do not in any way protect the purchaser from future town planning problems.
Here, once again, the notary, not being a technical expert, merely certifies the vendor’s declaration, perhaps declaring that the property was built before 1967 or citing a series of building permits starting with construction of the property and including subsequent alterations and modifications, never, however, checking that the work carried out at the site complies with what was authorised by the municipal offices.
Very often, purchasers only discover that they have purchased a property different from the one authorised by the municipal authority (Comune) when they decide to carry out building works and go to the municipal offices to request the relevant permits.
At this point, the municipal authority, before granting the owner permission to make any alterations to the property, require a check of compliance with the plans filed in the municipal records. This is where unpleasant surprises very often come to light and it is found that the property has undergone alterations over time without authorisation from the municipal authority.
For example, what was originally a box-room may have become a bedroom, or a portico may have been enclosed to form a living room, or perhaps the top-floor ceiling has been demolished to create an exposed roof, thus increasing the volume.
These are three fairly common examples of discrepancies which, to the untrained eye, may appear insignificant. Unfortunately, however, this is not the case.
When unauthorised works are discovered, it is necessary, first of all, to check whether they may be retroactively authorised. Italian Presidential Decree 380/2001 (consolidated law on building), Articles 36 and 37, states that unauthorised works may only be retroactively authorised if they comply with town planning regulations both at the time the works were carried out and at the time of application for retroactive authorisation.
If the works cannot be retroactively authorised then they must be demolished, returning the property to its condition prior to the unauthorised works.
If, however, the unauthorised works do comply with town planning regulations both at the time they were carried out and at the time of application for retroactive authorisation, the owner may obtain a retroactive building permit subject to payment of a penalty.
Depending on the town planning scheme (Piano Regolatore) zone in which the property is situated and on whether there are any constraints, e.g. in landscape terms, this penalty may involve payment of double the sum of the town planning charges or, worse still, a percentage of the increase in value due to the unauthorised works. In any case, the unwitting purchaser will be obliged to pay out thousands of euros due simply to not having performed these checks prior to purchasing the property.
Finally, it is worth remembering that a property can be put on the market even without a fitness for use certificate (certificato di agibilità).
If, however, the purchaser should decide to request the said certificate from the municipal authority after exchange of contracts, he/she is obliged not only to demonstrate town planning and land registry compliance but also to produce declarations of compliance of the technological system and a static test certificate (collaudo statico) or certificate of suitability (certificato di idoneità statica) from a Chartered Engineer with at least 10 years’ experience.
In this case, too, it is important to check the presence of these documents prior to exchange of contracts, and to quantify the cost of obtaining them if not present, in order to avoid unexpected expenses.
Studio Ghidone’s Purchasing Support Service includes all the checks described above, for the sole purpose of protecting our clients.
Purchasing a home is a big step and should be taken with the greatest peace of mind, without having to worry about unpleasant surprises.
Our Purchasing Support Service includes document searches with public bodies, checks of town planning and land registry compliance, identification of any unauthorised works, quantification of retroactive authorisation charges, and much more.
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