House purchase gone really bad - and experience and/or advice please.

02/16/2010 - 09:57

Hello all - new visitor to your site - you all look like some very clever and  interesting bunch of people! Hope someone can's the (short as possible) problem. I'm English - my wife is Italian. We have decided that we would like to buy an appartment/house in Italy - and in March 2008 found an appartment in Le Marche region (commune di Fano to be a bit more precise). The appartment, part of a five appartment block spread over three floors was still being built - but I would say was about 80% finished. We completed a compremesso at the estate agency (but did not get a bank guarantee from the builder,which we're suppossed to, but did not know at the time). Gave the agency his cut EUR 3k, and the builder a deposit of EUR 45k - with the rest payable upon completion. That was March '08. The builder died in Sept '08. All work on his projects - ours included stopped while they sorted out the will etc. He left his business to the family, and they decided they didnt want to finish any of the jobs - a local judge has even told them it was too late to change their mind and they have to finish - but they wont, so nothing has happened. The builder took out a loan from the bank on the property, so the bank are owed money - the family say they dont have any the meantime we're out of pocket by almost 50k. I know there was a law brought in recently to protect buyers from builders that went bankrupt, but not sure if this covers this - I know also of a 'fondo' which is like an insurance which again protects the buyer - but as we didnt get to see a bank guarantee at the beginning, apparently we cant go down this route. We have an avvocato in Fano, but he doesnt seem to be doing much. This situation can apparently go on for years - we really wanted this property, but are sadly looking elsewhere now. Can I sue the estate agency for negligence for not doing his job properly (with regards to the guarentee)?? Not sure where to go next - we have recently written to the giudice di pace to see if he/she can get involved. This is a strange predicament to be in, but surely this must have happened to someone else? I welcome your wise comments on this - any advice and/or sliver of light would be most welcome Alan



 Hi Alan, sorry to hear about your predicament. It is a very complicated case where you need advice and guidance from a clever lawyer. If you are unhappy with the way your local avvocato is handling your affairs, it would be better to engage another lawyer. What are the other four people who bought the remaining apartments? Have you had any contact with them? Best wishes

1 of the appartments has been sold to a family - who have paid quite a substantial deposit. We have been in contact, yes, but she has her own lawyer who seems to be not doing very much either. 2 other appartments have been bought by the engineer/surveyor and labourer who actually worked on building the property. Now whether they have actually paid a deposit or was given the appartment in lieu of work done, I dont know. 1 appartment remains unsold. Last time I looked at some numbers, the cost of finishing the property is about 250k - and the amount still to collect from people was slightly more. And this would also leave one appartment to sell - bringing in an estimated further 160k.  When you look at these figures its a no-brainer - however the bank are owed about 300k as well. So doesnt look so attractive then. Otherwise I would have offered to finish it myself.    

What a horrible position to be in. I can recommend solicitor Charlotte Oliver (who is a poster on here) who works at a law firm in Rome. I know other posters have used her services and I have been very happy with her services.

 Alanino, what a nightmare. Wish you well. You really need a lawyer specialising in property disputes here. (not a generalist). As Penny says, maybe Charlotte Oliver can help. Alternatively, The Italian chamber of commerce in the UK (1 Princess Street, London 020 74958191- I think) may be able to point you in the right direction). Your point 2 was interesting. I'm not sure how generally well known this is, but its by no means uncommon for those involved on a site to be "paid" by receiving part of the build.

What a mess - as regards whether the estate agent is negligent - I would say you have a reasonable case.  The decree of June 2005 (no122) is concerned with buying off plan.  By the date of the compromesso the builder/seller must have deposited a sum equivalent to the caparra with a bank or insurance company to guarantee all the money that the builder will pocket up until the property is handed over to the buyer.  If this is not done the compromesso is can be annulled only by the buyer.  In this case the estate agent should have cjhecked that there was the sum lodged with the bank, and he was negligent in allowing you sign the compromesso, as well as the builder acting illegally.   Although the law can be a nightmare, in my experience a judge faced with such facts will order the immediate restitution of the caparra (and possibly the agents commission).  Of course that is no guarantee that the heirs will do so.    However, it also depends on whether the apartments were built with a full concessione edilizia and other procedures completed.