New rules for buying property in Italy

mahoney Image
05/10/2010 - 17:06

Hello everyone. I am trying to buy a property in Piemonte but there appears to be new rules for non Italian speakers. Apparently you now need an official translator to be present or an English translation of the deeds. We have tried several Notaries but they don't want to get involved as they have no experience of the new rules and are worried about the legality side of things. Has anyone out there had a similar experience or know of any way around this. Thanks.



This has always been the case. The notary will not permit a non-Italian speaking person to sign a contract in Italian. You will need to do one of two things: 1. Give an Italian speaker your power of attorney and let them sign on your behalf. You will need to sign a power of attorney document in English & Italian (i.e. this would need to be translated). 2. Get the deed translated into English and have a translator present to read the English translation of the deed. Be aware that usually the translator would need to be known to the Notary or at th every least approved by the Notary. Had to do this at all my property transactiosn dating back 8 years so it is not new.

"This has always been the case. The notary will not permit a non-Italian speaking person to sign a contract in Italian." Not when I bought mine about 8 years ago - at least, not for my purchase [perhaps its one of those Italian laws that's ignored more than adhered to]

Hopefully we will be completing in September.   We have an Italian solicitor here in the UK who is dealing with our legal formalities.   We were intending to give him POA to save on the costs of us having to travel and also the cost of an interpreter. Is this a sensible route?   Your views would be welcome. Donna

Donna unless things have changed recently you dont have to go to the Atto in person (we have avoided it twice now) however Your solictors will need to draw up a procura speciale, which will have to be stamped (apostile) by the foreign office if it's crossing National borders,  it will save you the travel expenses of going, however, the procura will nominate someone on your behalf to represent you + sign, so you may have to pay them for their services on the day....... unless you know of someone wiling to do it for free, check this with your solicitors.

penny is right - the law is quite clear and if you are not fluent in Italian the act or procura must be translated, otherwise the act is annulabile.  To save time and money it is usual to give a procura (as Penny says) to an Italian speaker to sign the act on your behalf, so the procura is translated and not the act - saving lots of translation costs - especially true if there is a mortgage involved as noone wants to translate 45 pages of rollover interest procedure. If both the buyer and seller are non Italian speakers it is easier just to have the entire act translated.  The agent cannot be the translator nor can his employees as it is a conflict of interest.  

Our selling agent put us in touch with a translator who attended with us and also translated the deeds.  Cost was 200 euros for the translator's services.  Everything went very well.

Our geometra spoke English quite well and translated for us and didn't charge us!.  It was fine except the notaio was a doddering old bloke who got his papers in a muddle umpteen times, went for a coffee mid way and four hours later we had a house in our name.  Maybe it helped that the previous owner of the house was an Italian who spoke perfect English having lived in England 30 years and the estate agent also spoke English.  This was just over 3 years ago. Maralyn

Penny and Ram are correct. The "rules" are actually there to protect you as the buyer on the basis that you must fully understand the transaction that you are entering into. €200 for translation services is fantastic value. We paid €1800 nearly ten years ago.

I know a lot of people dont use their own soliciter when dealing with the Notary but we did, an italian with excellent english. We ended up with a legally acceptable english translation. Cost a bit more than Euro200 thou but was worth every penny. Became an invaluable contact a year or so after the house purchase when we had a couple of issues that needed resolving.

I have acted as translator / interpretor several times.... I translate the conveyance (rogito) ....which essentially is just for buyer's own peace of mind - so that they know exactly what the original document says, and I usually, this comes about as I I tranlsated the compromesso, perhaps even the initial offer too.  I go along to the signing...(the notaries where this has happened know me - and based on my verbal italian and discussions we have had, they "trust" me to hve done the translation properly) and there is a clause inserted into the deed that says who I am and why I am there, and I also have to sign the deed along with everyone else.  It means that if anything crops up (which it often does - usually minor things, but still things that need to be sorted) I can translate there and then, make sure the buyers understand and agree (or otherwise) so that the final document as registered really is approved by all. It means that the translation itself is not actually there is an element of trust on all the translation has no legal status (I could not be sued if I made a mistake as I swear that what  I have done is to the best of my ability....and the buyers accept this) I have once been asked to translate the mortgage deed too....but never again! Although I charge for the rogito and any other formal translations I do, as well as when I attend the  signing, I also "volunteer" to be another contact and go-between for the buyers so that they have a non-interested and mother tongue person to turn to for advice and information about the whole process (I have bought twice and sold once in Italy - and bought and sold twice in the UK so can compare the processes)....and can also help out with early days stuff when settling in etc. My only advice would be that before getting just any old person to translate the rogito for you, make sure that either that they will get the translation notarized / sworn which then makes it legally acceptable (and you can then just take along an Italian speaking friend / acquaintance to help out at the signing if needed)  or that the notary will accept someone that he / she may not know personally to provide a translation and attend the signing....otherwise ask the agent if they know someone - meet that person and use your own judgement as to whether you trust them  or not! Finally - I have noticed (and checked out with other people) that - unsurprisingly -  most notaries tend to have a "pattern" to the conveyances they stipulate... so you could perhaps ask if you could see one they have done in the past, with, for the sake of privacy laws,  names and other specifics deleted (they have the deeds  on computer so it is no big deal) so that you have even more time to read through and understand what an Italian conveyance deed is all about!  Although each deed is different - because the properties and people concerned are different, and there are often "odd" circumstances that also play a part, there are still many standard points that are made - each notary phrases them differently, but the essence is the same.  

After a brief read of this post it looks like you may not have a solicitor working for and paid by you who is competent in English and Italian. I know that this is not cheap but for peace of mind I strongly recommend it. There are some who advertise on this site and others available.

Technically the notaio should not allow anyone who may have a conflict of interest to translate the act - it is not unknown for interested parties to translate or skip important bits, so estate agents, geometras and so on shouldnt be translators. A bi lingual solicitor is not necessary for a straightforward sale  - if you are buying via offshore funds or buying a property that has 48 owners and has strange vincoli it can be worthwhile, but usually solicitors become well paid translators. Registered translators at the Camera di Commercio can be used, anyone else is doing you a favour and you have no legal comeback if they translate something badly. 

for a couple buying a farmhouse in Marche, the notary had taken the job on to find someone who spoke danish for the translation of the final deed and to be present during the rogito. We applied modifications along the way which was then changed in the translation whereafter it was read out in danish before signing. The Notary had found me on the internet through the Italian Association of Translators, AITI. They have a list of members by language and region on their website. You have to pass a test to become a member. I remember that the english solicitor said he normally charged 500 euros for translation of the whole thing (compromesso, rogito and presence during signing). I remember I thought he was relatively cheap.  But I think the couple was pleased, and since then I have received emails about Enel, gas, ICI, rubbish tax, and have made several phone calls on their behalf to register and organise payment of these things from abroad. The english speaking solicitor who had sort of promised to help out in the beginning, seemed to have vanished after the sale.. A sworn translation can be destinguished in what Sabina describes for the sollicitor, where the notary states that the translation has no legal value, and a sworn translation signed in the Tribunale or Giudice di Pace. In the latter case the swearer bears the full legal responsibility for the job done. I asked the Giudice di Pace last time to come clear on this, and he said that tecnically you can swear your own deed, saving money having somebody do it for you (nobody asks you anything about conflict of interest...) but who signs takes on the legal responsibility.