dispute with geometra

grania Image
09/08/2010 - 06:47

I contracted with a geometra to perform various works to my house. Most were completed satisfactorily but a number of jobs were either not completed or completed to a poor standard and the geometra refuses to recognise this. I now have to incur the cost (and time) in completing the works to a reasonable standard. The geometra is seeking full settlement of his costs (approx 6k) and has padlocked the gates to the property. He states he is entitled to do so, my Italian solicitor advises that the position is not clear ...... My concern is that the stalemate could go on for some and I do not want to rack up legal, surveyor and other costs even though I am sure I am in the right. Has anyone had any such experience and if so how did you resolve?  



If you have reasonal grounds to dispute assured quality of the work then get your Solicitor to write him a letter saying you are taking the matter to Court. The Geometra has no legal right to bar you from your property, so cut his padlock off and if he tries to reinstate it call the Caribineri.

My Italian solicitor advises me that a valid contract may enable the geometra to prevent access to the property. However in my case the contract is not absolutely clear and his rights are therefore unclear. Apparently the geometra is entitled to the opportunity to correct the works but he has not chosen to do so in the past year. I have had a joint meeting with the solicitor and geometra present and made a "final offer" - the end result being that the geometra still seeks payment and has made no commitment to complete or correct the works. I have threatened to report the matter to the Carabinieri but wondered if any one had been in this position before and indeed whether the Carabinieri would act in such a matter.

Hi there,  maybe I'm being naive but surely the onus is on him to complete the work to the standard that you require.  He has absolutely no right to bar you from your property and is acting unlawfully in my opinion.  Cut his padlock off and replace it with a bigger one of your own.  I think you should probably make the local Carabinieri aware of the situation and get their off the record opinion. Best of luck and do let us know how it resolves itself.

We have been in this situation and decided in the end to get another builder to fix the bodge. Our solicitor took us through a few options but if it had gone to court we could have lost more money and the time delay would be a disaster ( you would have to stop work at the house while the case was going on) Is there anyone here who has successfully sued a geometra or got them to correct badly done work at their expense? I doubt it. Definetly take his padlock off, he's trying to scare you. www.myabruzzohome.com

You OWN this property??!! It's a no brainer for me, he perceives that you owe him money, let him take YOU to court for the money owed. Just get some one else in to do the job properly, keep receipts for future court references. That is what I would do................ full stop. HOWEVER..................I would be prepared for a LOT of hassle from him and possibly his associates who may cause you issues in the future. Regardless of this I would still do as I suggest......... GOOD LUCK ! S

Hold hard before taking steps that you may very well regret. Firstly, talk the matter over with your lawyer and listen carefully to what he tells you. Secondly, negotiation has to include you as well as your geometra. Offer to pay for the work that has been completed to your satisfaction and detail your reason for your disatisfaction with the rest. In writing. Thirdly, remember that legal action in Italy can be very expensive, so don't start or even threaten something which may well end with your losing more money than you actually have. It can happen. Fourthly, please do not take any notice of people that suggest you take matters into your own hands and break the law. You will lose that one as well as completely ruin any chances of any kind of a negotiated settlement. And, to the person that suggested that the geometra is trying to scare you: He wouldn't waste his money on a padlock if he wanted to do that, I promise you. He would just scare you. End of.   PS. The Carabiniere have no interest in domestic or commercial disputes. Firstly talk to your local Polizia Locale and for financial problems to the Guardia di Finanza.

Presumably the house is currently unoccupied. I would suggest sorting things out amicably with the geometra or you might find your property is severely vandalised by persons unknown. It's all very well to talk tough , but if you ain't on site , the property is very vulnerable. Don't fall out with the locals is my advice.

Rarely do I agree with beeryspice, but on this occasion his cautionary words are worth considering. You do not know (I assume) what court action the geometra has already taken over your non payment of the account for his fee, and I am assuming you have only a dispute over HIS fee (possibly he has settled the accounts with the "bad workmen" and you are trying to punish him for having done this). Now, it isn't unreasonable to feel this way, and there should be a negotiable route to getting the substandard works rectified at no cost to you, at which point you pay the geometra his dues. Everybody happy(ish), without involving litigation (which  however much in the right you feel you are) will undoubtedly fail and cost you a lot of money and heartache.

All this said, but unless we (all who have commented) are in full posssesion of all the facts regarding what was agreed, what has been done, what you asked for, and remedial actions required, and have you had a site meeting with all concerned, it's is impossible for any advice to be meaningful. The general feeling I think is take advice, get a third party involved, but don't be bullied, as often an Italian Professional will try to do...oh and get to know your rights.

Thank you all for your advice. I have paid the geometra approx 30k euros for work completed to date. My contract is with him so I can not control who he passes this money to and who has still not been paid. The house is a holiday home and so largely unoccupied so I would prefer to come to an amicable conclusion. The problem is that in the past year the remaining works have not been completed or corrected and the geometra does not intend to do any more. I will have to employ another builder to complete the work but the remaining problem is that the geometra still wants to be paid 6k and he could cause problems going forward (including preventing access). Your advice has been useful. Will be out there again in several months and see if we can conclude then. A trip to the Polizia Locale may help to move the matter forward. Thanks again.

Outrageous behaviour in my view by the geometra.............talking is always good, putting his chains on is 'not talking', he takes takes them off then you both talk............. S

I also agree with beeryspice. I have several friends who have gone the legal route and despite being completely "in the right" have lost the case and ended up having to fork out an awful lot more than the original request. Not to mention the stress involved. It is not right and doesn't sit comfortably with our British sense of fairplay but this is Italy. You know no-one and the geometra will have all sorts of contacts which may well include the police and judiciary. Personally, I would stay on friendly terms with the geometra (although if he has put a padlock on your property you may be past that point already!) and try to resolve something between you, with the help of a third party. You would spend more than 6,000 on a lawyer with no guarantee you would win your case.

We have just finished a long standing dispute (5 years) with a builder that the geometra recommended to finish the house here. His words to us at the time were "I am the judge and jury of the works", but when it came to the dispute over the standard of the work, he hid his head in the sand. He can also be a witness for both parties in a dispute, so would never trust them, as probably depends as to who butters his bread better.

i would suggest you pay said geometra and take it as hard lesson learned,  to go against the caste here is virtually an un-winnable situation .. even worse if you do not live here and have to attend the court on several occaisions it will always be a no win situation against the professional caste here unless in really extreme circumstances, and i presume that the geometra may well hold the key to allowing your house to be registered as habitable so until he is in your side you might well not be able to live there, he also has the right to keep the property closed to you until the works are signed off as finished and safe so my thoughts are that you would be inadvised to get into a padlock dispute, for a start damaging his property could see you in court well before him pay up and get the project signed off, hopefully the value of the work done is ok and you just take as a lesson learned..you for sure will not be the first nor last ..  and not many will laugh at you either.. all will have been there before and you will be fairly well welcomed by your neighbors as part of that club that has fallen to the rip offs of many of the professional caste here  i am a member, an architect refused to allow me to reduce the number of bedrooms in an apartment, i wanted two she wanted three..  in the end i said i was fed up with her and would get someone else.. cost me her fee for no work done.. trouble is until she was paid could not get the house paperwork released from the comune... paid up.. its pretty well what happens here.. all Italians know they will either loose in court or loose too much in the fight.. 

Looks like I'm on to a loser here but will have one last chance at a negotiated settlement. I appreciate a few of you have been in this situation before and I value your advice. It is surprising that there is no way to avoid this "scam" when work is either not done or is completed to an unacceptable standard. The law appears to lean towards the contractor - don't know why Italians would put up with it. I will update you all in a few months.

sometimes the problems occur because we do not understand how Italian law works, or even the caste system which guarantees income and work to those that have a professional status i could not belive at first that almost just by speaking to an architect or geometra to look at a building and estimate what work needed to be done you are almost in effect signing a contract with them to carry out the work for you.. when getting advice here it is in my opinion when dealing with anyone involved in building works to clearly have a signed contract about the extent of what you are asking and its maybe best to do this in all cases as these people have rights that in places most of us come from cannot and would not be exercised, so its better to be clear and safe the other point is that once the project has the go ahead and a director of works appointed, ie usually the geometra or architect you will  have no rights to access your own property until the work is signed off by them due to the fact that on a building site the access is regulated to qualified personel wearing safety equipment   now its obvious that most people you work with will be flexible and honest about the whole thing and many people do build and complete projects with no problems at all, so i suggest that its best not to get totally nervous about the strange system, however once a contract is signed here the person will be entitled to his payment even if the job is never started or completed so be very aware of this when you have completed the purchase and are starting on works, and once the property is a building site with that notice board of the project erected you have no rights to enter your own property until the guy in charge signs it off and gives it back now in most cases although the system is totally fixed for this caste to operate with immunity it all works ok.. not well, just ok but you need to be aware that when it doesnt there is very little you have any right on or with to allow you back into your property should you decide to have a dispute, so you might well have believed that Italian property law is a nightmare when buying, indeed should you even look at a house from the outside with an agency they then have the right to claim a fee should you in fact ever buy the property, even if they do not have a mandate to sell, much the same but even more costly applies to building works   in fact in Italy an estate agent cannot be a geometra or another professional such as an architect, well they can be but they cannot practice both roles, its obvious that there would be a massive conflict of interest if they were allowed to not only contractually bind you within a sale but also whilst showing you around the property and advising on works they could then bind you to a contract to rebuild or renovate, obvious conflicts of interest in a massive sense as an agent that is registered is duty bound to work for you and offer you all the advice required to allow you to make a considered choice, but then if acting also as a building consultant he obviously would want you to purchase a building where he/she will make much more money than an agency fee out of you i do find it strange that people when looking and buying property here seem to accept that they are helped through by teams all working for the same company or even geometras pretending to be agents when there is an obvious conflict of interest within the two roles, hence the reason legally that they cannot be combined here, 

Just to bring you up to date. The sequence of events has been: gates padlocked door to property blocked with solvent I reported both matters to the Carabinieri - the Commandante telephoned the Geometra soil pipe then blocked with expanding foam I then visited the Carabinieri again - the Commandante made another call. The Geometra denies everything but having received several calls from the Carabinieri Commandante, I hope he sees sense. Useful to know the Carabinieri are prepared to act in such circumstances - direct quick and cheap if it works. Fingers crossed.

Grania........ Wow..........how awful, I remember the early notes that you shared with us all...........well done you for your patience, and for the Commandante; I hope others in your location go nowhere near this very bad person ! My fingers are crossed along with yours ! S

This sounds awful. I cannot believe anyone could act so badly. But you seem to have the Carabinieri on your side, which can only be a good thing. I have heard before of the police taking action in such disputes. I know some people who bought a house in Basilicata, and the neighbour who owned the property below - only a cantina, not even a house he lived in - kept tearing down the waste water pipes which went down to the ground across his property, and even tried to shake the workmen off their ladder. The police actually had to supervise the work in the end! Do let us know the outcome- I hope it works out for you.

''in fact in Italy an estate agent cannot be a geometra or another professional such as an architect, well they can be but they cannot practice both roles, its obvious that there would be a massive conflict of interest if they were allowed to not only contractually bind you within a sale but also whilst showing you around the property and advising on works they could then bind you to a contract to rebuild or renovate, obvious conflicts of interest in a massive sense as an agent that is registered is duty bound to work for you and offer you all the advice required to allow you to make a considered choice, but then if acting also as a building consultant he obviously would want you to purchase a building where he/she will make much more money than an agency fee out of you'' My God do you mean that this is actually happening in Italy adriatica? Surely in Italy  there must be laws that protect the innocent buyer? Oh I forget there are but how many of us can spend the next 20 years going backwards and forwards between home and the courts while the Italian 'justice' system grinds slowly on!!!Not to mention throwing every penny we have into a lawyers pension fund. Anyone who has read 'The Monster of Florence' will be party to the madness that exsists within parts of the 'justice' system in italy -the author even has a chapter on the sentence passed on Amanda Knox written some years ago but he quite properly draws the reader's attention to the fanatical and quite  absurd views of the judge in this case.I was not surprised to hear she had been released. ''If there's any justice in the world''......don't look for it in Italy.