Trouble in paradise - foreign buyers in a new development mess

05/20/2009 - 05:37

I've got a good one for you.I was invited by prospective property management clients out to see their recently purchased property, one of 85 planned units in a new-build borgo in Umbria. I handle individual properties - e.g. bill paying, inspections, maintenance, keyholder, and other pratiche related to homeownership in Italy - and they had also asked me if I would be interested in bidding on the management of the whole complex through Cluttons Italy, who I am associated with. Being a licensed estate agent and having experience in this area, I was interested in the possibility of taking on the administration of this condominium. So, suffice to say I was surprised when my colleague and I arrived to find a house full of neighbors, all British or American, armed with files and documents and wanting us to help them sort out a Proper Mess.It seems that the developer and the builder have pulled a classic Channel 4 swindle on their all-foreign buyers. They've been marketing in the UK through a reputable national estate agency, but when it came to Italian contracts, condominium law and property law they just did whatever they wanted. We listened and asked questions for over two hours, and at the end (as they were begging us to take over) we told them that they didn't need us, but a good lawyer. I have offered to help them so far as finding an English speaking attorney and formulating a list of questions to ask the newly appointed management company (unclear as to whether this is also the amministratore del condominio) at their first meeting next week. It seems that, though the first units were sold in 2007, they have just got around to forming the condominio now. They also collected €3000 from each buyer at the compromesso (in addition to their caparra confirmatoria) saying it was for the constitution of the condominio (illegal). There has never been an accounting for these funds, a yearly meeting - nothing. Pffffsst. I know that the developer has the right to appoint the condo. admin. for the first 12 months, which should have been from the sale of the first units, but they're now saying that the period starts now (illegal). According to the residents, there has never been ANY maintenance done on the common areas, outside lighting is insufficient, walkways unpaved, no security. Lots of safety violations on site (a crane actually crashed into an occupied unit recently and an owner broke her ankle last year on a dark walkway). For all of this, they're now asking for a monthly condo fee along the lines of €3000/year for a small unit. Evidently they have also botched the proportional ownership calculations, having not provided accurate information on unit size to the new management company.They're also now claiming, contrary to sales materials, compromessi and atti, that they're "keeping the pool for themselves" and will charge the owners, and outsiders too, €100 month to be members of their own pool - that is to swim. The land the pool is sited on is clearly part of the communal property. There is a clubhouse being built as well on this land, however it is unclear who owns the building. Of course they should be including pool maintenance fees in the monthly condo charge, but this appears to be above and beyond that. Needless to say, the owners are irate at the idea of outsiders on their property.Anyway, there are just so many issues, far too many to list here. My main reason for posting is to find out if anyone knows a really good, English speaking lawyer in Umbria or Lazio - someone with some property experience. These people need a lawyer asap since some of these issues may be criminal and there are requirements about denouncing within three months of the event. I am friendly with our local prosecutor which may come in handy on that front, but I really want to find them a lawyer and then step back until it's all sorted out.Love to hear what you think.



Charlotte Oliver. She is with Studio Paoletti in Rome.She is excellent and very nice too. Uk trained solicitor who registered as an Italian avvocato and works with Italian trained lawyers in their practice.She is also a member of this forum.Good luck.

In reply to by garda

I'll get in touch. I have already spoken with someone that might be a fit, but it would be great to have more than one possibility.

In reply to by garda

we have worked with many of the UK based Italian specialists in the past but have always found that they use or used us as their source of information which to us seemed a bit ridiculous... whats the point of independent legal advice when you are asking someone involved in a sale to check things for you i know by law the agents role if registered here is clearly defined as are their responsibilities...anyway another story ... Charlotte Oliver is the first solicitor used in a sale by us that requested all the papers and then actually visited the property and went over it with a fine tooth-comb to check it out, attended the the final act and wrote most of it and able to clearly see waht was and wasnt as regards the propertya first with us that the buyers solicitor actually knew the property and since then she is the only one we suggest if someone needs requires help after that ... choice is theirs of course the other point about your initial story is that this is not a rare occurrence from what i have heard and indeed there seems to be some cross over now between development companies and Anglo Italian law firms in carrying out sales that have ended up with problems at least similar to the ones you mentionedgood to see posts that are making people aware of problems.. knowledge is all

I am very interested in your story Elicat as I am buying a flat from a developer. It is one of 5 within a converted farmhouse. They are all supposed to be freehold with separate entrances and gardens etc. Is it the case that the developer or management,if appointed post sale can suddenly announce that it is a condominium? How many flats would constitute a condiminium? Can it be changed without discussion to a condiminium from freehold? You have me worired now.