Good Fences Make Good Neighbors? The Helen Mirren Property in Puglia Case

| Thu, 05/10/2012 - 13:34

Italian lawyer Nick Metta comments on Helen Mirren’s disagreement with her neighbor in Puglia.

If good fences make good neighbors, then Helen Mirren should have a great relationship with her Italian neighbor over the four metre stone wall dividing their properties in southern Puglia. Unfortunately, this does not seem to be the case.

While Dame Mirren and her husband Taylor Hackford regularly draw headlines, the current disagreement with their Puglian neighbors is not truly newsworthy. These situations between neighbors happen frequently throughout Italy and, human nature being what it is, most likely throughout the world.

Currently the couple’s neighbor, Anna De Giovanni, has a dispute not directly with them, but with the Comune of Tiggiano. Ms De Giovanni has accused the Comune of not fulfilling their duty when she was not permitted to review and have copies of the complete renovation plans for the Mirren-Hackford property. Ms De Giovanni had however been allowed to review the plans that pertained to the stone wall dividing her property from Dame Mirren’s, which is what De Giovanni had originally claimed to disagree with. Not exactly a big scandal thus far.

As these situations cannot always be predicted or prevented, the most crucial actions to carry out to protect your interests should be taken prior to purchasing the property. It is important for proper due diligence to be carried out prior to investing in one’s Italian dream escape, including but not limited to:

- title deed history over the past 20 years;
- surveyor’s confirmation of existing borders, rights of way, and cadastral map;
- confirm any preemption rights;
- review of planning permissions;
- confirm the property is not under rental contract;
- confirm any existing mortgages or liens.

A thorough and professional review of the above should be carried out and addressed prior to signing any deed, even just an initial purchase offer. Sometimes, a signed purchase offer can have dire implications later as one has unknowingly agreed to something or given up certain rights.

Should one be planning to renovate or build on a property after purchase, it is also possible to craft the purchase offer to be contingent upon planning permissions being emitted for future work. As these measures need to be carried out in the proper manner, it is important to engage a reliable professional, familiar with local regulations. In Dame Mirren’s case, it seems that all this has been done.


Once any issues have been addressed and the property has been purchased, it is then quite important to carry out any renovation or construction work only when the proper planning permissions have been approved. It is also key to use professionals who work within the standards and properly complete the work in accordance with the legal regulations. This should all be documented and registered with the local Comune as necessary. Once again, it seems Dame Mirren has done this aspect as well.

However, as we see with Dame Mirren’s current situation, even if you have done everything in accordance to the law, it is not uncommon for a dispute to emerge at a later date. Having all the proper paperwork in place will make the situation easier to affront, and hopefully quicker to resolve in your favour.

Please check this space on the ItalyMag website regularly as Studio Legale Metta will be publishing editorials on various legal aspects of purchasing and owning Italian property.

Previous articles contributed by Studio Legale Metta:

Italian Government Gains Revenue by Raising VAT on Italian Property Purchases

Italian Financial Crisis 2012: Essential Estate Planning for Italian Real Estate Investors

Italian Property Purchase Tips - Leaving a Deposit: Acconto vs. Caparra

Italian Inheritance Hunters and the American Uncle

Good News for Italian Property Owners: You Don’t Need an Italian Will

Save More Than 50% on Rental Property Taxes

Getting Money Out of Your Italian Property

Nick Metta is a partner at the Italian law firm Studio Legale Mettawhere he is head of the firm's international department, addressing matters of Italian law involving international parties in areas such as Italian real estate, property financing and Italian inheritance law. Nick has his Ph.D. in Italian tax law and has been assisting international clients since 1998.

The Italian law firm Studio Legale Metta is a boutique firm of Italian Attorneys. Established more than 120 years ago, the firm handles domestic and international casework throughout Italy.