If you have an intermediary such as the real estate agency, and a notary, this is not a guarantee that all the documentation is ok. It happened to 90% of my clients but personally to me by buying our home, since I had to protect myself from the presence or absence of any internal abuses on the property. Not all notaries and not all agencies do such a thorough check, not even those commissioned by us, who had perjured that they would look at everything.
So what and where to look? And why? I will explain a little what are the main papers and I will use three different cases, where irregularities have been remedied in three different ways. Very important to remember: we are talking about ITALIAN situations and regulations.
- what to check?
- site inspection
- municipal offices
- construction drawings
- Case #1
- Case #2
- Case #3
what to check?
Taking for granted all the research on the reliability of the intermediary, the seller and the economic-legal checks on mortgages and more by the notary, we analyze in the architectural field what must be requested and verified. To understand if everything is regular and we are not in the presence of abuses, we must proceed with these three types of assessment:
- site inspection
- municipal office
This means not just seeing the house – it’s the minimum to understand if you really like it! – but analyze it analytically and compare it with the documents I will mention later. Having – or taking – photos from the most different angles is very useful, only in this way you can see double heights, false ceilings, niches etc. comparing them with the documents that will be available with the research carried out.
Many think that the Cadastre is the one and only source to worry about. This is not the case, in reality in Italy what has been filed with the Municipality is more binding – remember that the Cadastre has no probative / legal value.
However, for the ease with which these documents are found, for the declarations connected to the property, the rent etc. it is the most used tool and from which we can start.
An inspection of these documents will allow you to understand who is the actual owner of a given property, in what percentage, what square meters are declared, what is the income of the property, and how it was classified: laboratory, office or residence?
Through its plan, usually immediately available during the sale, you will have an unofficial confrontation with the existing spaces. The notary will verify that you are buying what is shown in that plan, including any attics etc.
Some notary offices do not have the technical expertise to detect slight architectural differences that would represent irregularities, so I always recommend having it viewed by a professional. Sometimes the differences are very noticeable, and they suggest a wake-up call that work has been done without declaring it – or updating the land legistry plan.
A professional architect, with the signed consent of the owner, has access to a cadastral database (called SISTER), so if you have not already been given a survey and floor plans, he can find it for you.
This documentation is deposited in the Municipal offices, in the Private Building sector, often called S.U.E.. These documents are the most important, the only ones that can attest to the regularity of your property or not. They are incredibly often ignored, or only some excerpts are extrapolated, examples: certificate of habitability or protocol of the practice etc.
To do things properly, it is necessary to analyze the entire complete file relating to the property – at least the last one – and look not only at the certificates, but also all the documents, cards and graphics (floor plans, drawings etc.)
Both the professional under delegation and the private owner can access these documents. The maps, however, are not as easy to understand as a cadastral plan (and often many, to be honest, do not even understand that well) and in addition the legislation has undergone several variations over the years, not to mention the difference that exists from region to region and often from town to town. So the analysis of these papers is not that simple, and to be really sure you are okay, it would be necessary to hire a professional to check them completely.
Often the previous owners hand over all the documentation they have in their possession about recent renovation practices. But to be sure that no other papers emerge, or that the Municipality’s technicians have anything else at hand, it is always better to access the documents to remove any doubts.
Alcuni fra i più fortunati riescono ad avere anche disegniSome of the luckiest are also able to have construction drawings: technical drawings that were useful only for the construction of the property, for the companies and the technicians involved. Usually, they do not constitute bureaucratic documentation, so they are not registered in any office.
They are certainly useful information, which can enrich the knowledge of the property avoiding invasive interventions: for example, they indicate the presence of flues, pipes, pillars hidden by masonry and coverings, or even the presence of condominium systems from which to start to redo the new ones.
However, they are not useful as evidence in the case of regularity / irregularity, unless they have been registered for X reasons.
How do you find them? They are usually delivered by the builder, the architect, the company etc. to the new owners or the administrator. Not all buildings have had this level of care, so it is not something that mathematically is always delivered at the end of the work, just as many owners may have had them but have thrown them away or lost them.
If the administrator, professionals, company no longer own anything / are no longer active, if even the old owners do not have such papers and they have not been deposited in any office, it is no longer possible to recover them.
Well, now let’s go to the tangible examples, and how the related cases of irregularities were resolved.
The first case is an apartment purchased through a local real estate agency. The cadastral plan had no irregularities, the deed was perfect, the old owners knew the new ones and had always lived in that apartment, without ever changing a single tile.
Since I always do a routine check with my clients, I still requested the previous documents from the Municipality. Indeed, no renovation work had ever been done and the only practice available was that of the entire complex. Which reported a completely different division of the apartments in the floors.
Generally this would be solved with a municipal practice and the payment of a tax for abuse (€ 1,000) to regularize everything. Fortunately for the customers, it was a building prior to 1967, the year of the Ponte law, and outside the inhabited centers the internal changes were not subject to presentation of building practice. Therefore, together with the file for the restructuring, I delivered a report that put the state of affairs in order without charge.
Second case, a terraced single-family house inherited from a relative. The cadastral plans had been lost and only the drawings of the builder were available – which corresponded to the state of affairs. There were no particular modifications or changes remembered by the owners, who had frequented the house for years.
As usual, I found the documents present in the Municipality and the cadastral papers. The last file filed with the Municipality was a Building Permit, with various variants attached during construction. However, none faithfully reflected the state of affairs. In reality, the house in question had different openings, different development of the staircase and division of the interiors.
What happened is quite clear: the builder has updated its construction site drawings (which have been delivered to customers, corresponding to the state of affairs) but has no longer delivered the final variant to the Municipality with the latest updates.
It was therefore necessary to proceed with a municipal practice and payment of the fine of € 1,000, given that the legislation governing the interventions was already in force.
The drawings delivered to customers’ hands were not sufficient proof to avoid abuse, but they could decide whether or not to claim the costs incurred.
The simplest of the three. Apartment in a terraced building. All in order, sale complete with deed and municipal practice conforming to the existing one.
The only difference lay in the cadastral plan, which reported errors undoubtedly caused by misprints. I reported this inconsistency at the moment in which I updated the floor plan and the records of the Cadastre.
These three cases show that irregularities are not always the subject of abuse, and that the documentation is never as linear and perfect as it is believed, even if the house has not been renovated for years. As a professional, it is my job to analyze the project starting from its history, to communicate to clients the results of the research and how it is possible to operate.