Real estate law

Building permits and licenses for restoring a property in Italy

Building in Italy: do you need a permit to restore a house?

It is relatively common that when real estate is purchased in Italy it is in need of renovation, construction, or restoration. Building permits and licenses for restoring properties in Italy are quite different from those in other countries. This is unsurprising, due to Italy’s complex and diverse architectural heritage. People can even sometimes restore centuries-old properties, that’s why building in Italy is always a site-specific process.

A foreign investor may buy a property in Italy to take advantage of a great deal on a property needing some work. Other times, the buyer may renovate a property to fit his specific tastes or requirements. Regardless of the reason for the renovation or restoration, it is imperative to understand the laws and rules involved in obtaining a building permit in Italy. In some cases, you could find yourself with a hefty penalty or worse – being asked to put everything back as it was, if you did not get the correct permission to start with.

How to build an Italian villa: permission and authorization

Current Italian and municipal legislation stipulates that substantial types of renovation and construction are subject to permission and authorization. Additions, elevations, changes to a veranda, or changing the property’s intended use are just some examples of when a building permit is required. The granting of a building permit is dependent on provisions contained in local regulations (land use plans, structural plans) and must be carried out in compliance with national, regional, and municipal laws and regulations. This literally means that in one municipality they could have an unusual rule that does not apply elsewhere (for example, a specific minimum ceiling height), which you need to be aware of or you could be breaking the law. In addition to the Permesso di Costruire (Permit to Build), which is an administrative permit allowing building and/or demolition in compliance with the local municipality’s urbanistic plan, there are two commonly used permits in Italy: the SCIA and the CILA. Both are used to authorize a building renovation and are generally implemented for the most substantial types of building reconstruction.

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The 4 essential steps to build/restore a property in Italy

1. Building a house in Italy, where to start? The land!

It may sound trite to say, but the first real step to take is precisely to make the important decision to build a house, investing not only money, but also time and patience. Clearly, to realize this dream you need land on which to build.

This means that either you already own land or you need to proceed with the search and purchase of a lot. In the second case, we suggest that you involve an Italian Firm, such as ILF that has within its staff all the necessary professionals in this first stage as well, so that you have valuable support at the evaluation stage. It is easy to fall foul of regional or local laws and unfortunately, clients arrive to us having already found themselves caught out with land they cannot now build on or cannot use for the purpose they had intended.We really want you to avoid this.

For each plot, it is important to check the buildability, that is, the possibility of constructing a building within it. A check of the cadastral situation should be carried out and, if necessary, proceed with an urban or cadastral adjustment. Among the most important information to know is the buildability index, which is the maximum volume allowed for buildings on that land.

2. How much does it cost to build/restore a house in Italy in 2023?

Defining an exact cost to build a house is not easy, as there are different factors to consider. In addition to design costs, permits required for construction, and connection to utilities, there are variable expenses that depend on the materials chosen and the type and size of the house. For clarity, in this section we summarize all the main aspects to consider when you are wondering how much money is needed to build a house from scratch.

Once a professional Firm has been found, it is important to define a design program and request a fee estimate so that the cost of building the house is clear from the outset.

This phase is perhaps the most important and delicate, as it determines whether or not you can go ahead with the project. The advice is to undertake the work only and exclusively if you are financially “covered,” keeping in mind that any unforeseen contingency can raise the budgeted costs. Defining a realistic and meaningful price for those who intend to build a house is not easy, because there can be many differences between different projects due to the size, technologies and materials chosen.

Going in order, however, one of the first costs to be evaluated is that related to the purchase of the land, which depending on the areas where you are located can be between 400 and 600 euros per square meter. The permits needed to build a house also have a cost: the building permit is generally subject to the Urbanization Charges and the Construction Cost, which on average can range from 120 to 150 euros per square meter.

Before starting construction, it will be necessary to proceed with excavation and earth moving, an operation that can cost up to 20,000 euros for one house.

One must also consider the connection of utilities, which can range from 1,500 to 4,000 euros. Added to all this are the design costs and the fees of any other professionals, such as the geologist. The professional’s fee clearly varies depending on the project you want to carry out and the tasks you intend to entrust him or her with, which can range from design to construction management.

Adding up all the costs incurred in building a house (with the exception of the land), it is possible to make an approximate rough estimate of between 1,800 and 2,300 euros per square meter.

restoring a house in Italy

3. Can I use government schemes and/or tax deductions for restoring or building real estate in Italy in 2023? And a prediction for 2024 and 2025

For those intent on building a house, there is good news: under certain circumstances it is possible to benefit from tax deduction mechanisms, so as to reduce the burden of the investment. Specifically, these are tax incentives that can be used when providing for the demolition and reconstruction of an existing building, respecting the pre-existing volume. In this case, in fact, it is possible to access the Bonus Casa, with a deduction equal to 50 percent of the interventions incurred, with a ceiling of 96,000 euros. New appurtenant works connected to the building, such as car garages, are also deductible.

In case the building is located in an earthquake-prone area, alternatively, it is also possible to use the Sisma Bonus, already extended until 2024, with percentages ranging from 70 percent to 85 percent. The conditions are the same: it must be a demolition and reconstruction.

No longer viable, on the other hand, is the previously available 110% Superbonus route, as it has now “expired” for the start of demolition and reconstruction work on individual buildings.

Finally, in all other cases, that is, when building a house from scratch, without demolishing and rebuilding, it is possible to enjoy a VAT reduction to 4%, for all interventions carried out during construction. To qualify for this reduction, it is sufficient that the building is for residential use and is not classified at the cadastral level as a luxury good.

Italy is known for its stunning architecture, rich history, and beautiful landscapes, making it a popular destination for property investment. If you are a foreign investor looking to restore a property in Italy, it is important to have an experienced Italian real estate attorney to guide you through the process.

Restoring a property in Italy can be a complex and time-consuming process, especially for those who are unfamiliar with the country’s legal system and regulations. Hiring an Italian real estate attorney with experience in property restoration can help ensure that your investment is protected and that the restoration process is completed efficiently and legally.

4. How can a real estate attorney help in managing an Italian property restoration or in building a new premise?

ILF estate legal advisors can assist you with every step of the restoration process, from obtaining the necessary permits and approvals to negotiating contracts with contractors and suppliers.

They can also help you understand the tax implications of your investment and ensure that you are in compliance with all Italian laws and regulations.

One of the most important roles of an Italian real estate attorney is to ensure that the property you are restoring is legally sound. They can conduct a thorough due diligence investigation to identify any potential issues with the property’s title or ownership, and can also help you resolve any disputes that may arise during the restoration process.

In addition, our Italian real estate attorneys can provide you with valuable advice on property value and market trends, helping you make informed decisions about your investment. They can also connect you with local professionals, such as real estate agents and property managers, to help you navigate the Italian property market and maximize your investment potential.

Investing in property restoration in Italy can be a rewarding and profitable endeavor, but it is important to have the right legal guidance throughout the process. With the help of an experienced Italian real estate attorney, you can navigate the complexities of the Italian legal system and ensure that your investment is protected and successful.

Italian renovation contract

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Where should a foreign investor start when restoring or building an Italian property?

Preliminary design and executive design

The first stages are the design stages, during which responsibility is officially entrusted to the chosen professionals, who will begin with the work of designing the house.

A1. Preliminary design to build house

Initially, a preliminary design will be carried out, that is, an initial assumption to the realization of the rough calculation and cost estimate of the works to be carried out. Thanks to the preliminary design, the client has the opportunity to discuss each choice with the designer, review the definition of the spaces of each room, and get an idea of what other professionals will be involved, from the construction company to the craftsmen for the finishes. The preliminary design may be modified for various reasons, such as the need to reduce costs. Once a satisfactory and economically viable solution has been arrived at for the client, the final design will be drawn up.

At this point, a licensed engineer, which is usually the architect who executed the plans, produces all the technical documentation to be submitted to the municipality and other interested bodies in order to receive all the approvals to proceed with the execution of the work.

A2. Implementation of the executive project to build house

In the meantime, the executive project will also be carried out, with which the materials, installations and various finishing works will also have to be defined in detail, always with a careful assessment of the construction cost related to each alternative. The executive project will also define in detail the structures and technologies chosen for the construction of the house, depending on whether it is made of reinforced concrete, masonry or wood.

A3. Sustainability and energy efficiency

In choosing materials, costs will have to be considered, but also the quality and performance guaranteed by each, sustainability and energy efficiency. We are always looking for the best possible compromise and avoiding that a cheap material that is convenient today, does not then become the cause of future expenses for maintenance, repairs and replacements. When choosing materials and suppliers, it is important to always request several quotes.
Seismic safety and energy efficiency: indispensable design requirements
Building a home also means making a building that ensures maximum comfort for those who live in it, respects the environment and is completely safe.
While on existing heritage it is necessary to act after the fact and “correct” what does not work, in a new construction seismic safety, energy efficiency and sustainability are real design criteria, to be considered from the very beginning. A sustainable and efficient house is good for both the environment and the owners, as high performance ensures savings over time in the building’s operating and maintenance costs.

Sustainability should be sought right from the preliminary design when deciding to build a house, but it is by then choosing every detail that one can get a concrete idea of the results achieved.

A house to renovate in Italy
Entrance in apartment interior in old country house

What building permits do you need to start a renovation of an Italian property?

Italian building code

Article 10 of the Building Unique Code (Testo Unico dell’Edilizia) stipulates that building permits are required for:

  • new construction works;
  • urban restructuring interventions;
  • building renovation interventions that lead to creating building spaces totally or partially different from the previous ones, in cases where they also involve changes in the overall volume of the buildings or which, limited to the buildings included in homogeneous zones A, involve changes in the destination of use, as well as interventions that involve changes in the outline or overall volume of buildings or property prospects subject to protection pursuant to the Code of Cultural Heritage and Landscape referred to in Legislative Decree 22 January 2004, n. 42.

The article 12 of Italian Building Unique Code identifies the prerequisites that must necessarily exist for the legitimate issuance of a building permit.

  1. The first prerequisite is the compliance of the work with all the various sources of regulation of building activity, that is, with the urban planning instruments, building regulations and current urban-building regulations.It follows that the Administration, in assessing the possibility of granting the private individual the required permit, will have to compare the intervention with all the regulations that -in various capacities- concern the profiles of land use in force at the time of its issuance.This is an assessment essentially of a binding and non-discretionary nature, with the consequence that, if the work is not in line with the building-urban planning regulations in force, the P.A. is obliged to issue a denial, while when this conformity subsists, the issuance of a measure of positive sign is due.In fact, the Administration’s discretion is exercised to its full extent in the urban planning phase, during which the structure to be given to the territory is defined, and not in the procedures aimed at issuing building permits.
  2. The second prerequisite is the existence of the primary urbanization works or the expectation by the municipality of their implementation in the next three years, or the commitment of the interested party to carry them out at the same time as the building work. The purpose of the rule is to ensure that building development takes place in a rational, orderly manner and within an adequate infrastructure system, given that the expression “primary urbanization works” refers to the road system, water, sewage and technological networks, public lighting, and equipped green spaces (Art. 16, paragraph 7, of the Consolidated Building Code).
  3. The Public competent Italian Authority, therefore, for the purpose of issuing the permit must ascertain that these infrastructures already exist and are adequate to the nature and extent of the building intervention or that, in any case, they are intended to be built within a certain time by the municipality or by the same party applying for the permit. The private party’s act of commitment may be contained in an agreement to be entered into on the side with the municipality or in a unilateral deed of submission, but it cannot generally make up for the lack of an implementation plan that may be provided for in the town planning instrument. Jurisprudence, however, does not apply this principle rigidly or excessively formalistically, admitting that a building permit may be issued even in the absence of an implementation plan if the Administration in concrete terms ascertains that the area intended to accommodate the building intervention is already fully built up and urbanized.
  4. The last two paragraphs of the rule under consideration provide the safeguard measures of municipal and regional competence to be applied in case of contrast of the work subject of the request for a building permit with the provisions of the urban planning instruments in progress, that is, already adopted but not yet approved (and therefore not yet entered into force). The aspects to be considered in order to ascertain the existence of such incompatibility are, for example, heights, volumes, permitted use and so on.

Substantial construction works in Italy: the SCIA

The SCIA (Segnalazione Certificata di Inizio Attività – Certified Start of Activity Report), is a simplified administrative authorization issued by the municipality in charge. The document acknowledges the right to proceed on the property renovation or restoration work. It is commonly used to allow for substantial maintenance work involving the building’s structure, restoration and conservative maintenance involving the building’s structure, or a renovation which may change the volume, height or shape of a building subject to limits.

Minor construction works in Italy: the CILA

The CILA (Comunicazione Inizio Lavori Asseverata – Authenticated Communication of the Beginning of the Modifications) is used for minor building and renovation work.

Zone A: historical, artistic and environmental value

Zone A means areas in which the buildings have a historical, artistic or particular environmental value. The area is indicated in the urban planning instruments.
Article 14 of the Building Unique Code stipulates that a building construction permit, notwithstanding the general urban planning instruments, is issued exclusively for public buildings and facilities or of public interest, following a resolution of the municipal council, in compliance with the provisions contained in the legislative decree of 29 October 1999, n. 490, and other sector regulations affecting the regulation of building activity. The request for a building permit in derogation is also allowed for building renovation interventions, subject to a resolution of the City Council which certifies the public interest, limited to the purposes of urban regeneration, containment of land consumption and social and urban recovery of the settlement, without prejudice, in the case of commercial settlements, to the provisions of article 31, paragraph 2, of the decree-law of 6 December 2011, n. 201, converted, with amendments, by law 22 December 2011, n. 214.

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Italian Building Permit Application and Notification

The Italian Building Permit Application must include the dates construction is to begin and end. Construction cannot begin more than one year from the submission of the application and must be completed within three years from when construction begins. Applications are processed in the order they are received at the competent Municipality office. Within 60 days of submission, the applicant will formulate a “provision proposal”. The Municipality officer may request that the provisions are integrated or that the project is modified. Any additions must be made within the following 15 days and the deadline for issuing the proposed provision is suspended until then. The final and definitive measure is issued and the applicant is notified within 30 days from the issue of the “proposed measure”.

Our group of professional architects, surveyors, lawyers, accountants and specialized technicians are knowledgeable of building regulations and experienced with local bureaucracy. This allows us to easily evaluate the best type of permit application to submit for each specific project, expediting the procedures and ensuring efficient planning and logistics.
We provide the following services:

  • Preparation of a Provisional Plan in order to draft a SCIA in accordance with the rules as stated by the competent Municipality Office;
  • Handling relations with the local public officers and schedule video-meetings;
  • Evaluate the proposed property construction to verify that the work can be carried out in compliance with the applicable Municipality Regulation;
  • Draft a project plan and submit a cost estimate based on your specific needs and budget;
  • Draft a purchase offer, conditioned upon the attainment of the permits needed to carry out the renovation.

The contents of this page should not be taken as an authoritative statement of Italian law and practice. Neither the author nor the publisher are responsible for the results of actions taken on the basis of information contained in this summary, nor for any errors or omissions. This text is not intended to render legal, accounting or tax advice. Readers are encouraged to seek professional advice concerning specific matters before making any decision.

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