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Post by Admin on Sun Dec 14, 2014 1:23 pm

This was a post sent to me (Admin) today and the poster is quite desperate. We have a 7 day waiting period before new posters can post (to stop spam) so I have put it here on their behalf:

Dear admin
I am new. I am desperate and do not have 7 days I need help asap. Can you read this and allow me to post it? Serenity55

We are Americans living in Southern Italy. I would so much appreciate hearing from others who may have experienced what we are going through here with a house we bought in 2003 then sold in May 2013.
We do have legal counsel.

We found the house in June 2003, hired a lawyer to check if there was anything illegal about the building of the house. He said it was fine. We gave the sellers a down payment of 50000 euros. We were taking a loan from an Italian bank for the rest. Months passed with no word. In November 2003 we received word that the bank would not approve the mortgage because there was an illegal small room in the basement. This was a condominium in a park where all the condos had the same issue. They had sent a geometri person to check and he found a room in the basement which was not "forgiven" (condono). We told the seller we wanted out and wanted our money back. He said sorry, I've already paid my mortgage with the money you gave me and you will have to sue me. If you do not buy the house, you will have to pay me double and you will never see your money. We were sick with worry. We had friends who were customers at the bank and by June 2014, the bank gave us the ok. The notaio for the bank said though that he would not write the illegal room into the sales agreement and took 5000 euros off the selling price. We were mortified....buying a house minus a room. So the house sale was registered in our name and did not include the not forgiven room in the basement. I found an attorney who made a private agreement stating that once the room became forgiven that the seller would sell it to us for 5000 euros. The seller assured us that this would happen in a few days. A few days turned into a few months turned into a few years.....I called the seller regularly to inquire what was going on. He always assured me, next month or next June.....domani. I phoned the lawyer who wrote the private agreement several times in the ten years we lived there to ask, how in the world will we sell the house like this? He said, no problem.....sell it like that. Italians are used to this. No problem.
So when we put the house on the market last year, the realtor told us that the private agreement between us and the seller meant nothing......It was not registered, not witnessed by a notaio, no lawyer signature. He said we will sell the house like it is and say nothing about the private agreement, which proved that we knew that the seller owned the unforgiven room.


We found buyers. They loved the house. We sold the condo for 50000 euros less than another in the complex which was not an end until like ours and did not have the updates we put into it. We left the kitchen, a/c in every room, ceiling fan every room, bedroom wardrobe, book shelves..... and we had completely redesigned the first floor, making it an open floor plan. We took a big loss on the house....did not get what we put into it because the real estate market had bottomed last year.

We asked them for 5000 euros down payment....as opposed to 50000 that we were asked. We were not sure if their notaio would find the basement issue. If the notaio had found something wrong, we would have handed their 5000 back to them, with no problem. We at this point were not sure if the previous owner really owned the room. We were told that it was a room that did not exist and assumed he had to be in charge of getting it condoned since he sold the house to us. I don't know if I am making any sense.....we were told so many different things and did not know who to believe or trust. We told the buyers that the room in the basement was not condoned ....that if they wanted to make an apartment there, they would have to go to the commune and get it condoned for a price.
They said they did not want to make an apartment there. But a month after they bought it, they made an apartment in that room....without asking permission or getting condono from the commune.



We were worried for the entire 10 years and I felt terrible about not telling them about the issue but did what we were advised bc I realized I was an American who maybe had a totally different outlook from an Italian on the issue. Maybe an Italian would think this was normal business as usual?

Fast forward to November 2013 I receive a phone call from the buyers.....very upset, screaming that the previous owner had gone to their notaio stating that they own the room in the basement, that they paid 8000 euros to apply to get it condoned (but the condono was never granted by the commune) and that they were not going to hand over the room unless the people who bought from us paid them for their expense. They said that the previous owner had the deed to that small room. I told them that I would talk with my lawyer. My Italian is limited and they speak no English. My lawyer ....the one who wrote the private agreement now tells me I should have shown them the agreement outlining the problem in the basement.....after some years ago, he told me to "sell it like that" no problem. He also told me to ignore their calls....tell them I can not speak Italian and hang up. I asked him if he could talk with them . He agreed. After he spoke with them, he told me to offer to give them some of the 8000 euros they were demanding.
We didn't trust him since he changed his advice after speaking with them. So we sought a second opinion.

Second opinion lawyer told us to give them not a dime.....that we did nothing wrong....he wrote a letter for me to give to them telling them to stop bothering us asking for money for a room we did not own and therefore could not sell them. In the sales agreement between us and the buyers, the room in question did not appear in the blueprints....so we did not sell them that room. Lawyer #2 insisted that it was the job of the seller's notaio to check this out and find the issue. He in fact, was sure that they knew about it but wanted to rush the sale with out the previous owner's knowledge since it was a great deal. We sold the house in 30 days start to end.

That was end of January. Then last week, we received a registered letter from the buyers lawyer.
They are suing us....for an amount that is equivalent to my pension!!! Apparently the original owner has gone there and is demanding access to "his" room.....or he will sue.

Our lawyer insists they have no case. He says we did not own that room and therefore did not sell that room and the notaio approved the sale. But because the original owner showed them the private agreement, they have proof that we knew that he owned the room.....and that is information that would have prevented them from buying had they known. I read online that if sellers fail to disclose any document like this one, then that is breaking the law.
So I think we may lose this case despite what our lawyer is telling us. I am 68. I'm tired but will have to return to the work force if we lose this case. I am just sick with worry, can not sleep....do not trust my lawyer, do not trust anyone and don't know where to turn. OUr friends are telling us, just leave Italy! Go back to the states! How can I do that in good conscience?
Does anyone know: Would it be best to try and settle out of court?
Please if you have any suggestion, I would appreciate hearing from you.
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Re: Help

Post by Flip on Sun Dec 14, 2014 1:41 pm

So they do not trust their Lawyer or Notaio who authorised the sale, but they are willing to listen to any anonymous person  on a Forum they know nothing about. God! some people deserve all they get, how stupid do you have to be not to trust your own Lawyer/Notaio who are Legally bound to decisions he has advised on. Pass it back to them and say get on with it, your bad.
The moral being seek PROPER LEGAL ADVICE at all times when dealing with any property matter; I know it seems harsh and unsympathetic but at 68 one should know better.
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Re: Help

Post by stevegwmonkseaton on Sun Dec 14, 2014 2:45 pm

What a helpful, friendly reply Flip. They trusted a lawyer once before and look where that got them. They may well have added to their own problems, but if I thought that was the case I'd rather not respond.
Unfortunately I have no real advice for these worried people, except perhaps it's not too good an idea to put such detail on the web. Hopefully others here can give some better useful advice.

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Re: Help

Post by Admin on Sun Dec 14, 2014 6:50 pm

Frankly I have had a few poor experiences with 'professionals' here including a notaio so I can 100% understand their lack of trust. I think we should be a bit kinder - after all they are only asking for help. We're supposed to be encouraging new members remember!

Personally, I would tend to agree with lawyer no.2 but for the sake of not getting involved in an Italian court case I would offer them the €5000 I was originally prepared to pay - but I would offer it via my 2nd lawyer to make sure it was done properly and did actually mean the end of the matter.

You could also seek advice from the notary who handled the sale. They are public officials and will also give advice. If you don't speak good Italian then it is worth paying for a good translator.

Just my opinion though.
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Re: Help

Post by ghiro on Sun Dec 14, 2014 7:27 pm

Admin wrote:Just my opinion though.

And a very good opinion IMHO! Smile

My heart bleeds for Senenity55.  It's no fun when you're 68 and all of a sudden your financial future becomes insecure.

And the moral of the story?  Things can go badly wrong wherever you are - be it Italy or the USA.  Having said that I think most people are more au fait with how things work in their native country than in a foreign one.  So, in a foreign one, it's much more difficult to be certain whether you're receiving 'good' advice or not.
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Re: Help

Post by The Original Relaxed on Sun Dec 14, 2014 9:47 pm

Oh dear, this sounds dreadful. No doubt modicasa will come in with some comments, but to me it sounds as if you have received very bad advice throughout.
I cannot imagne a scenario where an 'illegal' basement room could create such an issue. 
The bank, in saying they'd knock 5000 off their offer, and not include the room in the description of the property in the atto, is a reasonable point of view - it surely could not be that this room had an individual catastal description, thus it couldn't be anyone else's room: the bank lender would want to 'disregard' it simply because it was not 'legal' and thus not considered as collateral.
The private agreement was a crazy piece of advice to take (though now it sounds as if that is at the root of your troubles).
Your realtor - in saying just sell as is and forget about the room being 'illegal' was (IMO) talking sense. Perhaps that realtor may be able to help you now?
Settling out of court (if indeed there is anything you need to settle) would certainly be a good idea.
You have my sympathy - I do think you have fallen into the hands of a bunch of crook advisors., and unfortunately these sorts of 'taking advantage of a foreigner' were not uncommon in 2003: it is getting better now. Are the buyers of your property Italians?
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Re: Help

Post by modicasa on Mon Dec 15, 2014 6:45 am

Yes, its a mess.  There seems little point going back over what was said and done by notaios and lawyers - you have to sort out what you have now. 

It all boils down to what you sold.  You toldyour buyers that that room was not sanato/had no condono - but dif you also omitted to say that it wasnt yours then yes, they can sue you.  You signed a compromesso where by you promised to sell them the property that you showed them, and they can argue that you have that obligation.  However, they  andtheir notary obviously did not check the paperwork about the property, which would have stated clearly that the room in the basement was not included in sale as you were not the owners.  
You can let things take their course - it could be 10 years before a judge makes a decision, andyou will spend a fortune on lawyers, or you can try to make amends/sort out the situation.  The easiest way to do this is to pay the costs of the seller who has managed to sanare the room - and the current owners pay for the atto and buy the room.  Find a way to split the costs by sitting round a table.  Then everyone is happy.  

There was a film in the 50's about Totò who 'sold' the FOntane di Trevi - which has become a classic.  You can promise to sell anything, even if you dont own it, take the money and run - which is what Totò did in the film.  WHen you sign a preliminary (compromesso) you are saying that you have the disposability of the property even if you are not the owner - and therefore the contract is made with you - you then sort it out.  In your case you promised to sell the room, which was not yours to sell and knowing that it was illegal.  If this is what is written in your preliminary then you need to find a way to sort it out or reach an agreement.  

Why you a) gave a caparra of 50.000 in the first place, signed a private agreement, even bought the property, allowed the notary to make such a mess, etc etc is a common fault, and doesnt help you now - but its a lesson for everyone who doesnt do their research.

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Re: Help

Post by modicasa on Mon Dec 15, 2014 6:48 am

Flip - lawyers (like commercialiste etc) are not bound by the advice they give in Italy - they have virtually no legal responsibility for the rubbish they spout, which is why they talk such utter tripe.

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Re: Help

Post by The Original Relaxed on Mon Dec 15, 2014 12:11 pm

Maybe I am misunderstanding something: my reading of Serenity's post is that that the illegal room is 'within' the property (surrounded by other rooms), and that the property was either brand new or of very recent construction. 
I cannot understand (if this is the case) how it can have remained in the ownership of the original seller (maybe the developer?).
I CAN understand why a private agreement might have been entered into in order to force the original seller into paying the costs of the condono, but I don't understand how (at least without a notarized frazionamento) this portion of the building managed to remain in the hands of the original owner. 
Any thoughts?
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Re: Help

Post by modicasa on Mon Dec 15, 2014 3:22 pm

My guess is that the condominium was built in difformità to the original plans/concession - and that the rooms added would need to be sanato with a concessione released retroactively.   This is by no means a foregone conclusion.  A comune can insist on the building being restored to that which was approved.  However, if it were this case the owner of the illegal room cannot sell it until it becomes legal - hence this mess.  Thankfully the days of building what you like and hoping for a general sanatoria are over.... 

Obviously alot depends on what the original carta privata said, what was said in the preliminare and what was said in the atto.  Your real estate agent must take some of the blame, as he allowed you to sell.  However, in ITaly it is 'buyer beware'.  If they and their notaio didnt do the paperwork, its their problem ultimately.  They would have to prove that you knowingly defrauded them, but as the act of sale is the legal document, if the room is not mentioned in it, they didnt buy it and they have illegally turned a deposit or garage or something into a civil habitation and they can be taken to the cleaners, especially as it belongs to someone else.   As I say, everything depends on the wording of your documents ...

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Re: Help

Post by Casa Monal on Wed Dec 17, 2014 7:05 pm

How sad, even more so as this situation is not unusual  Evil or Very Mad
 
The only people who are now going to make money are the solicitors.  If it were me, I’d reply with a registered letter informing them clearly that all correspondence must be sent to the estate agent and solicitor who handled the original sale.  Or do what the Italians do best…ignore the letters!
 
I would even go as far as to divide my assets and declare bankruptcy.
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Re: Help

Post by The Original Relaxed on Wed Dec 17, 2014 11:41 pm

One other suggestion to look at, or to enquire about (if you can). Have any other neighbours faced the same sort of problems resulting from their original purchases? 

Even a google search using a word directly associated with your 'development' might result in something at least supportive, if not directly helpful.
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Re: Help

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