Translating legal documents in Property Transactions.
Understand what you are about to sign.
All legal documents relating to Italian property real estate transactions will need to be handed over to a notary public, whose role is to oversee the sale and purchase, draw up the Deed of Sale and authenticate the transaction. As Italian law is applicable to property sales in Italy, documents must be written in Italian, independent of the nationality of the parties. Many buyers from abroad prefer to have a version of documents in their own language. In certain cases, where buyers are not fluent in the Italian language, it is a legal requirement to have the Deed of Sale translated.
Translating legal documents from Italian to English and/or English to Italian is a highly specialised field and demands legal experience and linguistic expertise. It’s important to underline that in the event of any issues or litigation, the Italian version of contracts will always prevail. So it’s crucial to ensure that you understand every document thoroughly before you sign it.
The process of buying a property in Italy is rather different to many other parts of the world. The buyer makes an offer on the property. If it’s accepted, then the buyer and vendor sign a Reservation Offer and the buyer puts down a small deposit. If you decide to proceed with the purchase, the buyer and vendor sign a Preliminary Contract. At this point, the buyer puts down a further deposit, usually a minimum of 10% of the sale price. At completion, the balance of the sale price, along with other costs and taxes must be paid. It is important that parties to the transaction appreciate the implications of each of these steps. Deposits can be very difficult to get back and you may incur penalties if you back out of the sale. It is essential to ensure that your contracts stipulate certain terms and conditions.
As purchasers, whether you are about to sign a proposta irrevocabile d’acquisto (Reservation Offer), a contratto preliminare di vendita (Preliminary Contract) or the atto di vendita (Deed of Sale), or any other property-related document. Everything that you sign sets out key terms and conditions relating to your Italian property purchase.
Many real estate agents use standard form contracts. The type of form where you fill in the blanks. Often, estate agents provide a translation of these. While the translation can of course be useful in gaining an overview, Italian legal language is technical, ritualistic, archaic and complex. These standard form translations are seldom completely accurate and can even be misleading. We have managed several cases where buyers have been caught out by aspects of this type of translation related to their Italian property purchases.
At the final and most important phase of the transaction, when signing the Deed of Sale, or a Power of Attorney, in the presence of a public notary, the Italian law requires that an interpreter is present if purchasers are not fluent Italian speakers. Our advice is to make sure that your interpreter is qualified not only from a linguistic point of view, but also in terms of legal knowledge. It is also important that you choose someone who does not have a vested interest in the transaction.
Although it is not a legal requirement in Italy to engage a lawyer (avvocato), most experts advise that you seek independent legal advice before signing any paperwork. One of the main reasons for engaging your own lawyer is to safeguard your interests through the inclusion of any conditional clauses in the contract. For example, if an estate agent’s commission is due when you sign the Preliminary Contract, you must ensure that you get it in writing that the commission is refundable if the sale falls through.
If you need support or advice regarding translating legal documents from Italian to English and/or English to Italian, please get in touch. De Tullio Law Firm’s team of lawyers, translators and consultants are here to help you.