The Italian Parliament has updated legislation relating to use and maintenance of common parts in buildings / block of flats (“Condominio ”) which, until recently, dated back to 1942, the origins of the current Italian civil code. This new legislation is nothing short of revolutionary. Hopefully it will mark a positive change in the life of anyone owning a flat in Italy.

“Condominio degli edifici ” is the legal definition of a block of flats under Italian law. It refers to a situation where several individual owners of separate individual properties / flats (Condomini) are required to use and manage the common parts in their building / block of flats.

It is an area of the law which contributed heavily to the congestion in the Italian Courts, disputes between neighbours being very frequent. In this article I shall only list some of the main changes. Anyone owning a flat in Italy should carefully consider this new legislation which provides much needed detailed legal guidance.

The common parts (”Parti comuni”) of the condominium.

First of all the new legislation updates an aged definition. Parking spaces, centralised equipment for the supply of heating, air conditioning, TV and any flow of information / data by cable or satellite, up to the point where they partition towards the individual properties, are added to the list.

Secondly, procedures are introduced whereby it will be possible by a majority of individual owners to change the use of any common parts in a building. Procedures are also introduced to restrain the abuse by individual owners (“Condomini ”) of common parts at the expense of all the others.
Individual owners may now sever their connection to the centralised heating system in the block. Procedures are also introduced to make room for improvements: in the security of the block, to reduce use of energy, to create new car parks and to produce green energy. The installation of centralised systems for the supply of information / data are also expressly regulated. Specific rules are introduced for the division of the maintenance costs of stairs and lifts.

These are all areas where in the past, the lack of specific regulation had been a continuing source of disputes between neighbours and expensive litigation.

The Manager (“Amministratore”) of the Condominium.

He is the engine of the condominium, the individual or the corporate managing agent.

The “Amministratore ” enforces the resolutions of the meetings of the individual owners (“Assemblea dei condomini ”), regulates the use of the common parts, collects service charges and keeps the compulsory books and tax records of the condominium.

This legislation introduces minimum personal standards. A convicted criminal, a mentally incapable or an insolvent individual cannot act as “Amministratore ”. Requirements as to professional education and condominium record keeping are also introduced. The “Amministratore” is required to have professional indemnity insurance cover.

Under the new legislation the manager of the condominium must commence legal proceedings to collect any outstanding service charges within six months of the end of the accounting period to which they relate. He can be revoked at any time because of dereliction of duty or negligence.

Full details of the “Amministratore ” must now be provided on a public notice, prominently displayed in the building. He is required to open and to manage a specific, condominium bank account, where all the service charges are paid.

Such bank account being open to inspection by the individual flat owners (“Condomini“).

Under the new legislation he may be required to set up a condominium website, where all the relevant rules and documentation are made available to the individual owners.

As a last resort this new legislation enables the “Amministratore ” to levy fines on defaulting individual property owners, of up to Euro 200, which may be increased to Euro 800, in case of repeated breaches.

The individual co-owners (“Condomini ”) and their meetings (“Assemblee di condominio ”).

The owners of the individual properties (co-owners of the common parts of the building) in the Condominio operate mostly through meetings (Assemblea dei condomini ). Their individual entitlements, share of contribution, value of their individual properties as a 1000 / share of the whole building is stated in theTabella Millesimale, normally a schedule to the Condominium regulations.

The starting point is a 2/3 quorum of all individual owners and a simple majority of co-owners representing the majority of the value of the building, required to pass any resolutions in any meeting where no special rules apply. Where an in sufficient owners attend the first time (Prima convocazione), the same meeting can be convened again (Seconda convocazione), this time a reduced 1/3 quorum of all the owners and of the value of the whole building applies.

So many different quorums and majorities are introduced that it risks being confusing for the non legally trained.

Thus, to change the use of any common parts a 4/5 quorum applies.

A 50% quorum of all the owners and value of the building is required to :

– appoint or dismiss the Condominium Administrator

– to change the Condominium Regulations

– to carry out extraordinary and onerous repairs or maintenance works

– to improve the quality or security of the building

– to carry out other improvements.

Different quorums / majorities apply to other resolutions, such as any works aiming to improve energy efficiency of the building, the creation of new car parks or the installation green energy creation plant (solar panels etc.).

The owners of individual properties my also act individually, outside any meeting.

Thus they are entitled to individually ask the Amministratore for information and documentation relating to the management of the common parts / expenses incurred. They may ask the Amministratore to call meetings for stated purpose, and may warn off any other owner who abuses the common parts.

Finally, this reform introduces two major breaks with the past. Firstly it is expressly provided that Condominium Regulations may not stop individual owners from having pets in their own homes.

Secondly, following a recent ruling of the Italian Supreme Court, it is expressly stated creditors of the Condominium in enforcing judgments issued against theCondominio, must first take steps against any individual property owners who are in arrears in paying their service charges. Previously all owners were fully jointly and severally liable without distinctions. Only to the extent that such judgement cannot be enforced against defaulting individual property owners, it can now be enforced against the other (compliant) owners who paid their service charges, and will thus acquire a further claim for indemnity, against the defaulting owners.

The devil as always, is in the detail. It remains to be seen how these reforms will be applied in everyday life and whether they will stem the flow of new “Condominium” cases into the congested Italian local courts.

Avv. Claudio Del Giudice

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