Covid-19: Italian legal implications
We are receiving many questions from clients about legal implications of the Covid-19 with respect to their Italian interests. Here is a list of the most common questions and answers. This page is going to be updated as new measures and policies are adopted.
1. Notary activities:
a) Notary consultations are managed almost exclusively through voice or video calls, with clients, lawyers etc.; in person meetings are no longer the norm;
c) Alternative to foreign Embassies and Consulates: Notaries can be a valid alternative for some of the services usually offered by Embassies and Consulates of foreign countries in Italy. Many Embassies and Consulates in Italy are closed to the public or provide only emergency services. IN this scenario, an Italian notary, for example, can certify a power of attorney or an affidavit to be used overseas. Here is more information how;
d) Escrow account service: no need to go to completion in person with purchase price certified check (bankers’ draft): the notary office will accept a bank transfer in escrow and make the payments through bank wires to all involved parties;
e) Notary appointments for property transfer meetings (completion, closing, partition claim, transfer by divorce, division, donations) in some areas of Italy might be cancelled due to shutdown of Italian Real Estate Register “Conservatoria” (also called, Land Registry or Recorder of Deeds). More specifically, since the Conservatoria offices in some areas of Italy are closed, it is not possible to complete notary transactions for properties within their districts. For example, since March 21 it is not possible to complete transactions regarding properties within these districts in Lombardy: Bergamo, Brescia, Como, Cremona, Lecco, Lodi, Mantova, Milano, Pavia, Sondrio and Varese.
2. Real Estate:
a) Real estate agents: Many real estate agents have cancelled appointments to show houses and are only managing work remotely. It is possible to check properties on websites such as immobiliare.it and ask the agent for as much information as possible and to shortlist the properties in view of when it will be possible to see the property;
b) Purchase offers: Some buyers are prepared to place an offer with real estate agents and leave a deposit in escrow subject to confirmation after the in person visit, when the conditions will allow it;
c) Purchase offer registrations: some real estate agents are still helping buyers and vendors to register accepted purchase offers with the local tax offices;
d) Property transfers are suspended in some areas of Italy: the formalization of any property transaction (e.g., purchase, partition claim, gift transfer, property transfer by divorce) has been suspended in some areas of Italy because the local Property Register (Conservatoria) is closed and no transaction can be recorded. For example, this apply to the Region Lombardia (provinces of Bergamo, Brescia, Como, Cremona, Lecco, Lodi, Mantova, Milano, Pavia, Sondrio and Varese).
Banks have reduced their business hours and have closed several branches. Some ranches are only open some days of the week. If you plan to do business physically in a bank, make sure to make an appointment and discuss it in advance with a bank representative to see if your file was moved to a different branch, who you shall deal with, and the applicable business hours. Additionally, in order to reduce risk of infection, banks only allow a few people at a time (some banks only one or two people at a time). Be prepared for long waits outside the bank. If you need to open an Italian bank account, remember it is possible to do so also remotely, without going to the bank in person.
4. Tax office (Agenzia delle Entrate):
In many tax offices around Italy it was possible to make an appointment in advance to reduce waiting time to address your tax needs. Under Covid-19 restrictions, almost all tax offices require scheduling an appointment.
5. Legal translations:
Most legal translations in Italy are certified in Court under oath. Under the coronavirus restrictions most courts have suspended the legal translations certification service. As an alternative, in certain cases, you can have a translation certified before an Italian notary public.
6. Court disputes:
Most non urgent court disputes and brief filing terms have been suspended. Hearings that were scheduled to be held by April 3, 2020, have been rescheduled. Due to an existing and chronically overloaded calendar, many case hearings have been postponed by many months. (One of our cases was adjourned to January 2021!)
7. Mediation processes:
For disputes that are not quite ready for Court, the parties can go through mediation using video call technology, handling the entire process without ever meeting in person.
8. Force majeure (breach of contract):
Does coronavirus qualify as force majeure exemptions? If you are in a situation where you cannot fulfill your obligation due to the coronavirus, it would legally qualify as force majeure. In particular, covid-19 meets the three requirements required by law: (i) beyond one’s control; (ii) unpredictable; (iii) impossible to overcome the consequences. In order to claim force majeure, you need to notify the other party that it is impossible for you to fulfill your obligations due to coronavirus. Each case is different and there are many obligations that can be still be fulfilled regardless of the coronavirus. If your obligations are such that a delay of a few weeks or days would not compromise the parties interests in the transactions, force majeure will unlikely be a deal breaker; it will likely just avoid the application of delay penalties or transaction cancellation.
9. Tax code (Codice Fiscale) application:
Italian tax code applications are possible in case of emergency, through the local tax offices in Italy (Agenzia delle Entrate). However, in most cases, walk-in requests are no longer available and users are required to book an appointment. Also, only a few users at the time are allowed in tax office buildings, resulting in longer lines and longer processing time.
10. Italian Mortgage:
Since one of the steps to apply for an Italian mortgage normally is an in person visit at the bank to sign the mortgage application paperwork, travel restrictions might cause a delay. Mortgage final signing can be done through a Power of Attorney. In particular, even mortgage brokers and banks that usually would ask borrowers to be present at signing, are now allowing them to be represented through a Power of Attorney (procura).
b) Italian mortgage payment exemption:
11. Citizenship application:
Citizenship applications involve several steps. Some of such steps are legal translations of documents in Court under oath and in person appointments at the Consulate. Such activities are in most cases suspended due to measures imposed by local and national governments. Check with your local consultants and/or office representatives for more information;
12. Immigration and Travelling (Visa, Permit to Stay, Residence and Travelling):
a) In general: applications for an Italian visa, permit to stay (permesso di soggiorno) and Italian residence, involve several requirements and formalities, including legal translations, access in person to consulates and police offices. In most cities such activities are suspended due to measures imposed by local and national governments. For example, many Italian Consulates have cancelled appointments already scheduled and are not scheduling any new appointments until the beginning of April. Check with your local consultants and/or office representatives for more information.
b) Permit to Stay (“Permesso di Soggiorno“): the Italian Government extended to June 15, 2020 the validity of the Permit to Stays expiring between 23 February 2020 and April 16, 2020.
c) Residence application: police check within up to 98 days (instead of standard 45 days): as part of the Italian residence application process, the Municipal Police shall visit you at your home address to confirm that you live there. Pursuant to one of the measures adopted by the government, the 45-day term is suspended for applications pending on 23 February 2020, for 53 days, i.e., until 15 April 2020 (the “suspension period”). Therefore, if you filed the residence application before 23 February 2020, the 45-day counter will stop at the beginning of the suspension period and will restart at the end of the suspension period (45 + 53 = 98 days). If you filed the application after the beginning of the suspension period, the 45-day term will start at the end of the suspension period. However, notwithstanding the suspension period, the Comune and the Municipal Police are still processing pending applications. Therefore, the Police might still carry out visits anytime during the suspension period. It is also possible that they might check just your name on your mailbox and/or doorbell, and talk with you through the intercom, if any, without requiring in person identification.
e) Travel to and from Italy: (28 March 2020) New restrictions for foreign nationals and Italians travelling to and from Italy. Here is a list of frequently asked questions and the answers from the Italian Government:
• What rules apply to persons travelling to Italy from 28 March 2020?
• I’m an Italian expat or a foreign national resident in Italy, may I return to Italy?
• I’m a foreign national in Italy, may I return to my home country overseas?
• I’m returning to Italy from abroad. May I ask someone to pick me up at the arrival airport, railway station or port?
13. Italian inheritance and succession filing:
The standard term to pay Italian inheritance taxes and file the declaration of succession (dichiarazione di successione) is 12 months after the death of the deceased. However, if such 12-month term ends between the 8th of March 2020 and the 31st of May 2020, you can pay inheritance taxes and file the succession declaration by the 30th of June 2020 without any penalties.
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Many things have changed and policies are amended often as the pandemic crisis unfolds.
Please continue to check this page for further updates.
If you have a question, please submit it here link.