What Happens When Someone Lives Unlawfully on Your Property in Italy?

protection of a property owner legal lawsuits criminal and civil law cases lawyer real estate in italy

Introduction

Ever wondered about the legal side of occupying a property without permission?

In this article, we’ll explore the question: “When is staying in a property unlawfully considered a crime?” We will show the legal aspects and discuss practical solutions for both property owners and occupants.

When faced with the distressing situation of finding one’s property unlawfully occupied, the path to reclaim it can be fraught with challenges. Taking matters into one’s own hands may seem tempting, but it often leads to further legal entanglements and potential criminal liability.

We will start with the criminal law offenses and then we will examine the civil law aspects.

Let’s explore the complexities of property offenses and related crimes, shedding light on the nuances of each aspect, and exploring potential legal solutions.

Definition of unlawful occupancy

Occupation of a property without rightful authorization raises questions of legality and rightful ownership. When someone occupies a property without legal entitlement, it’s termed “unlawful” or “sine titulo” occupancy. This occurs when the occupant lacks any legitimate basis for their presence. For instance, they neither own the property, hold a lease or loan agreement, nor have been invited as guests. In our legal system, such unauthorized occupation constitutes a civil offense, compelling the occupant to vacate the premises and compensate for any damages caused.

criminal law: Is Unlawful Occupation a Criminal Offense?

Short answer: indeed, it can constitute a criminal offense too. In criminal law, there are several distinct categories of offenses to consider:

Trespassing on land or buildings, as outlined in Article 633 of the Italian Criminal Code; Violent disturbance of possession of immovable property, under Article 634; and Violation of domicile, under Article 614.

Additionally, under specific circumstances, the offense of Invading land or buildings with danger to public health or safety, governed by the new Article 633 bis of the Criminal Code, may also apply.

Furthermore, a new bill was presented to the Chamber of Deputies (Camera dei Deputati) on February 9, 2024, aims to introduce a new provision, Article 634 bis of the Criminal Code, aimed at protecting property rights and combating the phenomenon of unlawful occupation of immovable property.

Article 614 of the Criminal Code addresses the intrusion into another’s dwelling against their express or implied consent, whether by clandestine means or deception. Violation of this provision may result in imprisonment ranging from 1 to 4 years. Additional penalties may apply in cases involving violence or if the offender is visibly armed.

Distinct from mere temporary entry onto another’s land, the offense of invading land or buildings, under Article 633 of the Criminal Code, involves subjecting the property to the control of the offender, depriving the rightful owner of their enjoyment and control. This offense aims to safeguard peaceful enjoyment and full possession of the property by its lawful possessor.

Article 634 of the Criminal Code addresses the violent disturbance of another’s peaceful possession of immovable property, carrying penalties of up to two years’ imprisonment and fines.

Following the enactment of the Cartabia Reform (Legislative Decree 150/2022), basic forms of these offenses are now subject to private prosecution. Thus, initiating legal proceedings requires the damaged property owner to file a formal complaint within the right legal framework, except in cases involving certain aggravating circumstances specified by law.

civil law: how an owner can protect his rights on an occupied property

Addressing unlawful property occupation involves various legal avenues aimed at protecting the rights of the rightful owner. These remedies can be categorized into different approaches. On one hand, there’s the expedited eviction process, which provides a swift resolution for landlords in specific circumstances, ensuring prompt vacation of the property.

On the other hand, there are procedures directly safeguarding property rights, necessitating thorough investigations and potentially prolonging resolution times. Additionally, there are interim measures available, known as precautionary proceedings, offering immediate albeit temporary protection if certain exceptional conditions are met.

Typically, the expedited eviction process may not apply to cases of unlawful occupation, posing an initial challenge. This process, outlined in Articles 656-657 of the Civil Code, offers a quicker and more streamlined resolution compared to standard proceedings.

In cases of unlawful occupation, property owners may initiate legal action to reclaim ownership or seek reinstatement of possession, or, under specific circumstances, pursue urgent interim measures for temporary protection.

Property owners can file a claim of ownership, as per Article 948 of the Civil Code, wherein they request the court to affirm their ownership rights and compel the unlawful occupant to relinquish possession. However, this process is longer and more expensive compared to eviction proceedings.

If the property owner also holds possession and the dispossession occurred forcibly or clandestinely, they may, within a year of the event, seek reinstatement of possession through a somewhat less complex procedure to regain control of the property.

Property owners can pursue compensation for damages resulting from unlawful occupancy through standard legal channels. However, determining the nature of damages incurred remains a subject of judicial debate. Recent legal court decisions indicate a presumption of loss, with damages typically assessed based on market rental rates or specific financial losses incurred, which must be proven by the owner.

In instances where the claimant demonstrates a plausible existence of their rights and the risk of delay could result in harm, they can pursue urgent precautionary measures, as outlined in Article 700 of the Civil Procedure Code, to secure interim relief such as eviction orders.

In conclusion, seeking legal guidance from lawyers who are experts in real estate and property law can provide invaluable assistance in reclaiming one’s property and seeking solutions for any wrongdoing. Through careful analysis and explanation, the right lawyer can offer a clear picture of the options on the table for the client and show him the pros and cons of each way, enabling the client to make well-informed decisions aligned with their specific needs and goals.