What is conveyance?
Conveyance is the legal term for processing the paperwork involved in buying and selling property and transferring the deeds of ownership.
The process is strictly governed by Italian law and can be performed only by a public notary who’s a qualified legal professional and a representative of the state. A notary is responsible to the provincial authorities for the registration of land and property transfers at the local land registry. He must follow a strict code of conduct and have personal insurance covering his professional responsibility and guaranteeing clients against any errors he may make.
A notary represents neither the seller nor the buyer, but the Italian government, and one of his main tasks is to ensure that all taxes are paid to the Ministry of Finance on completion of a sale. A notary usually acts for both the vendor and buyer, and must remain strictly impartial, although a buyer can insist on choosing the notary, as he usually pays his fee. Notaries’ fees vary, so you should check them in advance.
A notary won’t necessarily protect or act in your interests, and you should engage your own lawyer to ensure that everything is carried out to your satisfaction.
Stages of notary involvement
There are two main stages when a notary usually becomes involved in a property purchase. The first is the signing of the preliminary contract, when the presence of a notary isn’t mandatory, and the second is completion, i.e. the signing of the deed of sale, which must be done in the presence of a notary. The notary is responsible for ensuring that the deed of sale is drawn up correctly and that the purchase price is paid to the vendor. He also witnesses the signing of the deed, arranges for its registration (in the name of the new owner) at the land registry, and collects any fees and taxes due. The notary doesn’t verify or guarantee the accuracy of statements made in a contract or protect you against fraud.
Don’t expect a notary to speak English or any language other than Italian, or to explain the intricacies of Italian property law. A notary will rarely point out possible pitfalls in a contract, proffer advice or volunteer any information.