Sardinia is an island that attracts many foreign property investors, well known for its beautiful beaches, coves and crystal clear waters.  For years the region and its natural resources, has been subject to a considerable building programme by investors frequently emanating from England, France, Russia and Germany. The value of properties varies and can be less than €100,000 euro rising to millions.

However, less known is the unfortunate statistic that sees Sardinia amongst the leading offenders in Italy of cases of illegal building. Often the local and national newspapers report news concerning the "demolition" sentences served on luxury villas which have been bought by influential and wealthy people.

Many property developers have, over the years, have built properties in direct violation of the limits imposed by law, for purely speculative purposes. Their activities have frequently produced consequences for the environment, the land aesthetics, created serious financial problems for the unwary purchasers. Illegal buildings can be subjected to robust sanctions, which may be administrative, civil or criminal. Hence the property is likely to be demolished, confiscated and is not marketable.

There are solutions to the problem that can, in certain cases, to some extent restore a building's legal status and prevent the sanctions being visited upon the property, including that of demolition. Clearly it is better to ensure initially that a property is legally built before purchase.

Amongst the potential solutions to the problem is the possibility of amnesty and building amnesty. Building amnesty is a special piece of legislation enacted by the State itself and allows the formal total or partial cancellation of sanctions or penalties. Property owners to whom the building amnesty may apply can voluntarily renovate the building to make it compliant. The amnesty protects against forced demolition whilst the owner takes steps to remedy the situation. The building permit amnesty can apply to buildings constructed without a building permit or with deviations from the title granted.

It should not be overlooked, however, that in Sardinia there are special regional laws on illegal building, which establish, among other things, precise limits on the works which may be restored. Consideration will be given to the construction zone, together with the volumes of illegal buildings, etc.

For the buyer, it is essential to ensure that the property has been legally built or, in the case of illegal construction, the possession by the owner of the so-called concession of condonation, without which you cannot enter into the deed. In the case of newly built properties, the builder or property developer should be able to show the necessary documentation, or alternatively, you can request from the seller evidence of the building permit and the project approved by the municipality.

The real estate team at Giambrone has decades of expertise, insight and mediation skills that, together with the deep knowledge of the real estate market provides first class legal assistance to private investors and companies such as construction and real estate agents, including those firms which handle the most complex real estate transactions, both in Italy and abroad.

The consolidated experience and a multidisciplinary approach are the hallmarks of the Giambrone legal team providing legal assistance in complex cross-border transactions, including using experts within the international network, to ensure the best outcome of the transaction.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.