Tips for refurbishing your second home in Italy

Jun 03, 2022

If you cannot hire a general contractor, what can you do to avoid delays, misunderstandings, and disputes with the various suppliers?

Small firms and artisans in Italy are not used to signing a proper contract for any works. Most of them will send you a “preventivo” (list of the works and budget of costs) and they will ask you to agree (in some cases even without a formal signature). They will start working on the project upon receiving the initial deposit (anticipo) but all other terms and specifications are omitted and this often gives rise the unpleasant discussions.

Since it will be almost impossible to have them sign a proper contract, it is advisable to check whether at least ask and make sure that the “preventivo” includes: 

  • Time and Schedule: if the time is of the essence: ask to specify the deadline for completion of the works and if time is of the essence, make clear in the document that you will have the right to suspend any payment in the event agreed deadlines are not met. The best would be to provide for a penalty for each day/week/month of delay, but it is generally difficult that small artisans to accept it. The penalty can be a discount rather than a monetary disbursement;
  • Technical requirements: make sure that the preventivo lists the technical requirements and quality specifications. It is generally advisable to ask the assistance of an independent architect or geometra;
  • Avoid conflict of interests: make sure that the architect/geometra does not have any conflict of interests: in many cases, architects/geometra tend to refer each other to the contractor and this does not help them to provide an independent advice. The best would be that you choose your own local technician that you should act as supervisor of the works and report of their status and inform you if there are any issues:
  • Payment terms: you will be asked to pay an initial deposit but you should subject the payment of other installments to the completion of specific targets/works and specify that you will have the right to put the payment on hold if targets are not met; 
  • Testing certificate: when the works are completed, you should ask your supervisor to make testing – in contradiction with the contractor – to confirm that all works have been completed pursuant to the agreed technical and quality specifications;
  • Certificate of compliance: upon completion of any works and before making the final payment, ask to have a “certificato di conformità”, eg a certificate confirming that all works were done in compliance with applicable laws and regulations;

Last but not least, the most difficult part when working with small firms or solo artisans, is that they shall be able to do only part of the work, and their activities are linked to the work of other contractors (a plummer needs an electrician and most often also a mason). One of their favorite sports is blaming each other when there are some issues, delays, etc. Well, for this I do not have any tips. Per my personal experience, this is just a question of luck: you will need to find at least one contractor that is honest and professional and rely on him and on his ability to coordinate all work. Perhaps preliminary due diligence of the contractor’s local reputation and list of references can help to limit your risk of appointing the wrong person.

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