If the debtor refuses to pay what you are owed, it might be necessary to initiate enforcement proceedings to recover the unpaid debt.
In this Quickguide we go through some of the most asked questions regarding the enforcement proceedings in Italy.
Initiating the enforcement proceedings in Italy
To initiate the enforcement proceedings in Italy the creditor must have a title of execution (in Italian: Titolo esecutivo), i.e., an instrument that grants the right to enforcement.
The Italian legal system distinguishes between judicial and non-judicial titles of execution.
Are considered judicial titles of execution judgments issued by a domestic or a foreign Court (for non-EU judgments: Recognition and Enforcement of Non-EU Judgments in Italy). The same can be said for in-court settlement agreements, i.e., agreements reached before the judge after a legal proceeding has already started.
According to Italian law, are non-judicial titles of execution:
Other documents authenticated by a notary or other public official
The title of execution must then be served on the debtor by the bailiff together with a formal notice (in Italian: Precetto) requesting full payment within 10 days.
Finding and seizing the debtors’ assets
If the debtor doesn’t comply with the formal notice within the given deadline, the creditor can initiate the enforcement proceedings and seize the debtor’s assets.
In some cases, the creditor might find it difficult to locate the debtor’s assets to seize. This is particularly true when the creditor is located outside the jurisdiction where the enforcement proceedings will take place. In accordance with the Italian Civil Procedure Code, the creditor can request the judge to allow the bailiff to conduct a search on databases of public administrations to locate the debtor’s assets.
Regarding the types of assets that can be seized, these can include movable property (e.g., cash) and immovable property. The creditor can also freeze the debtor’s assets held by another person or institutions (e.g., banks) and credits the debtor has against third parties.
How much do the enforcement proceedings cost in Italy?
The costs of the enforcement proceedings vary depending on type of assets the creditor wishes to seize to recover the owed amount.
Firstly, the creditor must consider the lawyer’s fees for the procedure. These are agreed upon when the engagement letter is signed and are usually pegged to the amount of the unpaid debt and complexity. If there has been no agreement on the lawyer’s fees, the Ministerial Decree n. 55/2014 will apply. The Decree establishes the lawyer’s fees comprised between a minimum and a maximum depending on the procedure type and/or case value.
As an example, the Decree establishes, for the threshold of € 52.001,00 – € 260.000,00 (based on the amount requested by the creditor), that the lawyer’s fees for an enforcement proceedings of medium complexity are as follows:
€ 2.300,00 + taxes, for immovable property.
€ 1.810,00 + taxes, for movable property.
Secondly, the creditor must also consider the costs of the enforcement proceedings which usually comprise the fees of the bailiff, Court, experts, and custodians.
These costs are anticipated by the creditor. However, the law provides that the expenses for the enforcement proceedings are to be borne by the debtor.
How long will it take to recover unpaid debts in Italy?
The duration of the enforcement proceedings varies based on the on type of assets seized.
The average duration for the entire procedure is comprised between 4 to 5 months when the creditor seizes cash, which rises to 1 year for other movable property (e.g., cars or jewellery).
In case of immovable property, the procedure takes longer and generally averages somewhere between 4 to 6 years.
In both cases, if the debtor files an opposition to the proceedings, the conclusion times are certainly prolonged.