Published: 02/04/2021 By Alessandra MaggiEngineer Alessandra Maggi helps expats make their dream come true of living the good life, their own way, in the Marche region of Italy - here is the first of a few articles taken from her blog.
Are there any general rules about building a new accessory building like a garage or office in Italy?
The regulations regarding outbuildings in Italy vary from town to town, so there isn’t a common rule to apply. Each Comune (Local Authority) has its own set of laws which regulate the construction of outbuildings, and in general the construction of external structures such as pergolas, gazebos, wooden cabins and canopies.
The regulations also vary depending on where the property is located in the Town Plan: most Local Authorities impose more restrictions in rural areas than in urban areas. So for example you may be able to build a wooden cabin on your land if you are in a town but not if you are in the middle of the countryside.
This is aimed at protecting the landscape and controlling the use of agricultural land, generally speaking farmers have more chances of getting permissions to build because they use the land to make a living. In certain areas rural businesses like the “Agriturismo”, combining farming and hospitality, are favoured and allowed to build wooden cabins, set up campsites or glamping type accommodations. Also, they are allowed to build structures required to perform their activities, such as silos, stables or other storage facilities.
On the other hand, if you are a private owner asking to build a wooden cabin for storage purposes or to use as a garage in the same area, you may not be granted permission. It all depends on the Local Authority’s specific rules.
The best thing to do if you are thinking about having an outbuilding is to discuss the options with your Comune. The rules regarding the construction of accessory buildings are usually in a document called “Regolamento Edilizio” and each Comune has its own (even though they all have a similar structure, the contents can be different for each Comune).
The “Regolamento Edilizio” is to be read in conjunction with the Town Plan (Piano Regolatore Generale - P.R.G.) which shows the territory divided into zones: historic centre, new developments, rural area, etc.
These documents aren’t always available on Local Authorities’ websites and they are not the easiest to read and understand. The Local Authority’s regulations will dictate the maximum area and height of the outbuilding and its features, like materials and colours, as well as its location (i.e. distance from the boundary).
You can appoint a professional to check the local regulations and discuss your intended project with the Comune before you commit to buy a property, to make sure that what you have in mind is actually feasible.
Of course, if the house you’re looking to buy already has an outbuilding you’ll be able to use it, provided that it is an authorised construction. Again, this is something worth checking before the purchase so you don’t end up paying penalties for unlawful structures that were the previous owner’s responsibility.
Another important thing to keep in mind is that even small structures may require a proper structural design and a permit. Anything that is not to be used as storage space and is going to be fixed and have a residential use will require the submission of a full structural project to the relevant authority.
That means you can’t just go to the nearest DIY shop, buy a wooden cabin, place it in your garden and use it as an office!
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Photograph of Alessandra taken by Francesca Tillio