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Scorpions and Italian Real Estate
Squatter fumigated from abandoned property
Which Italian word accurately represents a legal concept understood by all Italians and known to none? If your parents or grandparents abandoned their family and land in Italy for a better life elsewhere, you should read on. If not, but you'd like to hear about one of our cases, you should read on, too!
As I pound out the text to this article on my laptop on a train speeding back to our home in Northern Italy, I reflect and smile at the chance double meaning of use of "Scorpions" in the title above.
Our adventure begins with a trip to a hill town in the beautiful and enchanting countryside of the Abruzzo. Working has been difficult during the hot days of summer yet rewarding since we have succeeded in finding our client's "lost" home and the numerous agricultural parcels abandoned by his family many years earlier.
How did we find his property, you ask?
Armed with an old letter referencing specific parcel numbers we were able to obtain more detail on the title (*foglio, particella, ecc.*) and specific maps of the Abbruzese area from our office in San Francisco, California. But details were missing and it was necessary to track down a street address in a small town and take pictures of the land in the surrounding. In short, we had to go to Italy!
We arrived to our destination to discover the land had been cultivated by a farmer in the area for many years -- but we had yet to uncover who was working the land.
With the collaboration of local civil servants in the Municipality's land registry office, my wife and I set out with maps and camera in hand to transform our title documents and land maps into nostalgic photographs for our client. There was also a practical side to our quest: recovering our client's family property.
In the following days we scoured the country side in question talking to numerous farmers in their vineyards and grasslands in a valley set under the backdrop of the breathtaking mountains of Abruzzo. We were not sure of the exact location of the parcels. We hailed numerous farmers down from their tractors, tending to nearby fields, to ask if they had heard of our client's family or knew of the location of the parcels.
On the morning of the third day, we spied a different tractor working the vineyards in the target area. We ascended the vineyard to ask which parcel he was working. Cooperative, but slightly suspicious he gave us the parcel number and quickly added he had acquired it - note that he did not say he purchased it.
We were face to face with "the Scorpion". By usucapione, adverse possession, he had acquired a total of 90 parcels of property in this fertile valley and at almost no cost.
As a wealthy farmer still working the land for many years not with a plow but from within an airconditioned tractor, he had little schooling but understood that others had left behind valuable land while looking for better times in the US and Canada. His attorney and others in the town had mentioned the legal term usucapione which this farmer, with a hearing problem, understood as u'scorpione (a scorpion).
The title of this article is not entirely mine but the result of a comic linguistic twist or misinterpretation by this farmer. Certainly, the word "scorpion" has taken on a new meaning that you won't find in any authoritative source: a savvy Italian who understands that working abandoned land and paying the very low taxes on agricultural property will give him the rights automatically to acquire title by usucapione which sounds a lot like scorpion, especially if you are hard of hearing!
Further investigations revealed that some of the property is still uncultivated and remains the property of our client even after decades. Meaning that it has not been yet lost to "the scorpion" farmer. To reposess the remaining cultivated property our client filed a Declaration of Succession with the Land Office thus passing the title from their dead relatives to the living succession of heirs.
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