Change in housing policy in Italy comes after eight evictions
July 15, 2008
NAPLES, Italy — The eviction notices came the Saturday before Easter: Pack your house up; you’ve got 15 days to vacate.
With one swish of an Italian judge’s pen, eight American families living in a town house-style complex in Gricignano had to move out. Anything left in the houses after the deadline would be confiscated, said Dr. (Lt. Cmdr.) Carlos Quezada.
"We had just the 15 days to get the house all packed up for a move and find a new place to live," Quezada said. "It all came as a bit of a shock, not to mention all of the stress."
The debacle occurred because the landlord held a business zoning permit rather than a residential permit — a detail that escaped base housing officials when the properties were entered into the department’s database, said Sandy Randolph, housing director.
The landlord, who reportedly lived in the same complex, could not be located for comment. Chained gates and signs prohibited entrance to the houses, which appeared vacant.
The nightmare of having to pack up and re-house eight families in a matter of days led to a change in housing office policy. Landlords registering houses for rent through the housing office must present documentation such as a deed and proof of ownership, and legal experts at the housing office will review the documentation, Randolph said.
No deed, no registration, she said.
There are nearly 4,000 homes in the housing office’s database, and the housing office manages contracts for 1,677 of them. Housing officials do not plan to go back through all of the existing contracts and have landlords furnish the proper documentation, she said.
However, officials have been checking the documentation of any new contract since the policy took effect, Randolph said.
Lt. Richard Schulz, another of the eight, wondered why such a policy change wasn’t enacted more than a year ago — when in March 2007, Americans living in the Neapolitan suburb of Casal di Principe were surprised in the middle of the night by Carabinieri banging on doors to execute court-ordered seizures of homes under investigation for illegal land use and building by Italian landlords.
Schulz and the other residents of Via Leonardo da Vinci heard rumblings of the landlord’s possible permit discrepancy back in November.
"But we just figured they’d redo the paperwork or something and get everything squared away," said Schulz, who like Quezada had been living in one of the spacious, four-floored townhouse since September.
"Then all of a sudden, we had to leave," he said.
Randolph, who took over as the base’s housing director on Feb. 28, said she doesn’t know why changes weren’t made before.