Building safety: no tolerance for negligent owners


Emma Potter

Building safety is an essential priority, not only for tenants but also for the entire surrounding community. A recent intervention by the Court of Cassation has highlighted the responsibilities of the owners of properties in a state of decayhighlighting the serious legal consequences resulting from negligence in ensuring structural safety.

Ruling 25176/2021 has in fact forcefully reiterated that the omission of safety measures can lead to criminal sanctions, setting an important precedent in the field of construction law and urban safety.

The Supreme Court ruling and the specific case

In detail, the ruling of the Court of Cassation n. 25176/2021 rejected the appeal presented by the co-owners of a building deemed unsafe, condemning them to pay a fine of 2,400 euros for violation of article 677 of the Penal Code, which punishes the omission of work on buildings or constructions that threaten ruin.

Article 677.
Failure to carry out work on buildings or constructions which threaten ruin

The owner of a building or construction which threatens ruin or whoever is obligated on his behalf to conserve or supervise the building or construction, who fails to carry out the work necessary to remove the danger, ((he is punished with an administrative fine ranging from three hundred thousand to one million eight hundred thousand lire)).

((The same sanction applies to those))having the obligation, fails to remove the danger caused by the ruin of a building or construction.
If the facts foreseen by the previous provisions result in danger to people, the penalty is imprisonment for up to six months or a fine of no less than three thousand lire.

This case involved a property whose state of disrepair was such as to pose significant risks to public safety, highlighted by the falling of tiles on a public road and adjacent properties, endangering the physical integrity of people.

The union order, ignored by the owners, required the execution of works essential to making the building safe within a set deadline. Despite the objections of the owners, who claimed to have already carried out safety measures over the years and considered the fine excessive considering the seriousness of the crime and their economic conditions, the Court of Cassation underlined the inadmissibility of the appeal, confirming the conviction sentence.

This decision highlights the unconditional responsibility of property owners to ensure the structural safety of their properties, setting an important precedent for all future cases of buildings in similar conditions.

Implications and reflections on the safety obligation

The ruling of the Court of Cassation marks a milestone in the responsibility of property owners towards the community and the urban environment. It not only confirms the severity of the penalties for those who neglect maintenance obligations, but extends the principle of criminal liability also to cases of condominium buildings, thus broadening the sphere of application of the law.

This aspect is fundamental in a context in which the population density and the complexity of urban structures make safety a central theme of daily life.

The importance of the sentence goes beyond the single conviction, acting as a warning for all property owners: maintenance and safety are no longer discretionary options, but essential obligations which cannot be avoided without incurring significant legal consequences .

This perspective introduces a paradigm shift in the approach to real estate ownership, underlining the need for responsible management that considers the effects on the social and urban fabric.

Furthermore, the Supreme Court decision emphasizes the role of local authorities in monitoring the state of buildings and intervening promptly in case of danger, consolidating a model of urban governance in which the safety of citizens comes first. The interaction between owners, authorities and communities therefore becomes a fundamental pillar in risk prevention, helping to create safer and more livable urban environments.

With the confirmation of sanctions for negligent owners, a new chapter in building legislation opens, one in which the right to safety prevails over individual negligence, driving the future of urban development towards higher standards of responsibility and care.