The Problem of Squatting in Italy: A New Approach by the Courts

International Index of Property Rights, 2019

11 Pages Posted: 31 Oct 2019

See all articles by Giuseppe Portonera

Giuseppe Portonera

Catholic University of Milan; Bruno Leoni Institute

Date Written: October 16, 2019


There is a chronical inability of the Italian Government to enforce rapid and effective protection from infringements of property rights, as demonstrated by the problem of squatting. Despite the lack of official data, it appears that about 50,000 buildings all over the country are subjected to squatting. This research explores the reasons for such an inadequate reaction by a State that, although qualifies itself as “welfaristic”, it has no problem in burdening the law-abiding citizens with the costs of hardship of those most in need. Unfortunately, this situation has so far received the approval of Italian courts, which have been reluctant to defend the owners’ good reasons. But, as the research points out, in contrast with the dominant jurisprudence, it has emerged a new case-law (from the Tribunale of Rome and the Corte Suprema di Cassazione) that sentences the Government to pay damages in case of squatting, if the proper institutions have failed to prevent or suppress it. It is a case-law that, albeit open to criticism, makes clear that property rights are entitled to the protection accorded to them by the Constitution and other international laws - and therefore can be fairly described in terms of "judicial engagement". It seemed as if the Italian Government had understood that but lately it has approved several measures that go in the opposite direction. After a brief introduction on the constitutional concept of property rights (and on the misconceptions surrounding the “social function” of property enshrined in art. 42 of the Italian Constitution), the research focuses on the aforesaid case-law and the most recent legislative interventions about squatting.

Keywords: property rights, squatting, judicial protection of property rights, judicial engagement

Suggested Citation

Portonera, Giuseppe, The Problem of Squatting in Italy: A New Approach by the Courts (October 16, 2019). International Index of Property Rights, 2019, Available at SSRN:

Giuseppe Portonera (Contact Author)

Catholic University of Milan ( email )

Largo Gemelli 1
Milan, Milano 20123

Bruno Leoni Institute ( email )

Torino 10144

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