Renting my very first apartment in Italy was a breeze. My boyfriend at the time found it. He also made all the arrangements, and when I arrived in L’Aquila—the quaint little university town about an hour outside of Rome—all I had to do was move my luggage in and pay the 100euro a month rent for my furnished private room. It was great! I lived in the historic center of town, and from my window, I could see the main street.
The next time I had to rent an apartment, I had to do it all on my own. Let’s just say I had a very steep learning curve. One morning my roommate’s father showed up to the apartment and changed all the locks on the door and didn’t give me a key. I had to ask to leave and enter the apartment since some Italian homes, like this one, you need a key to get in AND OUT. That afternoon, he started yelling at me for having a friend over and put a knife to my throat. I moved out that day.
In addition to dealing with her crazy family, I paid her the equivalent of six months rent just to move in: three months for a down payment and another three months for a security deposit for a contract I later found out wasn’t even legit.
But let me backtrack.
The Italian rental market is VERY, if not COMPLETELY different from the States (ok I'm exaggerating just a bit, but it is really different). If you choose to rent a house in Italy, you have to have your contract registrato or registered for it to be considered a legally binding contract (rentals under 30 days do not need to be registered). In order for the contract to be considered registered and legal, either you or the owner have to send a copy to the tax authorities, the agenzia di entrate. This can be done electronically or by visiting the tax office in person, and paying the related tax.
In the States, if you decide to rent a home from someone, you can write up the paper work and you both sign it. In the States, as far as I know that’s a legally binding contract. In Italy, if you both write up a few lines and sign it, for all practical purposes, that piece of paper is worthless. It’s not a contract.
TYPES OF CONTRACTS
There are currently five types of residential contracts.
Free market contracts, contratti di libber mercado o canone libero, is the type of contract most expats will have to deal with. They have a duration of 4+4, meaning the contract is valid for four years and automatically renews for the next four years. As the name implies, the parties involved have more (not complete) flexibility in determining the details of the contract.
The tenant can give notice of their desire to leave before that date. Legally speaking, notice must be given 6 months in advance, but if you speak to your landlord, they may be a little more flexible with you. The owner may only take possession of the house before that date in a few limited situations.
There are also three "established" contracts contratti concertati which include: affordable housing canone concordato, short-term contratto transitorio, and student rentals transitorio per studenti. These contracts offer tax breaks or other economic incentives to the owner or the renter.
Finally, there are loaner contracts contratto di comodato d'uso, which basically stipulates that the owner is granting you the right to use their property for a set period of time. Loaner contracts should essentially be free.
DOWN PAYMENT AND SECURITY DEPOSIT
It’s not uncommon for the landlord to ask to see an employment contract, a bank statement, or references to prove that you have the financial stability to afford the apartment you are wishing to rent. (Credit scores similar to the American one, do not exist in Italy). It’s also REALLY hard to kick out a tenant in Italy once they have moved in, so they don’t tend to rent to just anyone. (Kicking someone out for non payment can take years depending whether or not they have kids or are suffering from a terminal illness. )
They may also ask for a maximum of three months advance rent, anticipo, and three months deposit, caparra, for long-term rentals. This too is negotiable. If you don’t have a legally registered contract (which, considering my past experiences I would suggest having) I certainly wouldn’t give the landlord all that money up front.
Some homes will have extra costs like apartment/building cleaning costs, garbage removal (which is a city tax), elevator use, utilities (electricity, gas and water), telephone and internet included in the rental price, while others won’t.
Make sure to ask the landlord to specify what is included and what is not. You can also ask to see a copy of last year’s bills for an estimate of those costs if they aren’t included in your rental price. The cost of these extras can vary considerably from about €100 – €500 per month depending on the age of the building, number of tenants, city you live in, etc.
Apartments can come unfurnished or non arredato, which means its empty of everything including the kitchen. Yes, in Italy your kitchen is considered furniture. Kitchen cabinets and kitchen appliances would not be included in unfinished apartments.
There are also partially furnished apartments, parzialmente arredato, which usually means it comes with a kitchen cabinets and kitchen appliances and not much more. Be sure to ask what’s included.
Finally, there are fully furnished apartments or arredato, which are actually quite common. They will include things like a fully furnished kitchen, dining tables, sofas, beds, wardrobes (closest are pretty rare in Italy), etc. As one would imagine, the quality and style of those furnishings vary greatly. You’ll most likely just have to buy linens, towels, and maybe some pots and pans.
I hope all this information sheds some light into the Italian rental house market.
If you still have any questions, feel free to write.
PS. In case you were wondering, after I moved out got into contact with my former roommate to get the money she owed me back. Fortunately, even though our contract wasn’t legit, I did always ask her to write me a receipt for the rent money I had given her (even though she had tried to say it wasn’t necessary since we lived together…). From what I’ve gathered, even though I didn’t have a real rental contract, her accepting payment for the apartment in nero is illegal. So I think that’s the argument my lawyer friend used in convincing her and her equally shaddy family to give me my money back. They eventually wrote me a check that bounced! (Which in Italy is a HUGE deal, a big no, not like is the States, where yeah you shouldn’t do it, but it’s not the end of the world.) A few days later the bank attempted to process the funds again and the second time around there were sufficient funds in the account to cover the check.
I got a room for myself in a hotel. As you can imagine, after that drama the last thing I wanted was another roommate. I rented a tiny studio apartment that I had all to myself, in an absolutely fabulous part of town (the Cadorna area). I did it through a company that managed several rental buildings. I walked out of the rental office with keys and a contratto registratto.
Disclaimer. This is a blog post about my personal experiences and personal knowledge. While I consulted with my hubby, Italian friends, the agenize d’entrate, and other Italian sites, I am not expert on this matter. I am not a lawyer. And things change, so take the advice stated her with a grain of salt.
This lovely photo was taken by the darling Daniela Delli.