While you are in Italy you may choose to rent an apartment instead of buying a property to live in. You may decide to rent for financial reasons or just because you want to find out what it’s like to live in a particular place before you settle down more permanently.
Rental prices in Italy are very reasonable and you can find some beautiful homes at bargain prices, both in the cities and rural settings; however, there are quite a few hidden costs that you’ll have to take in account before making a decision.
The rental market in Italy is highly controlled and regulated by the government and local municipalities which leads to there being aspects of renting an apartment that you, as an Expat, probably won’t be used to.
Should You Use an Agency or Rent Direct from the Owner?
When you’re looking to rent an apartment in Italy you have two main choices; you can either rent an apartment through an agency or you can rent your apartment directly from the owner themselves. Renting directly from the owner will usually be the cheaper option however you won’t have the help and support of the agency to fall back on.
Unlike in the United States, many of the apartments that are available are rented directly from the owner as opposed to being managed by a property agent or company. That said, owners often use agencies to advertise their properties on the rental market and manage the contract negotiations with the new tenant.
The rental market in Italy is highly regulated by the government and all rental agreements need to be registered with the police! There are 3 main kinds of legally recognized rental contracts that you can get in Italy.
- Transitory Rental Contract – for rentals of 18 months or less.
- A 3+2 Rental Contract – This is a 3 year rental contract that leaves the option of renewing it for a further 2 years.
- A 4+4 Rental Contract – This is a longer term contract that runs for 4 years with the option of renewing it for a further 4 years.
Before you leave the property you have to give at least 6 months notice to the landlord or agency.
To get your residency in Italy you need to have a legal contract in place. This contract has to be registered with the local police. The landlord of the property and the tenant usually share the cost of the registration fee with the police. The landlord also has to pay a percentage of the rental income as a tax during the rental period.
Renting Through an Agency.
It can save you a lot of headaches to rent through an agency because they will have a streamlined process in place and a good selection of properties on their books but you will face significantly higher costs.
Most agencies, particularly in the cities, will charge you an initial payment of 2 months worth of rent as a commission fee and then 2 months of rent as a deposit, which is not refundable. On top of this you will also have to pay the first month’s rent in advance.
This means that before you have even moved into the apartment you will have to pay 5 months worth of rent up front! You can find some agencies that might charge you an initial commission fee of only 1 month’s rent up front however even this is rare!
There are still benefits of using an agency though. The agency will prepare the legal contract for you and they will also guarantee your money back if the landlord fails to keep up their end of the contract.
Renting Direct from a Landlord.
You can save a fair amount of money by renting directly from the owner of the property. You will certainly save yourself the agency commission fees but you will have to find the property yourself and negotiate with the owner on your own which can be difficult if you don’t speak Italian. The landlord is still likely to ask for at least 2 months of the rent as a deposit and will want the first month’s rent up front.
Some landlords prefer not to register their rental contracts so that they can avoid paying the required taxes. If you find a landlord who wants to do this you will get a lower price for the rental however you will have no legal protections if things don’t work out well.
Another thing to be aware of if you are thinking about renting directly from the owner is that in many cases they are hesitant to rent their properties to foreigners. If you, as an Expat, have registered your residency at the rental address then you will have strong legal protections which means that the owner cannot evict you without good reason. There are hefty fines and compensation that the landlord would have to legally pay you if they evicted you before the end of the contract and, unfortunately, this can put off many owners from dealing with foreigners at all!
Further Considerations Before Renting an Apartment.
A few more things that you have to consider before renting an apartment in Italy.
Furnished or Unfurnished?
Many apartments in Italy are rented unfurnished – although you can find some furnished ones. Unlike in America, when you see an unfurnished apartment (non-arredato) not only will it have no furniture but it probably won’t even have the basic kitchen appliances! You’re quite likely to find that apart from the toilets and sinks there will be nothing else in the apartment, not even light fixtures! This can come as a major surprise for Expats who are looking to rent in Italy and means that you’ll need to buy a whole new kitchen set on top of paying the deposit, possibly the agency commission fees and the first month’s rent up front.
For this reason, many Expats prefer to rent furnished (arredato) apartments. Furnished apartments vary widely in the quality of the furniture and appliances which is why you should always inspect the property before signing any contracts. In many cases, the furnishings will be of a fairly low quality – often because the landlord doesn’t want to risk a tenant damaging expensive items of furniture!
Cleanliness of the Apartment.
When you visit an apartment to rent you should not expect it to be clean and tidy. In most cases it will be dirty with residue from the previous tenant left all over the place. This means that you’ll have to give the place a good clean – or hire a cleaner – to get it up to standard before you settle down. This applies to almost all apartments whether they are furnished or not, even if you rent through an agency.
Check the Windows in Cities.
If you’re moving into an apartment in a city you will almost certainly want to have double pane windows. This is because the noise of vehicle traffic can be extremely disturbing and will often continue right through the night. Older buildings tend to have single pane windows and the noise can ruin an otherwise lovely apartment.
Single pane windows are also less insulating and will add extra costs to your winter heating bills.
Check for Garbage Truck Pick Up Points!
Before you make a decision about whether or not to move into your apartment take the time to have a quick check in the streets outside. You should always look to see if there is a communal trash collection point nearby because if there is you’ll have the garbage trucks coming round first thing in the morning – often as early as 5am – and they make a lot of noise. Not only can you hear the noise but the vibrations of the trucks will actually rattle your window panes; so try to steer clear of apartments next to garbage pick up points.
Are There Churches Nearby?
Since Italy is a Catholic country there are churches all over the towns and cities which is a lovely thing for tourists to see but if you’re living next door the church bells can soon become frustrating. Many churches ring their bells every hour to mark the time – even on the weekends! So, if you don’t want to be constantly hearing the bells ringing then you may want to avoid living too close to a church.
Is There Storage Space?
Many apartments in Italy have very little storage space either inside or out. If you know that you want to have plenty of storage for your things then make sure you ask the agency or landlord before you sign any contracts.
It’s very uncommon for apartments in Italy to have their own dedicated parking space that comes with the rental. You can purchase a municipal parking permit with some good yearly discounts; otherwise you may have to park quite a way from your apartment.
You will often have to pay a condominium fee which is usually about 50-100 Euros per month. However, despite having to pay this fee you probably won’t have a swimming pool or gym in the building – unlike in the US.
In Italy, the condominium fee will cover the costs of external maintenance, cleaning of the public area and the elevator. Generally, your rent will already include this extra fee although it’s worth checking before you move in.
Utilities and Bills.
It can take a while to get your utilities set up when you move into a new apartment and so if you can it’s usually easier to keep the utilities in your landlord’s or the agency’s name and then pay them the bills on a monthly basis.
Renting an Apartment in Italy – It Can Be Tricky!
The rental market in Italy is very different to the US, or other parts of the West, and there could be a lot of unpleasant surprises waiting in store if you don’t keep your wits about you and check, and double check, every aspect of the contract. Before you agree to move into an apartment or sign any documents you should always thoroughly inspect the property in advance.
However, don’t let the cultural differences and difficulties put you off renting an apartment! You can still find some wonderful deals and some beautiful places to live but you should be aware that there will be moments of frustration during your search. You’ll have to be quite flexible in terms of your expectations and be prepared to adapt to the norms in Italy.