Accommodation in Italy
After committing themselves to moving to a new country, the most difficult decision an expat is likely to make is where to live.
Most expats rent accommodation in Italy rather than buy. In the bigger cities, prices are prohibitive and homeowners reluctant to sell. Not to mention, expats can’t buy property in Italy unless their home country has a two-way agreement with Italy. The Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs provides a list of countries on its websites. Only countries that have an accordo acquisti immobiliare are eligible.
Types of accommodation in Italy
Italy is a country of apartment blocks. The post-war population boom is immortalised in the thousands of pastel coloured buildings that crowd every city and town. Simply put, an expat would be hard pressed to find an Italian family living in their own detached home, let alone find one for themselves.
Detached homes in Italy are reserved for villas and farms. Most are hundreds of years old and come with a large piece of land and equally large price tag. Often these are heritage-listed or bound by strict laws about what can and can’t be done with them. They are also usually in need of some serious renovation.
The typical Italian apartment is two bedrooms with one bathroom. The size depends on the city, but one can expect it won’t be sprawling.
Conditions are, on the whole, good. Renters have the right to demand anything broken or run-down be fixed and, nine out 10 times, the landlord will foot the bill. Buyers are not as protected. The majority of Italian apartment blocks were built in the 1960s and 1970s, so it is important for potential buyers to ensure they get a good and thorough building inspection before they finalise any deals.
Finding accommodation in Italy
It is important to know the local market when looking for a rental property in Italy. An expat could get good, fair rent prices in cities like Perugia or Bologna, but the chances of this in Rome, Milan or Florence are very low.
Expats should start their search online but can also buy the classifieds or enlist the help of a local real estate agent (although their commissions can be pricey). Expats should make sure they meet the landlord and see their potential new home in person before committing to anything, and especially before signing or paying anything. Most legitimate landlords will, in any case, want to meet the tenant finalising. This makes it difficult to search from overseas, and expats looking for somewhere to live should ideally be conducting the search while in Italy staying in short-term accommodation.
It is a good idea to speak to other local expats on online forums and find out how they went about renting their home.
Renting property in Italy
Most standard rental contracts are signed for a year or longer – expats on shorter stays should investigate fully furnished properties that are rented on short-term leases with utilities included in the rental price.
The free-market contract (contratto di libero mercato) is a direct agreement between the owner (locatore) and tenant (locatorio or conduttore). These are called ‘four plus four’ contracts (quattro più quattro) because they usually last for four years, after which they are renewed for another four years.
The more flexible convention contract (contratto di convenzione) comes in a few different forms. Among these is the residential-use contract (uso abitativo) with a minimum duration of three years and a renewable period of two years, which can be extended. If staying for a short period of time, expats should aim for a transitional use contract (uso transitoria), which is for a fixed period of 12 to 18 months. For this contract, tenants must prove they legitimately need temporary housing. Expats working in Rome for a limited period can prove this with a copy of their employment contract.
The convention contract is a result of the Italian government’s efforts to make more low-cost housing available and the contract follows guidelines set up by tenant associations and landlords. Owners get tax breaks in exchange for limiting how much they charge for rent – as opposed to a free-market contract, where the owner can set rent at any price.
Some regulations apply across the board. Paying a three-month deposit is fairly standard. When signing an agreement, expats will have to provide copies of their passport, stay permit and banking details.