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 are reluctant to sell. 

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 an 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 consists of two bedrooms with one bathroom. The size depends on the city, most apartments are not too large. 

Renting conditions are, on the whole, good. Renters have the right to demand that anything broken or run-down be fixed and, nine out 10 times, the landlord will pay for fixes themselves. However, buyers aren't as protected as renters. 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 secure reasonable rent prices in cities like Perugia or Bologna, but the chances of this in Rome, Milan or Florence are very low.

Expats can find accommodation through online property listings, or through listings in local newspapers. Otherwise, new arrivals should contact local real estate agents, although agency fees can be pricey.

Expats should make sure that they meet the landlord and see their potential new home in person before committing to anything. Most legitimate landlords will, in any case, want to meet the tenant before finalising any arrangement. This makes it difficult to search for accommodation from overseas, and expats may get the best results by conducting their search while in Italy staying in short-term accommodation. 

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 one 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. Most expats are required to pay their own utilities and 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.

Elisa Scarton Our Expat Expert

Elisa is an Australian journalist who came to Tuscany for a year, and fell in love (how cliché?), and decided to stick around. Cutting her teeth in frenetic-paced Rome, she now writes a Tuscan travel blog and online travel guide about her new home, the infinitely beautiful Tuscan Maremma, so that others can get a taste of la dolce vita.

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