Renting an apartment in Italy can seem like an overwhelming, sometimes impossible task. From the lingo to the contracts, there is a lot to know and understand/ If you can’t keep up or don’t pay attention to the details, you risk getting a bad deal (or worse, a bad landlord). Having lived in Italy for years, I have seen it all and have had every type of contract imaginable, from those “in nero” (i.e. illegal) to ones that were so strict they practically required I hand over my first born child if I were to break something.
However, there are some simple basics that will help get you through. Your dream villa in Tuscany awaits!
First things first, there are three types of rentals:
Long-term: A long term rental is the most complex. Contracts are usually 2-5 years and the apartment is often unfurnished. You will likely have to put all utilities in your name (very complicated process) and pay all the bills yourself (i.e. rent doesn’t include your utilities). You might see it written like this, 2×4 or 3×4, which means the apartment has a contract of 3 years with the option to renew the lease for an additional 4. This is the contract I have now, and it is by far the most complex and most binding. I recommend it only for those ABSOLUTELY SURE you know what you’re getting into and that you can stay legally in Italy for the duration of your contract.
Short-term: For a period of 3 months to a year. These apartments are usually furnished and sometimes geared for students. Bills are usually not transferred to your name and sometimes the rent price includes the utilities. This is the easiest option with only a moderate amount of paperwork. I used to stick to contracts like this, because they are easy to get out of and there isn’t a lot of responsibility.
Vacation: These are rentals geared to a few days, or a few weeks. They are furnished, bills are included in the rental price and they are usually found through a vacation website or vacation rental company.
Things to know:
— Keep in mind that if you rent through an agency there will likely be a fee. For short term or long term rentals, it is usually one month’s rent.
— Most contracts for rentals can be broken, but be sure to ask how much notice you have to give in order to break it.
— If you go the “private” route (i.e. no agency), be careful. There is A LOT of paperwork, a lot of taxes and a lot of confusion. If they want you to do the paperwork for them, RUN AWAY.
— Rentals go quick in big cities, if you love it, start the paperwork because there will be a lot of competition if it’s a desirable location and apartment. For example, in Florence it is not uncommon to see an apartment not one on one, but in a group. One time I went to see an apartment with a group of 15 other people. We were only allowed to enter 4 at a time, and everyone fought over who would be in the first group of 4. In the end, I never made it through, because within the first group of four, someone decided to take it.
— Deposits are common, so be prepared to be asked for 2 months rent due upfront. Sometimes they’ll ask for as much as 3-4 months’ rent as a deposit (if the apartment is really nice!).
— Check the contract very, very carefully. Be sure it says you will get your deposit back (how and when also), if you need to repaint walls, who is responsible for something if it breaks etc. I knew someone once who had to buy all new appliances for the apartment when she left. She missed the part of the contract that said, “upon termination of the contract, all appliances must be brand new.” Che furbo!
— Some apartments are very old and a line for the Internet or other modern necessities can’t be run through the apartment. Be sure to ask!
— All dwellings in Italy come with an electricity efficiency rating. This is super important if you have to pay your own electricity bill as it is SUPER expensive. “A” is good, but the closer you get to “F”, the higher your bill will be. And by “higher” I mean think 5-10x more than you pay in the US. It’s not uncommon to have an electricity bill (without AC running…you don’t want to know what happens to your bill if you use AC) that is 100-400 euro a month. Plus, be careful not to rent an apartment that has a hot water heater uses electricity only.
Now for some key words and vocabulary:
— Immobiliare – Real estate
— Immobili – Property
— Bilocale – Two room apartment (i.e. livingroom and kitchen combined, plus separate a bedroom)
— Monolocale – Studio apartment
— __ locali / __ vani – How many rooms, not bedrooms, but separate sections of the house (i.e. 4 vani might mean 1 bedroom and 3 other rooms, kitchen, living room, study).
— Camera da letto – Bedroom
— Camera matrimoniale – Master bedroom
— Cucina – Kitchen
— Cucina abitabile – Big kitchen with room for a table
— Mansarda – Attic
— Ristrutturato – Renovated
— Bagno – Bathroom
— Ripostiglio – Closet
— Terrazza/Balcone – Terrace or Balcony
— Soggiorno – Living room
— Arredato – Furnished
— In affitto – For rent
— In vendita – For sale
— Privato – For rent/for sale by owner
— Agenzia – For rent/for sale by agency
Phrases for your apartment hunt (and getting a good deal):
— Che tipo di contratto è? – What type of contract is it? (i.e. short, long term etc)
— Il prezzo è trattabile? – Is the price negotiable?
— Quanto devo pagare all’agenzia? – What is the agency fee?
— Ci sono spese di condominio? – Are there condominium fees?
— L’appartamento è arredato? – Is the apartment furnished?
— Chi paga, luce, gas, acqua e le altre spese? – Who is responsible for paying the electric, gas, water and other bills?
— L’appartamento è adattato per ___? – Is the apartment hooked up for? (Insert what you want here such as, wifi (wifi), television (tv), phone line (linea fissa) etc)
Have you ever rented an apartment in Italy? Did you run into any problems or was it smooth sailing? What made the experience good or bad for you? Share your experiences below!