Italy's Civil Protection Department and Guardia di Finanza (financial police), are investigating the rent hikes after the mayor of Camerino – one of the towns worst hit by the 6.0-6.6 magnitude tremblors – drew attention to the 'profiteering'.
Camerino's mayor, Gianluca Pasqui, wrote to the Macerata region's public prosecutor's office to outline the situation in his town.
According to local paper Macerata Notizie, Pasqui said that in the course of several meetings with the local population, “numerous people have brought up the thoughtless and unjustified increase in rent which some landlords are requesting and which, due to the damage to their own home or workplace, they are forced to pay for their family or their business.”
The mayor said that, if confirmed, the rent hikes amounted to profiteering, and asked investigators to confirm whether it would be punishable under Italy's penal code.
It is not clear how widespread the issue is in the 20 affected towns of the Marche region, where thousands were displaced following the tremors and where aftershocks have continued in recent weeks.
Patrizia Terzoni, a local MP for the Five Star Movement, said the incidents were “unsurprising” as similar price increases had occurred in the wake of other natural disasters in Italy. She said that rent prices had “soared” across the region and called for the situation to be monitored urgently.
“Policy has moved at a snail's pace when it comes to stemming this shameful trend,” said Terzoni, who also criticized the government in being slow to provide the promised emergency accommodation.
Italy's prime minister, Matteo Renzi, visited Camerino shortly after the earthquakes, where he told residents: “Italy does not leave its citizens alone, we are stronger [than an earthquake] and we can make it.”
Camerino's schools reopened on Thursday, November 24th, a day Pasqui said was “the beginning of the future” for the town.
And from Monday, ordinances will be published stating which buildings in the area have been confirmed as habitable. Owners of those buildings deemed fit for use will be allowed to return to their properties, and this will also mark the end of the measures which were put in place after the quake, including free accommodation in hotels.
Homes damaged after the earthquake. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP