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Ten things to expect when renting an apartment in Italy

If you're renting an apartment in Italy, you might be in for a surprise or two. Here's a heads up on what you can expect.

Ten things to expect when renting an apartment in Italy
Photo: Unsplash/Katy Cao

Waking up in your own cosy Italian apartment, opening the shutters and stepping out onto a sunny balcony as you look out over the old town below. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? And renting is a relatively quick way to make it a reality.

READ ALSO: Renting in Italy: the crucial vocabulary you need to know

Whether you’re planning to stay in Italy short-term, want more flexibility, or just need time to scout out the perfect forever home to buy, renting an apartment might be the right solution when you make your move. But there are a few things to be aware of.

We all come with our own ideas and expectations of rental properties, landlords, and letting agents, which will of course vary depending on where you come from. Will the Italian version match up? Here’s a quick primer on what you can expect.

Note: As with pretty much everything in Italy, things can differ from one region or city to another, and of course there are always exceptions. If you’re renting at the higher end of the market, you’re likely to encounter fewer problems. We hope this guide can give you a general picture of what to expect from the private rental market overall.

Buildings in central Rome. Photo: Ludwig Thalheimer/Unsplash

Think twice about those beautiful old buildings

Whether you’re browsing rental listings in the big city or a quiet town, chances are there will be some unique apartments listed in stunning centuries-old palazzi.

It can be hard to resist the appeal of living in such a historic building, with unique architecture and bags of charm. But they’re not usually the most practical choice.

These apartments often come with issues like poor insulation, damp, strange layouts and ancient plumbing. Bathrooms, installed many decades after the apartment was built, tend to be poky afterthoughts. Many such buildings won’t have an elevator, or central heating (and yes, that will be an issue if you’re planning to be there in winter!)

If you’d prioritise convenience and home comforts, you may prefer to opt for a newer – if less atmospheric – apartment building. These are unlikely to have those problems, and may also come with a dedicated storage room (ripostiglio) and garage (box auto).

Photo by Philippe Lopez/AFP

However, some people complain that new buildings come with their own issues, such as being noisy, havng poor insulation, and having windows looking directly into someone else’s living room.

Those rare, recently-renovated and comfortable rental apartments inside historic but well-maintained buildings can be found, but usually for a high price. And they tend to be snapped up quickly.

Furnished or unfurnished?

You may find these terms mean something slightly different in Italy than what you’re used to back home.

In Italy, “unfurnished” means the place is totally empty. That means there won’t even be light fixtures or a kitchen (not just missing appliances – no worktops, cupboards, sink. Nothing.) The apartment will contain nothing at all apart from the sanitari (toilet and bidet) and perhaps a bathroom sink unit.

A part-furnished apartment should have a kitchen in it, probably without appliances, and might even come with a few pieces of the owner’s grandparents’ old furniture. It’s very unlikely to have a bed or sofa.

Most long-term rentals come unfurnished or partly-furnished.

Short term rentals (a year or less) however will most likely have all, or most, of the furniture you might need. These are more commonly found in big cities and tend to be aimed at students and young professionals.


In some countries, like the UK for example, it can be near impossible to find a rental that will allow pets. In Italy, this doesn’t tend to be as much of a problem.

This may be partly because few rental apartments have been recently renovated, so there aren’t as many shiny new finishes to damage. But you’ll probably also notice that, for better or worse, in Italy it’s not unusual for people to keep pets in small apartments, including large dogs.

The rules on this vary from place to place, building to building, and contract to contract.

While owners of apartments have a legal right to keep pets in their property, that right does not extend to tenants – meaning the final say will be down to your landlord.

If your rental contract does include a ‘no pets’ clause, you may want to ask your landlord about it anyway. There’s a good chance that many landlords will be using a template contract, and that they might not actually mind pets at all. (Particularly if you introduce them to your four-legged friend and demonstrate what a good boy or girl he or she is.)

While there are lots of pet-related cultural differences that can be jarring for foreign nationals, it is certainly true overall that Italians tend to be animal lovers.

How much is all this going to cost?

As with anywhere, rents vary greatly in Italy depending on where you want to live, but the average monthly rent on an apartment in an Italian city is now around 600 euros per month according to recent Istat figures.

It can be double that in the most expensive areas, such as in central Milan, and as low as around 300 euros a month in the cheapest.

READ ALSO: These are the Italian cities where rent prices are rising fastest

Many landlords ask for the first month’s rent upfront plus at least one month’s rent as a security deposit. Many will ask for two or even three months, but you may be able to negotiate that down.

And don’t forget that the letting agents’ fee is generally a month’s rent – and then you’ll have to pay a whopping 22 percent tax on that fee, as well.

Overall, you’ll need to budget for over three months’ rent just to move in. And of course, that’s before factoring in the cost of furniture, moving, and setting up utilities.

And if your apartment is part of a condominio – which can be an apartment building or any kind of multiple-occupancy housing unit – remember you’ll also need to pay fees, known as spese condominiali, for the upkeep of communal areas.

This charge may cover everything from lighting to cleaning and rubbish collection, and will vary depending on the size, type and location of a property. The typical fee applied in a small city-centre apartment block is usually around 30-50 euros a month, and the charge may also be payable quarterly or annually.

A lettings agent is probably a good idea

In Italy most apartments are rented out by private individuals rather than big companies. This can be a good thing in many ways, but it also means landlords are often inexperienced, for example when it comes to legal issues, or are too busy to deal with any problems you may have.

Most private owners choose to work with an agent, instead of spending thir time handling viewings and contracts themselves, which means you’ll have the easiest time and the biggest pick of apartments if you go to an agency.

While agencies charge fees, they’re actually useful to have around as most private landlords in Italy tend to be simply inexperienced, or not interested in the ins and outs of the property business. This means they may not be up to date with the latest regulations, or the fine print of rental contracts.

Not only will a good agent advise them on these things, but they can negotiate with the owner on your behalf.

Of course, you may have luck finding an apartment through word of mouth that you can rent directly from the owner, or perhaps online – although advertising on property websites is still not the default option in Italy, and more often than not you’ll still have to go through the agency even if you’ve done all the searching yourself.

You really can negotiate the rent

You can and probably should try to haggle with your Italian landlord. The idea might make people from some countries cringe, but it’s not seen as rude.

In the south of the country particularly, landlords may initially ask for more than is realistic or reasonable as they expect hagglers (and some will inflate prices out of, perhaps, inexperience or over-optimism.)

Because most rentals come from private owners, they can be more flexible than a big rental company or buy-to-let landlord would be. However, the fact is that a lettings agent or a local friend will have better luck negotiating than you will.

Even if you speak fluent Italian and have excellent haggling skills, you could still come up against the unfortunately common assumption that foreigners moving to Italy must have deep pockets, or more money than sense.

Know your rental contracts.

Some people might tell you that there’s no need to bother with a contract, and that it’s “normal” for people to rent without contracts in Italy. Our advice is to steer well clear of this sort of arrangement.

While it’s not unknown for Italians to have these informal arrangements, perhaps when renting from friends, it’s essential as a non-Italian that you have everything done officially – not least as you’ll need to provide a copy of your rental contract when applying for Italian residency.

READ ALSO: ‘No southerners’: Milan landlady refuses to rent to woman from south of Italy

If you drive, you’ll also need it to obtain a residents’ parking permit. While this might not make it easier to find a space, you’ll be paying parking fees daily otherwise.

There are a few different types of rental contract available in Italy. You’ll probably want a residential (uso abitativo) contract, which can have a duration of 3+2 years (meaning the contract is valid for three years with the option to renew for another two), 4+2, 4+4, or even longer.

There’s also the option of transitory (uso transitorio) with a duration of one to 18 months, and student rentals (uso studenti universitari) with a duration of between six and 36 months. The terms and conditions for each type vary, and you should check the contract carefully with your agent.

Once you’ve signed your rental contract, your landlord or the agency has 30 days to register it officially with the local authorities.

They will then need to give you a copy of this legally registered, stamped contract, which is what you’ll use for your paperwork.

And you might not be thinking about this while moving into a new place, but make sure to check the terms and conditions on giving notice to leave the apartment. Many contracts will stipulate that you need to give at least three months’ notice to your landlord if you move out, which can come as an unpleasant surprise. You might be able to negotiate that down before signing.

The most important thing is to know what the contract says, and to have it to hand when it comes time to leave. Just in case your landlord is anything like the ones we’ve encountered, and tries to tell you that the period is actually six months.

You’ll need to set up the utilities in your name

In some countries, tenants usually pay a set fee to the landlord every month to cover utilities such as water, electricity, and even wifi. Not so in Italy, and you’ll need to have all these bills sent directly to you.

This may be as simple as having the electric and water companies change your landlord’s details for yours on the system.

But if the apartment isn’t already set up with utilities, you’ll need to go and visit the various utility company offices yourself and set up accounts with them. Make sure you remember to get this done before you actually move in.

Cleaning supplies should be your first purchase

It’s common to hear tales of landlords leaving their apartments filthy and neglected. With a few exceptions – such as new builds, holiday lets, and rentals at the pricier end of the market – we have unfortunately learned that plenty of apartments in Italy will be rented out in a terrible state.

You might not have noticed quite how thick the dust was when you visited the property, or maybe the landlord had strategically placed a plant pot over a stain or two. But be prepared to do some serious deep-cleaning and decorating when you move in.

Expect thick dust, patches of mouldy plaster, broken furniture and bags of rubbish left in very room, and windows too dirty to see out of (If the experiences of The Local’s editors are anything to go by…)

If you’re lucky, your landlord will have freshly repainted the place, but don’t count on it. So you may want to factor in the cost of a few tins of paint into your budget.

Any minor repairs needed will also be yours to take care of. The owner may at least cover the cost of any hardware you need to buy.

Getting to know your neighbours

It’s worth trying to meet a neighbour or two before you decide to take the apartment.

If you’re used to apartment living being anonymous and private, you can forget about it once you move to Italy. Your neighbours are soon going to know all of your business – and not just because your dividing walls are paper thin.

Photo: Unsplash

It can be surprising to find that, even in big Italian cities, there’s a sense of community in apartment buildings and all of the neighbours do tend to know one another.

There’s a good chance your neighbours are looking out for the safety of the building and everyone in it, and won’t hesitate to lend you a hand, take your parcel deliveries, and be openly curious about your habits and every visitor you have. if you’re lucky, they’ll occasionally bring you baked goods.

Whether you find this neighbourly relationship claustrophobic or reassuring entirely depends on you.

Member comments

  1. I have been living in a pleasant house for over 10 years (with legal extensions of my contract).
    It is a “furnished” little house with huge garden near lake Como.
    During this time I improved a number of aspects from cheap furniture to reasonable…
    By now I believe I should renew e.g. the mattresses on 3 beds ( I use only one and moved them around 🙂 ).
    I also need to replace the Ikea sofa (the cheapest in the catalogue 🙂 ) and a few other pieces.

    Does “the law” foresee this situation and the question of who should pay?
    Does anyone have experience?

    One alternative for me is that a very complicated discussion with the elderly lady who owns my rented house (and her slightly slow nephew) could be more distressing than buying it all at my cost …
    Any suggestion — most welcome.

    1. Hi,

      In my own experience, beds/mattresses and sofas have always fallen into the category of things we had to buy as tenants. When other items have had to be replaced (eg. a broken fridge belonging to the landlady) we just did it ourselves and told her we were doing so. We tend to replace or repair most things at our own expense and trouble in order to avoid the bigger headache of attempting to get the landlady to help. Of course, it all depends on your contract and your relationship with the owner. Hopefully other readers will have more advice!

      Best wishes,
      – Clare

  2. I have been in Rome for 4 years now but I have changed houses 3 times. Only one of those houses gave me a signed registered contract. I just moved to a new one with a transitory (uso transitorio) contract for 18 months. I have previously not registered any apartment with the commune since I arrived. Can I register for residency with this 18 months transitory contract?

  3. When I rented, I also had to pay yearly for a portion of the building upkeep (women who scrubbed the stairs, maintenance to the elevator, etc.) Would you consider that also common?

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PROPERTY: Is this the end of Italy’s building ‘superbonus’?

As state funds for Italy's popular building 'superbonus' have already been exhausted, Italian authorities are reportedly considering halting any further extensions to the discount scheme.

PROPERTY: Is this the end of Italy's building 'superbonus'?

The Italian government is considering yet more changes for Italy’s so-called building ‘superbonus 110‘, as the allocated budget for the building incentive has already been exceeded, while renovation projects continue to wait in a queue.

According to the latest data from ENEA (Italy’s national agency for new technologies, energy and sustainable economic development), the approximately €33.3 billion that was earmarked for the scheme until 2025 has already gone over by some €400 million.

That makes a total of €33.7 million in claims up until May 31st, 2022.

This means that not only have the Superbonus funds run out, they have also been claimed in excess, potentially meaning that the government could ask for the money back.

In the two years since it was introduced, the building discount scheme has given homeowners the chance to claim a tax deduction of up to 110 percent of the cost of renovation work.

READ ALSO: Nine things we’ve learned about claiming Italy’s building ‘superbonus’

Building jobs covered by the bonus are related to making energy-efficiency upgrades and reducing seismic risk, with the aim of kickstarting Italy’s post-pandemic economic recovery and its construction sector.

The credit transfer system is hampering accessing Italy’s ‘superbonus 110’. Photo by Guilherme Cunha on Unsplash

But the scheme has been beset with delays due to a raft of reasons, including its popularity creating soaring demand, supply chain issues, fraudulent claims, multiple changes to its rules and regulations and a blocking to the credit transfer system – that is, the way people access the government funds to pay for the building work.

These setbacks have caused some homeowners to abandon their plans altogether, or have left many in the middle of works concerned about whether they’ll able to finish their renovation projects in time.

Despite the changes and blockages, however, the bonus has in some way been heralded as a success, considering the vast amount of claims already made.

But what does that mean for those still stuck in the process with works waiting to start or not yet completed?

Property owners who have benefited in part from the subsidies for building renovation work could see their construction site stopped and their funding demanded back, as construction companies are unable to collect the credit.

READ ALSO: Italy’s building superbonus: What’s the problem with credit transfers?

Although no official government statement has yet been made, Italian media reports indicate that, after its latest extension, the authorities don’t intend to roll on the scheme any further beyond 2022 for owners of single family homes.

There have been multiple deadline extensions for this category of property in response to ongoing delays, but the government has ruled out any further lengthening to the current timeframe, reported Il Sole 24 Ore.

As things stand, single unit home owners have until September 30th to complete 30 percent of the overall works, with a final deadline of December 31st, 2022 for all renovations to be completed.

Without further financing and an unblocking of the credit system, those carrying out renovation jobs could find themselves with stalled construction sites, half-finished homes or having to give any claimed money back.

Claiming Italy’s superbonus has been mired by delays and bureaucracy. Photo by Laughing Cynic on Unsplash

The risk to both companies and individuals has prompted criticism from various sectors, as jobs, futures and a continuing stock of energy inefficient houses hang in the balance.

READ ALSO: How to stay out of trouble when renovating your Italian property

“If the government wants the death of the superbonus, it should come and say so… knowing that it is telling companies to go bankrupt,” stated the president of the Productive Businesses Commission, Martina Nardi.

Earlier this month, the CNA (Confederazione Nazionale dell’Artigianato e della Piccola e Media Impresa), which represents Italian small business owners, said some 33,000 businesses are at risk of bankruptcy due to blockages.

Calls to unblock the credit transfer system and overcome the stalemate continue as impending deadlines cause increasing alarm and frustration.

Opening up the credit transfer system would allow construction companies to convert their credit into liquidity, that is, actual money, and thereby complete works already started.

The National Confederation of Craftsmen and Small and Medium Enterprises has spoken of difficulties on the part of “thousands of companies in the construction sector that are unable to transfer tax credits linked to bonuses for the redevelopment of buildings due to the freezing of the market”.

In other words, projects continue to face blockages until building companies can be sure that they’ll receive the money they were granted.

READ ALSO: The hidden costs of buying a home in Italy

In an open letter to Italy’s prime minister Mario Draghi, one architect described the situation as an “almost unprecedented liquidity crisis” that is pushing the country to “the brink of the deepest economic and social crisis ever seen and managed”.

“It has been two years of tribulation, this we can say today, that have turned genius into monstrosity due to the constant changes, corrections and adjustments that keep everyone in suspense,” wrote Daniele Menichini.

The government has been criticised for doing the opposite of what they stated with the superbonus, instead causing further economic downturn. Photo by Damien MEYER / AFP

“The situation that is looming at this time is of uncertainty and insecurity, in which society will hit a wall because of the blocked credits and the blocking of all those projects that were about to start,” he added.

While the government has expressed no intention to refinance the scheme beyond 2022 for single family homes, a glimmer of hope remains via an opening up of credit in a further expected amendment to the superbonus.


Easing the bottleneck would ensure that at least the projects that will meet the 2022 deadlines can be financed and completed.

To do this, the government is reportedly considering extending the ability to obtain credit to other parties besides banks, such as construction companies themselves. In doing so, it removes one extra bureaucratic hurdle and would unlock the current standstill due to many banks no longer buying credit.

The question of how the authorities will foot the bill for the already overrun budget still remains, with some reports suggesting an extra financial boost from the government will be needed until the end of 2022.

Other possibilities point towards allowing firms to carry over their credit surpluses until next year, to overcome the obligation to offset the credit this year.

Meanwhile, some categories of building have until 2025 to claim state funds with declining amounts available each year, but the future financing of which still isn’t clear.

The Local will continue to provide updates on this.

See more in our Italian property section.