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RENTING

EXPLAINED: Do renters in Italy have the right to keep pets?

Italian law guarantees some people the right to keep a furry friend — but not all tenants are so lucky.

EXPLAINED: Do renters in Italy have the right to keep pets?
How welcoming are Italian landlords to tenants' four-legged family members? Photo by Madalyn Cox on Unsplash

If you’ve lived in Italy a while, you’ve no doubt become accustomed to the sight of fashionable Italians taking an afternoon stroll through the centro with their extremely well-behaved dogs in tow.

By one estimate, as many as one in three Italians has a pet dog, and nearly half of all households have one kind of pet or another. Italian courts have recognized that our love for pets “has constitutional protection and European recognition” and, in custody disputes, even treated them like children. It’s perhaps no surprise, then, that it’s a common sight to see dogs in stores, restaurants, galleries — just about everywhere you find humans.

READ ALSO: From barking to cleaning: The culture shocks to expect if you own a dog in Italy

If you, too, cannot live without your furry friend, but are coming from less dog-friendly climes, you may be wondering if Italy’s liberal attitude about pets extends to housing. After all, in many countries around the world, finding a dog- or cat-friendly apartment can be a real challenge.

But Italy’s pet-positive attitude doesn’t always translate into rental agreements. Read on to understand where your rights to a pet start — and stop — in Italian law.

Is there a right to keep a pet at home?

Italian law did not used to protect the right of residents to keep pets in their homes. Prior to 2012, if enough owners in a building of flats did not want their neighbours to keep dogs or cats, they could insert a clause into the building’s regulations to prohibit them.

That changed with Law 220, which amended Article 1138 of the Civil Code to state that “the rules [governing a condominium] cannot prohibit owning or keeping pets.”

What constitutes a pet is ill-defined in Italian law, but it’s generally meant to mean animals kept for companionship and not for food. (In other words, a pet chicken or micropig might be a hard sell.)

READ ALSO: Moving to Italy with pets? Here’s what you need to know

In the words of the law’s author, Gabriella Giammanco, the law does “not allow for keeping all animals at home, but just ‘family animals,’ owned to provide company.”

With the new law, even a unanimous vote by the condo committee can’t prevent a resident from keeping a pet, as long as they pose no hazard to others. And a 2016 court decision confirmed in one case that even a ban instituted before the 2012 law was voided by the law.

Great! So I can move in with my dog?

Not so fast! The above only applies if you are the owner of a condo or apartment. If, like many newcomers to Italy, you rent your home, your rights and responsibilities are entirely different.

According to UNIAT (Unione Nazionale Inquilini Ambiente e Territorio), a national tenants’ organization, landlords have something called “negotiating autonomy,” which frees them to insert any number of clauses into a rental contract that you must weigh when choosing an apartment. A landlord is fully within their rights to include a ban on keeping pets in the rental contract.

A woman walks her dog past the Colosseum in Rome on May 8, 2020.

Photo by: Alberto Pizzoli / AFP.

Once you sign that contract, you’re legally bound to honour it — not doing so counts as “non-fulfillment” and can be considered grounds for eviction without notice.

According to the University of Bremen’s TENLAW project, there’s still some doubt about whether landlords can insert these clauses when they “do not correspond to an objective interest of … the owner.” But so far, Italian courts have generally ruled them admissable.

READ ALSO: Pope calls couples who choose pets over having children ‘selfish’

Even if you don’t have a clause in your rental contract, you may want to check with your landlord about the building’s rules. While court decisions like those above have tended to overrule building-wide bans, application is far from uniform. Individual units may be governed by different rules which pass through to you as a tenant.

“Condominium rules may (and normally do) provide specific rules as to the usage and use to which individual apartments may be put by their owner,” reads a brief on the matter by the European University Insitute. “Typical cases [can] include express prohibitions on the keeping of pets.”

Okay, I checked and I’m allowed to keep a pet. What else do I need to know?

Having a pet comes with responsibilities, and not just to provide them a comfortable home. It’s worth remembering that you’re still under an obligation to return your rental unit in more or less the same condition as you received it.

Under Italian tenancy law, you’re responsible for any “small repairs”, like wear and tear caused by your pet to floors, fixtures and furniture — which can certainly add up over time.

“These repairs must be done directly by the tenant, who cannot ask to be refunded,” TENLAW’s brief reads.

You and your pet must also be as good a neighbour as you can. Don’t foul the property — pick up after your pet and limit its time in common areas. You may also need to keep it leashed in shared places, or muzzled if it can be aggressive.

You should always ensure your pet is microchipped, vaccinated, and registered at the Anagrafe Canina.

But most importantly, make sure your pet doesn’t disturb the neighbours with bad odours or noise. Barking dogs are one of the most common complaints for apartment dwellers — so do what you can to keep that behaviour in check.

If you don’t, the courts can get involved — and it’s you, not the owner of the unit, who is liable.

According to Affitto Residenziale, an Italian real estate site, past remedies ordered by judges have included compensation to other residents, mandatory soundproofing, and even training courses for naughty pets.

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RENTING

Reader question: How can I find an apartment to rent in Rome?

The Eternal City is a popular destination for foreigners wanting to stay for a few months or even years, but finding a place to rent can be complicated. Here's where to start.

Reader question: How can I find an apartment to rent in Rome?

Question: I’m moving to Rome in the spring with friends and we’re looking to rent an apartment in a central area. Do you have any suggestions for good sources of rentals in Rome?

For those staying in Rome for just a few weeks, it’s often simplest to go with a short-term booking site like Airbnb.

If you’re planning on staying for longer than this, however, it’s probably more cost-effective to go the official route and sign a rental agreement – though be prepared to deal with a certain amount of hassle (more on this below).

Some of the most popular websites in Italy for rentals are idealista.it, immobiliare.it, and casa.it, where you’ll find a wide range of apartments for rent.

All the listings on these sites are in Italian, so it’s helpful to familiarise yourself with some key vocabulary.

READ ALSO: Ten things to expect when renting an apartment in Italy

In affitto is ‘for rent’ (in vendita, ‘for sale’). For a short-term let, you’ll want a place that’s furnished (arredato). A  locale is a room (note: not a bedroom), so a bilocale is a one-bedroom with one other room and a monolocale is a studio. 

It’s worth reviewing all the photos available and if possible the floor plan (planimetria) so you know exactly what kind of set up the house has; for example a trilocale doesn’t necessarily have two bedrooms, but might just be a one-bed with a separate living room and kitchen. 

For people beginning their search without any Italian, the English-language real estate listings aggregator Nestpick is a good option – though bear in mind you’re unlikely to find the same range of options as on the Italian-language sites.

If you’re coming with a university, they should be your first port of call; some will have a roster of trusted landlords, or can at least direct you to online forums where you can seek recommendations from current and former students.

READ ALSO: Do renters in Italy have the right to keep pets?

Facebook is also a good place to look: Rent in Rome and Rome Expats have two of the largest groups dedicated to searching for an apartment in the eternal city. If you know you want somewhere for at least a year, Long Term Rentals Italy is also an option.

As a guidepost, InterNations, an information and networking site for people living overseas, lists the average monthly rent in Rome as €1,220.

Italy’s rental contracts tend to favour tenants: common contracts are the 3+2 or 4+4, which means the rent is locked in for at least three/four years, at the end of which the renter can choose to renew at the same rate for another two/four years.

Facebook groups can be a good place to start when apartment-hunting in Rome.
Facebook groups can be a good place to start when apartment-hunting in Rome. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

The contratto transitorio (temporary or short-term lease), by contrast, is for anywhere between one and eighteen months. Bear in mind it’s the landlord, not the tenant, that’s locked into these minimum time periods – just make sure there’s a clause that allows you to move out after a specified notice period.

Landlords often prefer to rent our their apartments with contratti transitori so they have more freedom to sell or raise the rent, so you may be at an advantage if you’re looking for a place to stay for just a few months.

Even with just a short-term lease, a landlord can request up to three months’ rent (!) in advance as a security deposit, and it’s common to ask for two. To stand the best chance of getting your deposit back, it’s worth taking detailed photos of the property before you move in so you have a record of its state.

READ ALSO: ‘Why I used to hate living in Rome as a foreigner – and why I changed my mind’

If you’re going through an agency, it’s also common for tenants to pay a finder’s fee of one month’s rent – all of which can make initial costs rise very fast. The silver lining is that in Rome you can (and should) negotiate on the rent, deposit, and other contract terms, and not just take what you’re offered.

Some landlords will suggest you bypass an agency and deal directly with them. While avoiding the agency fees is tempting, this can leave you in a very vulnerable situation as you have no legal standing if it turns out you don’t have an official rental contract – so it’s not advised.

It’s also important not to hand over any money until you’ve viewed the apartment in person (or had a trusted representative do so on your behalf) and confirmed the listing is legitimate. Scams are not unheard of in Rome, and foreigners are ideal targets.

READ ALSO: Moving to Italy: How much does it really cost to live in Milan?

When browsing listings, consider what’s important to you in terms of the neighbourhood and type of property – and if there’s anything you’re unsure of, it’s worth seeking out advice in online groups from people already living in the city.

A ground floor apartment on a cobbled side street near the centre, for example, may sound ideal, but if it’s in a touristy neighbourhood you may find you’re quickly driven mad by the sound of rolling luggage bouncing past your window all hours of the day and night.

Finding an apartment to rent in Rome can be a challenge, but if you put in the effort, you’re sure to find your ideal base – and move on to making the most of your time in one of Europe’s most picturesque and historically rich capitals.

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