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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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Will Italy really pay you to move to its ‘smart working’ villages?

Some small Italian towns are hoping to breathe new life into their neighbourhoods by luring remote workers with financial incentives. But is it really as simple as that? We look into the Italian relocation schemes on offer in Italy.

Will Italy really pay you to move to its 'smart working' villages?
Can you really get paid to freelance in Italy? Photo: Benjamin Jopen / Unsplash

The pandemic has hit Italy’s economy and its people hard. But there have been some positives to come out of the challenges too – the need to work from home has pushed the country forwards digitally, creating a new way to live and work.

Remote working, or ‘smart working’ as it’s often referred to in Italy, has been recognised as a successful way to do business, shifting the culture with it.

READ ALSO: ‘Smart working’? Here’s what you need to know about going self-employed in Italy

With that change, new possibilities for moving to and living in Italy have opened up.

Italy wasn’t previously known for its digital agility, and many people who move to the country note the widespread internet connectivity problems. However, some Italian towns want to put paid to that and are now offering financial help to those willing to move in and set up as remote workers.

It sounds idyllic to move to a stunning Italian village and be your own boss – and if someone is offering to chip in to pay your rent, it sounds like a no-brainer.

Rustic property and being your own boss. Dream or doable? Photo: Chris Barbalis/Unsplash

Santa Fiora in Tuscany and Rieti in Lazio are two such towns offering to stump up funds, paying up to 50% of your rent if you’ll move there with your laptop and work for yourself.

Dozens of these so-called ‘smart working villages’ will soon be springing up in the hope of attracting new residents and reinvigorating some of Italy’s thousands of declining towns.

Locations taking part in the idea are usually quite far-flung, and so young people leave in search of employment.

READ ALSO: Could Italy’s abandoned villages be revived after the coronavirus outbreak?

The plan is to ramp up the wifi provision and get more people back in the towns, equipping them with the means to enable people to work.

It doesn’t matter what you decide to do for a living, as long as it can be done from home.

But is it really so easy?

Well, this is Italy so there’s bureaucracy to get through and of course, there are eligibility criteria.

For the Tuscan town of Santa Fiora, which now has just 2,500 residents, the local municipality is offering up to €200 or 50% of the average monthly rent for long-term stays.

It’s valid for two to six months, though, so it’s a sweetener and you’ll have to account for that in your budgeting once the help is taken away and if you want to stay.

READ ALSO: Community cooperatives: the small Italian towns taking charge of their own future

Stunning Italian landscapes for those willing to up sticks. Photo: Lennart Hellwig/Unsplash

Still, with average rent of around €300 – €500 per month, it’s an attractive prospect, depending on the remote work you can find.

The town council has launched a website to help would-be residents find their ideal home.

But you’ll have to prove that you’ll actually be going to work there, not just hoping to freeload on a summer holiday rental.

READ ALSO: Freelance or employee: Which is the best way to work in Italy?

You’ll be asked to provide a document detailing what you’ll be doing there and will need to fill out an application form. And you can only get funds for the rent in the form of reimbursement, after you’ve already paid it.

The villages say they are ready to accept newcomers to carry out their jobs remotely, with newly installed high-speed fibre. Details on how to apply can be found here.

What would life really be like working from a remote Italian village?

The image often banded about when portraying schemes like this in Italy is one of sitting on your terrace with a glass of red wine in hand.

But if you’re working, the reality will probably be a bit different.

Remote, depopulated villages in Italy famously lack infrastructure such as fast or reliable wifi, shops, and public transport connections – though the organisers of the ‘smartworking villages’ scheme say participating locations will need to be able to provide certain services.

READ ALSO: Digital divide: The parts of Italy still waiting for fast wifi

While this won’t be enough for all remote workers, it could be ideal if you need peace and quiet and would relish a slow pace of life.

Otherwise, one option is Rieti – which is closer to the capital, Rome, and has a similar deal availble – although you’ll need to stay for at least three months.

It’s a much bigger town than most taking part in the scheme, with 50,000 inhabitants, but the population has stopped growing and the council wants to reinvigorate its prospects.

Compared to Santa Fiora, the deal can be extended beyond six months, giving you even more help with your rental payments. You’re even allowed to choose a nearby neighbourhood that’s more rural, where costs are cheaper.

If you’re a freelancer, you simply need to describe your work. If you have a kind boss that will let you up sticks and move to Italy to do your work from there, you’ll need a letter to prove it.

You can find out more and how to apply here.

READ ALSO: ‘This is where I want to be’: The growing number of young Italians choosing life on the farm

Other towns have previously offered incentives to move, such as Santo Stefano di Sessanio. This town gave grants if you relocated there in a bid to “give a new demographic boost to the area”, according to its website.

Aimed at attracting new residents, it was offering up to €8,000 per year for three years, paid in monthly instalments. If you opened a business, you could even get a lump sum of €20,000.

As more villages and towns pop up with financial incentives to attract new residents, Italy is making this more and achievable.

Technologically, it’s something that the government wants to make happen, with plans in place to increase the amount of high speed fibre throughout the country. That’s in conjunction with the European Union’s plans to rollout fast internet to some 202 million homes across the bloc.

Other small towns have taken their fates into their own hands by building cooperatives, such as Vetto in Emilia Romagna, which hopes to run itself and promote business from within.