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What you need to know about navigating Italian rental contracts

If you're looking for an apartment in Italy, lease agreements might not be what you’re used to. Here's what you need to know before you sign.

What you need to know about navigating Italian rental contracts
Renting an apartment in Italy is likely to be a very different process to anything you've encountered elsewhere. Photo by Giulia Salvaterra on Unsplash

If you’ve managed to find an apartment in the dog-eat-dog world of Italian real estate, congratulations — now it’s time to figure out exactly what you’re signing when your landlord asks you to put pen to paper on your brand new lease agreement.

Unlike the United States, Canada, or the United Kingdom, Italy’s rental laws place far more power in the hands of the renter — as soon as a contract is signed, that is. It’s one reason finding an apartment in Italy can be anything but easy.

But even if Italian laws are good to tenants, it doesn’t mean there aren’t things to watch out for when you sign your first lease.

Here’s our guide to successfully navigating the world of Italian rental contracts.

Finding a home

Unlike other countries, where you might find a single rental agency managing an entire building of flats, there are very few big rental companies in Italy, and most apartments are rented by owners. For that reason, it’s often easiest to find a place to live through a rental agent or broker.

It’s not uncommon for these brokers to receive a commission for dealing with your paperwork — as much as 12 percent, or one month’s rent.

READ ALSO: How can I find an apartment to rent in Rome?

Generally, you’ll need your ID, Italian fiscal code (codice fiscale), and proof of income (referenziati) for your agreement. Non-EU citizens may also be asked to provide proof of legal residency.

You’ll also usually need to pay a security deposit, which can run into the thousands of euro. By law, security deposits can’t be more than three times the monthly rent.

While looking, you might want to keep an eye out for apartments that are ‘arredato‘, or furnished. In Italy, an unfurnished apartment really does mean unfurnished — it’s likely to come without cabinets, appliances, or light fixtures.

Furnished apartments, meanwhile, are often reserved for short-term contracts.

Short-term contracts (Less than 3 years)

Of course, even short-term contracts can often seem eye-wateringly long to nomadic expats used to the 12-month leases common elsewhere in the world.

Italian rental contracts are designed to protect the tenants, meaning most guarantee your right to renew your rental agreement by default.

At the very shortest end of the rental agreement is the lease for tourist use (contratto per uso turistico) and the transitory lease (contratto di locazione ad uso transitorio). These leases can range from a few days up to 18 months, but come with important caveats.

Apartments in Milan, Italy.

Photo by Miguel MEDINA / AFP

Unlike other leases, these agreements are not renewable, and can’t be used to establish residency. To sign a transitory lease, you’ll need to specify a specific reason and duration for your stay, like an apprenticeship, short-term contract, or degree program.

The upside of these contracts is you don’t need to give notice to your landlord to leave at the end of your contract.

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

If you’re a student attending a university, you may also be able to find a student lease (contratto di locazione a favore degli studenti universitari). These leases last between six months and three years. But unlike transitory leases, they automatically renew at the end of the contract.

That means you must give notice to your landlord before ending the agreement — usually between one and three months. You may also be required to maintain an official residence in another city.

Long-term contracts (3+ years)

Most rental agreements in Italy fall into the remaining two categories we’ll call determined rent (canone concordato, sometimes called “conventional”) and negotiated rent (canone libero, sometimes called “unrestricted”).

Determined rent contracts are shorter than negotiated rent contracts — they last for three years and guarantee the option of extending for two more. For this reason, they’re sometimes also called “3+2” contracts.

But unlike negotiated rent contracts, your landlord doesn’t get to choose how much you pay in rent. Instead, they’re given a narrow range established by the local landlord-tenant board or municipality, based on details like the age of the building, its neighborhood, and whether it has a parking space.

Landlords get a nice tax break for renting in this category, and you’re accepting a shorter contract, so the rent is always below market rate. These agreements are often used for public housing, and as a rule, you’re not allowed to sublet.

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

If you’re planning to move or don’t want your tenancy to automatically renew, you need to notify your landlord, usually by registered mail (email won’t count). Exactly how far in advance will be specified by your rental contract and can be negotiated. But usually, it’s a full six months — so make sure to plan ahead.

The last category is the most common. Negotiated rent contracts allow your landlord to set their price, but they have to let you sign on for a full four years, plus the option to automatically renew for another four. They’re sometimes called “4+4” contracts for that reason.

Landlords can only prevent you from renewing these contracts in specific cases established by law — for example, if they’re selling the property or moving into it themselves. When you imagine being locked into renting to someone for eight years, you might understand why some landlords are hesitant to rent to strangers!

Found an Italian apartment? Make sure you know what your rental contract contains before you sign. Photo by Romain Dancre on Unsplash

In general, most lease agreements will fall into this category, but there are some regional differences. According to Italian real estate site Gabetti, there are almost no determined rent leases in Milan — but in Rome and Genova, nearly 60 percent are 3+2 leases, while negotiated rent leases account for just 26 percent and 20 percent of apartments respectively.

It’s important to remember that in all these rental categories, there’s usually some room for negotiation on the rent.  If you’re feeling bold or have a good agent, you might also negotiate other details, like the amount of notice you need to give before exiting your tenancy, whether you’re allowed pets, or whether you’re permitted to sublet.

What your contract should contain

When the time comes to put pen to paper, it’s important to look over your agreement and make sure all the details are there.

Most important is that it includes your and the landlord’s personal details, and specifies the total monthly rent and any extra community costs, like condo, elevator, or garbage fees.

READ ALSO: How to change your registered address in Italy

It should also detail the amount of your deposit, and explain how to terminate the contract. You’re also supposed to receive an energy performance certificate or attestato di prestazione energetica.

After you sign, your landlord must register the contract with the regional office within 30 days for it to become legally binding, and notify police of your residency within 48 hours. It’s reportedly not uncommon for landlords to dodge this requirement to avoid paying taxes, sometimes offering discounted rent in exchange.

Lastly, your contract should outline your obligations as a tenant for upkeep, and any restrictions — like prohibitions on subletting or pets — that you should be aware of.

Your rights as a tenant

Once you’ve signed a contract, the law is on your side. Landlords cannot arbitrarily evict tenants without compensation, even for failure to pay rent — and the process can take years to complete.

As a tenant, you have a right to a property in liveable condition, with electricity, water, and heat — though you are responsible for basic maintenance.

Your rent can’t be changed from the amount specified in the contract for the full duration of your tenancy, except to account for inflation.

READ ALSO: Can my landlord legally increase my rent in Italy?

For longer term contracts, if your landlord decides to sell, you have the right of first refusal to buy it. And if your landlord doesn’t renew your 4+4 contract because of major renovations, you get first dibs if it returns to the market afterwards.

Landlords must request permission to access the property, and you’re allowed to refuse any renovations that prevent you from using the property. If renovations continue for more than 20 days, you may be able to demand a discount on your rent.

You’re free to make cosmetic changes of your own, like painting the walls, as long as they can be reversed when you leave. In general, it’s good practice to notify your landlord of these changes.

Housing discrimination

Of course, all those rights only kick in after you’ve signed a contract — and for some people more than others, getting to that stage can be the hardest part.

Italian and European law, in theory, protects tenants from housing discrimination on the basis of race, religion, or sexual identity. But landlords have a competing right to “negotiating autonomy” — meaning no one can force them to rent to someone they don’t like.

One study in Italy found significant discrimination against renters with Arab or Eastern European names, though it varied from place to place across the country. On the other hand, in 2000, an Ivorian man won compensation from a Milanese court after a landlord withdrew their offer to lease a flat after learning of his country of origin.

Some landlords may refuse to rent to single people, people needing accommodations for a disability, or people with pets. While an Italian court decided homeowners have the right to keep dogs, renters have no such rights.

If you feel you’ve been the subject of housing discrimination, you may be able to seek assistance from national tenants’ rights organizations, like SUNIA, SICET, or ANIA.

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For members


EXPLAINED: How to write a formal email in Italian

Knowing how to write a polite email will make your life in Italy much easier. Here’s a quick guide to the style rules.

EXPLAINED: How to write a formal email in Italian

If you live in Italy there are countless situations in which you’re likely to find yourself having to write a formal email in Italian, such as when applying for a job or arranging a viewing for a flat.

But while you may be a master at crafting formal emails in your own language, you’re likely to struggle to do so in Italian. Even people with an excellent command of Italian, including native speakers, need to learn the style rules associated with formal writing.

READ ALSO: EXPLAINED: What is Italy’s PEC email and how do you get one?

So here’s an essential step-by-step guide to writing a formal email and getting it right every time.


While greetings are fairly uncomplicated in English (‘Dear’ followed by the title and surname of the recipient will usually suffice), there are multiple options in Italian. 

If you’re writing to someone that you’ve never met before, you’ll want to address them with either Egregio (eminent) or Spettabile (esteemed), like so:

    • Egregio / Spettabile Dottor Rossi
    • Egregia Dottoressa Rossi

Conversely, if you’re writing to someone that you’ve seen before but have no relationship with – as in you might have said hello to them but you’ve never had a conversation with them – your best option would be Gentile (courteous) or its superlative Gentilissimo (often abbreviated to

Finally, the least formal option is Caro (Dear), which you should only use when writing to someone you’re already well-acquainted with (for instance, a colleague or a university tutor). 

READ ALSO: How to use your Italian ID card to access official services online

Remember: these adjectives must match the recipient’s gender (e.g., you should use Gentilissima for a woman and Gentilissimo for a man).


Italians love their titles, so you should always try your best to get them right in your emails. Failure to do so might result in your recipient pointing out your mistake – which, from personal experience, is not very nice. 

Here’s a list of the most common Italian titles and their abbreviations: 

    • Any man with an undergraduate or postgraduate degree, and male doctors: Dottore (Dott.)
    • Any woman with an undergraduate or postgraduate degree, and female doctors: Dottoressa (Dott.ssa)
    • Male professor/lecturer: Professore (Prof.)
    • Female professor/lecturer: Professoressa (Prof.ssa)
    • Lawyer: Avvocato (Avv.)
    • Architect: Architetto (Arch.)
    • Man with no degrees: Signore (Sig.) – equivalent of Mr
    • Woman with no degrees: Signora (Sig.ra) – equivalent of Ms

Opening sentence 

In the opening sentence, you should always state your name (Mi chiamo plus name and surname) and explain why you’re writing. 

If you’re the one initiating the exchange, you can use: 

    • Le scrivo in merito a [qualcosa] (I am writing about [something])
    • La contatto in riferimento a [qualcosa] (I am contacting you in regards to [something])
    • La disturbo per […] (I am troubling you to […])

Gmail inbox

Italians love their titles, so you should always try your best to get them right in your emails. Photo by Stephen PHILLIPS via Unsplash

If you’re replying to an email instead, you could start with: 

    • In risposta alla sua precedente mail, […] (literally, ‘in response to your email’)

As you might have noted, all of these expressions refer to the recipient via third-person pronouns (le, la). This is known as ‘forma di cortesia’ (polite form) and must be used in all formal exchanges.  

READ ALSO: How to register with the anagrafe in Italy

All pronouns and adjectives referring to the recipient, and all verbs the recipient is the subject of, must be used in the third person, as in the following case:

    • Le sarei molto grato, se mi mandasse il suo numero di cellulare.
    • I’d be really grateful if you could send me your mobile number.

The above rule applies to all parts of the email, from the opening statement to the sign-off.

Man typing on laptop

The third-person ‘polite form’ is an essential part of Italian formal emails. Photo by Burst via Unsplash

It’s also worth mentioning that the original forma di cortesia requires the writer to capitalise the first letter of all pronouns and adjectives referred to the recipient.

    • La ringrazio per il Suo interesse e Le auguro una buona giornata.
    • Thanks for your interest. I wish you a good day.

That said, modern Italian is gradually moving away from this practice, with capitalisation surviving in very few isolated contexts. Notably, it is advisable that you capitalise the above-mentioned forms when exchanging messages with lawyers, government officials, law enforcement authorities or high-profile public figures.


Write your message in Italian much as you would a formal email in your own language. Be pithy but clear and exhaustive. Just don’t forget about the forma di cortesia.

Signing off

Once again, there are multiple ways to sign off but these are generally the safest options as they fit nicely into any type of message, regardless of its content or recipient:

    • La ringrazio per la sua gentile attenzione / il tempo dedicatomi (Thanks for your kind attention / your time)
    • Resto in attesa di un suo cortese riscontro (Kindly looking forward to your reply)

You can follow either one of the above expressions with Cordiali saluti (Kind regards) or Cordialmente (Sincerely). 

Finally, as you would in other languages, end with your full name and any contact details that you might want to share with the recipient.