The facts you need to know about renting a house or apartment in Rome: finding accommodation, the contract, the deposit, the lease and the obligations of the landlord and tenant.
The most significant factor affecting rents is the location (region, city and the particular neighbourhood). Until recently, Italy had a fair rent (equo canone) law that limited rents to those set by the local authorities rather than market levels. This resulted in a shortage of rental properties in some areas and owners are now permitted to set market level rents, which has encouraged more owners to let their properties.
Most rents are negotiable, and if renting through an agent the agent may be able to suggest to the renter how much is a reasonable offer. Rental payments are tax deductible for residents.
If a property is rented through an agent, the tenant must pay the agent’s fee, typically around ten percent of a year’s rent, or one months rental. Provided rent isn’t paid in advance at any more than two monthly intervals, the landlord can ask for a deposit equal to one to three months rent. The deposit must be returned within two months of the termination of the lease, less the amount due to the landlord in damages, redecoration. Although it’s illegal, many tenants don’t pay their last few months rent and forfeit their deposit. Rent is normally paid one month in advance and a tenant cannot be required to pay by direct bank deposit.
In addition to rent, tenants in an apartment must have compulsory insurance and pay service charges.
There will also be a set of house rules and regulations (regolamento), of which tenants should obtain a copy. Service charges (spese) usually include such things as heating, hot water, rubbish removal, upkeep of grounds and gardens, use of lift, communal lighting and maintenance, and possibly a caretaker service.
Tenants usually pay other utilities such as gas, electricity and water separately. Always check whether rent is inclusive or exclusive of charges, which is usually stated in advertisements. Service charges are calculated monthly (payable with the rent) and are usually higher in a new building than an old one. They can vary considerably from as little as €20 to €200 per month. Ask to see a copy of the bills from the previous year.
On signing a lease, a new tenant should also ask to see the bills for the telephone and utilities (electricity, gas and water) and check that the previous tenant has paid the bills up to date otherwise the incoming person could be liable for any debts.
If an apartment, house or villa is selected for rental through an estate agent, the future tenant can sign a rental offer (proposta di locazione) with the agent. This is legally considered a pre-contract.
The written offer will state the following:
- Names and addresses of both tenant and landlord
- Property address
- Brief description of the size of the property
- Rental amount offered
- Required date of availability
- Requirements related to the property regarding repairs or requests for furnishings
- Duration of validity of the offer (usually 2 to 8 days)
The offer is accompanied by an agreed deposit.
The offer is submitted for approval by the landlord. If the offer is accepted, the tenant and landlord proceed to the actual contract and the money advanced is returned. If the offer is not accepted, the money is returned. If the offer is accepted and the person chooses not to rent the property, then they will likely forfeit the money.
New rental regulations were introduced in 1999, since when there have been two kinds of rental contract:
- A free market contract: contratto a libero mercato
- A convention contract: contratto convenzionati (contains pre-determined conditions)
A convention contract is a three-year contract with a two-year renewal option, although the initial period can be increased to five years with no renewal option.
These new contracts replace the old rent control equo canone and long term patti in deroga contracts, although these contracts remain valid until their expiry date, when they’re replaced by one of the new contracts.
Luxury apartments (di lusso), public housing and tourist apartments are exempt from free market contracts.
If applicable, a “tenants and owners” association must usually approve contracts for apartments. A contract should be registered with the local ufficio del registro to be valid. Registration fees are 2 percent of annual rent plus government stamps (bolli). Furnished properties registrations fees are around 3 percent of annual rent. These fees are normally divided between the landlord and the tenant.
If a landlord needs to reclaim a property before the expiration of the free market contract he can do so, by giving the tenant six months notice (disdetta) in writing, but only under certain conditions. These include requiring the property for his own use, for a child who’s getting married, for an elderly parent or in-law, or to make improvements or repairs prior to selling it. However, if within a year the property isn’t used for the purpose stated on the notification, the landlord must renew the original rental contract with the same tenant or pay an amount equal to three years rent as compensation.
Otherwise, a landlord can reclaim a property only by giving a tenant six months notice prior to the end of the contract expiry date. If a landlord wishes to sell the property, a tenant has the first option to buy it.
A convention contract includes properties rented under national agreements between property associations and renters’ unions, who establish the rent. It’s possible to terminate the contract prior to the first expiration date, while the landlord must give a tenant six months notice prior to the first expiration date. A convention contract can also include short-term leases for students and transitory workers.
The new regulations provide tax breaks for landlords and also establish a national fund to help low income families who are eligible for public housing, but because of a lack of public housing are required to rent apartments on the open market.
Although all addresses are potentially suitable for residence, some rental contracts forbid you to use an apartment’s address for this purpose. Such rental contracts are mainly used with foreigners, so that a landlord can regain possession of his property more easily should he wish to do so. Eviction of a person from their legal residence is almost impossible in Italy and landlords don’t want to take any unnecessary risks with foreigners.
When moving into a long-term rental property, it’s necessary to complete an inventory (inventario) of its contents and a report on its condition. This includes the condition of fixture and fittings, the state of furniture and furnishings, the cleanliness and state of the decoration, and anything else that’s damaged or missing or in need of repair.
An inventory should be provided by the landlord or agent and may include every single item in a furnished property. The inventory check should be carried out in the presence of the tenant, both when taking over and when terminating a rental agreement. If an inventory isn’t provided, the incoming tenant should insist on one being prepared and annexed to the lease.
If a serious fault is found after signing the inventory, send a registered letter to the landlord and ask for it to be attached to the inventory. Utility companies should read meters before the new tenant moves in, although they may need to organise this.