Looking for an accommodation as a migrant or refugee in Italy can be a difficult process, this article will try to answer some of the most common doubts about it.
You can use this article to learn more about:
- Where to look for accommodation
- Rental contract, expenses and eviction
- Housing bonuses
- Casa popolare and other affordable housing solutions
- Who can help, if you face discrimination
Bear in mind that if you are an asylum-seeker, refugee, holder of subsidiary protection or other forms of protection, you have the right to stay in a reception facility. However, as an asylum-seeker, you can also decide to opt for ‘open asylum’ meaning that you can rent out a room or an apartment and live on your own. In this case, please consider that once you give up your right to accommodation, you may not be able to enjoy it any longer.
Learn more about the reception system in Italy here.
Where can I look for accommodation?
Before you start with your search, it’s important you answer yourself some questions such as:
- What is my available monthly budget? Please consider that the first month you will probably have to pay a deposit (‘caparra or deposito’ in Italian), and that some rents do not include monthly utilities.
- What kind of accommodation am I looking for? You could rent a room (single or double) or an apartment.
- Where would I like to live? Consider that prices vary depending on the neighborhood.
There are different ways to look for an accommodation:
- Specialized websites (for instance: immobiliare.it; casa.it; wikicasa.it; idealista.it; subito.it; bakeka.it)
- Facebook Groups and Facebook Marketplace
- Real estate agencies – note that going through an agency entails paying an additional fee to them (remember to ask the agency in advance!), but it gives more guarantees.
- Word of mouth
Watch out from scams: it is important, before signing any contract or making any payment, to visit the house to be sure that what is advertised corresponds to the reality.
The rental contract
According to the law, to rent a house you need to sign a rental contract. The contract always needs to be written and registered by the landlord at the Revenue Agency (‘Agenzia delle Entrate’ in Italian), and the registration fees are shared between landlord and tenant. Please note that it is essential that the contract is registered within 30 days from signing, otherwise it will be considered null and void.
The regular rental contract is a legally binding agreement. It allows you to benefit from all the related rights you are entitled to as a tenant, therefore protecting you from any issues that may arise with your landlord. If you have a regular rental contract, you may also apply for housing subsidies, and you could use it to get the residenza - you can still get it with a dichiarazione di ospitalità, but some landlords will ask you to pay for it (although this is not lawful) or they won’t be available to do it.
Make sure you understand the terms of withdrawal from the contract!
Contratto a canone concordato
There are different types of house contracts. One of the most affordable is the ‘contratto a canone concordato’, which is a contract that has a rental fee usually lower than that of the general market. An agreement at the local level between real estate organizations and tenant representative organizations establishes the rental fee range (‘canone’ in Italian) you may pay depending on the area and characteristics of the house.
Municipalities which can offer a contratto a canone concordato are those with the so-called ‘high housing tension’ (‘ad alta tensione abitativa’ in Italian), which means with a shortage of housing solutions. These are: Bari, Bologna, Catania, Firenze, Genova, Milano, Napoli, Palermo, Roma, Torino, Trieste and Venezia; municipalities bordering on those in this list; other municipalities with high housing tension enlisted here.
A few municipalities (‘Comuni’ in Italian) may also offer rental bonuses for tenants who have a contract with a canone concordato. To get more information regarding this opportunity in your city, contact the Ufficio Casa or Servizi Sociali of your Municipality and ask if they offer this service and how you can request it.
Payments, utilities and deposit
You will have to pay your rent monthly, usually by the 5th day of each month. The rent amount may include or not the utilities (for example, electricity, gas, water, Wi-Fi) and the condominium fees. Please make sure to clarify this in advance with the landlord.
When you enter the house, the landlord will ask you to pay a deposit (‘deposito cauzionale’ in Italian), which is aimed at covering possible damages to the property. The deposit cannot exceed 3 months of rent. At the end of the contract, if there are no proven damages, by law the landlord has to give back your deposit right away.
This is why we advise you to take pictures of anything that might already be in bad conditions once you enter the house, and inform the landlord in writing (via email, letter, or message) accordingly. Along with the contract, the landlord should give you a list of all the components of the house or part of the house that you rent (e.g. furniture, walls, electric socks etc.) and their respective conditions to ensure that when you leave that house, you can prove that the condition of the house is the same as when you entered it.
Once you have left the room or the apartment that you rented, if your landlord does not want to give you the deposit back without proofing the damages, you could seek the help from the Unione degli Inquilini ('Italian union of tenants' in English). Also bear in mind that if the landlord wants to retain the deposit because of damages, the injury complained of must be assessed by a court. This means that the landlord cannot autonomously decide to retain all your deposit.
If you have a rental contract and you don’t pay the rent, or your contract expires and you do not leave the house, the landlord may start an eviction procedure that urges you to leave the house. Note that if you do not have a regular rental contract and you do not pay the rent, the landlord may still sue you for occupation of the house.
If you have received an eviction notice, contact SUNIA for legal advice. In case the eviction is for arrears, they could help you obtain 90 days to delay the payment. Some funds may be also available at the local level for blameless defaulting tenants (‘fondo per morosità incolpevole’ in Italian) - for example, if you weren’t able to pay the rent because of dismissal, or end of contract, who have resided in the accommodation for at least 1 year. You can ask for more details and apply for the subsidy at your Municipality.
If you hold a permit of stay, you may be able to apply for bonuses available to support the rent payment, if you meet the requirements.
Some SAI reception centers offer a housing contribution to people who are ending their reception project. Ask more info to your center’s operators!
Rent subsidy is a contribution for low-income families and individuals with a regular rental contract who can no longer afford to pay the rent because of specific reasons (for example, job loss, end of work contract, etc.).
This subsidy may be available at the local level. Municipalities and Regions decide the amount of the bonus, the application procedure, deadlines and requirements. You have to consult the official website of your Municipality to check the availability of the bonus and the requirements.
In general, the requirements include:
- Earn less than a maximum income established by the Municipality where you live
- Hold a valid permit of stay
- Have a regular rental contract in the municipal area
- Do not enjoy property, use or usufruct rights on another suitable house in the area
- Other requirements as established by each Municipality.
Bonus affitto under 31
If you are under 31 years old and you have signed a regular rental contract, you can deduct from your taxable income up to 20% of the rental fee and up to 2000 euros.
You can request the tax credit if:
- You are between 20 and 31 years of age
- You have a regular rental contract for a house or room
- You have an annual gross income of maximum 15.493,71 euros
To request it, you need to file in your annual tax return form (‘dichiarazione dei redditi’ in Italian) and attach the signed contract and registration with the Agenzia delle Entrate.
Learn more about: DICHIARAZIONE DEI REDDITI
Affordable housing solutions
Unfortunately nowadays it is not easy to access affordable housing in Italy. Below some information about available options.
In Italy, people with little or no income can be eligible for social housing (‘Edilizia Residenziale Pubblica’ or ‘alloggi pubblici’ in Italian, better known as ‘case popolari’), which is publicly owned. The Municipality (‘Comune’ in Italian) assigns the houses on the basis of a public call (‘bando’ in Italian) and a ranking.
Who can apply?
To apply for a casa popolare, you need to:
- Hold a minimum 2-year valid permit of stay
- Have no income or earn less than a maximum income established by each Municipality
- Be registered with the Anagrafe Office of the Comune where you apply (‘residenza’ in Italian). Note that some Comuni also allow people who work in their municipal territory to apply
- Do not own any other property - you do not need to provide evidence of not owning any other property in your home country
- Meet other requirements, such as do not have illegally occupied any property in Italy and do not have been evicted from another social housing.
Each municipality can establish additional specific requirements and criteria for determining scores to establish the ranking and assign the houses. Please, carefully read the public call. The ranking also considers factors such as disabilities, children, single-parent households, elderly people.
How can I apply?
The call for applications for social housing is generally published on the website of the Municipality. You can apply online via the Comune website or specific digital platforms by using your SPID or electronic ID, or in person at targeted offices indicated on the Comune website.
To apply for social housing you need to submit a copy of:
- Your valid identity document
- Your valid permit of stay or renewal receipt (at least a 2-year permesso), and that of your family members
- Your codice fiscale and that of your family members
- ISEE - to request it you just need a valid permit of stay and your passport
- Other documents, depending on your situation (for example, disability certificate)
By 90 days from the submission deadline, a provisional ranking (‘graduatoria provvisoria’ in Italian) to determine who is eligible is then published on the website of the Municipality.
In a maximum of 30 days from the publication of the provisional ranking, it is possible to file an appeal to the Commissione ERP or the Mobilità of the Municipality to declare scoring mistakes. Afterwards, a final ranking is published and this leads to the final assignment of accommodations according to this ranking.
Other affordable options
If you cannot access public housing, there are other types of accommodations which would still allow you to pay low rental fees but also find a community of people or a host family to live with.
Note that these services and platforms are external to Refugee.Info.
Cohousing and solidarity housing
Cohousing is a form of accommodation composed of private homes with shared spaces which helps keeping rental fees lower than usual. Some may have social purposes to help the community in which you live.
Solidarity housing (‘abitazioni solidali’ in Italian) are shared accommodation, usually for young people who should dedicate some of their time to volunteer for the local community.
In different cities you may find cohousing and solidarity housing projects, which are administered by different organizations. You can find some options below:
- Bologna: Porto 15
- Firenze: Abitare Solidale
- Milano: Overview of social housing in Lombardia; Milano 2035; La Cordata; Fondazione Housing Sociale
- Palermo: Progetto housing LA NOCE; Appartamento di sgancio SAI - Meridiano 13 (only for those between 17-21 years); Progetto ALI (only for those between 17-21 years)
- Roma: Rete Casa Amica Co-housing sociale
- Torino: Overview of social housing in Torino; Sharing Torino; Vivo al venti ; Coabitazioni Solidali Torino; CoVicinaTo; AbiTo
- Trieste: Casa blu; Fondo housing sociale FVG; ATER Trieste
In the main Italian cities, the organization Refugees Welcome may help you connect with a local family willing to host you for free, in general for 6 months. The availability of this option varies across the different cities, but it may be worth trying.
If you have fled the war in Ukraine, you can also ask Prefettura, Comune or the local helpline for the Ukrainian emergency -if available- about the possibility of being welcomed by an Italian family.
If you are a university student, it is usually possible to get housing for free or at low prices, depending on your ISEE. Student housing is managed by regional governments in partnership with local universities, therefore you should always seek information on the official website of the Region in which the University is located. Some universities may also offer accommodation scholarships for holders of international protection.
You can click on the regions below to find some of the websites of regional agencies for student accommodations:
- Friuli Venezia Giulia
- Sicilia - In Sicily the agency ERSU administers student accommodations. Each city has its own ERSU, therefore you can google search ERSU + the city where you study
If you are discriminated while looking for accommodation or while accessing social housing, you can ask for help to anti-discrimination services, possibly leading to a legal proceeding against who has discriminated you.
Some example of discriminatory behavior could be: a real estate agency that does not rent you a house because of your nationality or ethnicity; a Municipality that requires prolonged residence in the area for a few years to apply for social housing, or which asks you for documents proving that you do not hold any real estate property in your home country. Suing a private individual who refuses to rent you a house might be more difficult.
Anti-discrimination services you could report the incident to:
- UNAR - National Office Against Racial Discrimination: call the free helpline 800901010 (from Monday to Friday, from 8 am to 5 pm) or report at this link here.
- ASGI anti-discrimination service: if you are discriminated by public institutions, call +393515542008 (on Monday, Wednesday, Friday from 3 to 6 pm), or send an email to email@example.com, or fill the form at this link here.
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