You’ve just arrived in Italy. So exciting! The smell of sugo bubbling away on someone’s stove. The hustle as you try to cross a road. The old men chatting animatedly at the bar. The hotties. But before you can enjoy all that, you have to move into your new home. You think you’ve got it all under control but you turn up and find out that half the papers you needed are missing and the emergency cash in your wallet isn’t going to cover the administrative fees the landlord is asking. Your mood suddenly deflates like a cornetto that’s been sitting around all morning. To prepare you for any eventuality, here are the most common fees you'll find and what they actually pay for.

Contract Registration Fee

This is called the “Registro del contratto di locazione” and is 3% of the annual rent on a furnished apartment. The total amount to be paid is based on the value of the overall contract. The question of who pays this is very much dependent on the landlord – some of them charge the tenant, some pay it themselves and the last group split the cost between the two parties. This is a legal requirement from the Italian government as a contract can only be “official” once it is registered and has the “bollo” (stamp) – see below. Most landlords who rent by the room will charge a 2% fee to the tenants.

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A dreamy view from Rome's Aventine Hill

Stamp Tax

The “marca da bollo” is the “stamp tax”, called as such because it is an actual stamp (like a postage stamp) which goes on the contract. Some of this has moved online to an electronic system, but if you do need to arrange this yourself the easiest way is to buy the "bollo" which can be purchased from “tabacchi” (tobacconists). Now, this is where the fun begins: the number of stamps needed depends on how many pages/lines of text are in the contract! You need one stamp for every 4 pages, or 100 lines and each stamp costs €16 (more info in Italian). You will also need a minimum of two copies of the contract with the official "bollo", one for the registration office and one for the landlord. As a tenant, you can just ask for a photocopy of the landlord's copy featuring the stamps. If your landlord takes care of this or if you do find someone who can pay the tax online, this will be marked by a written confirmation code on the contract.

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A historical Marca da Bollo from the times of the Lire

Tourist Tax

This tax has many different names such as Stay Tax, Hotel Tax, Room Tax and Accommodation Tax depending on the local state or government who imposes it. In Rome the tax amount for rented rooms, holiday homes or apartments is currently €3.50 per night and is capped at 10 nights. You can find the official rate card here. In Milan the rate is €2.00 per night and is capped at 14 days. You can find more info here. This is a funny one, because although you are renting a residential property to live in, you may be required to pay the tourist tax regardless since it depends on how the property is registered. If it is registered as a hotel, B&B or holiday rental then the landlord will be required to collect this tax to ensure they comply with local laws.

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Piazza Santa Maria in the uber-cool neighbourhood of Trastevere, Rome

Waste Tax

The “TARI” is a tax to cover waste collection services, transportation and disposal. The tenant is responsible for the payment of this tax however in large blocks of flats it’s possible that this is included in the “spese condominiali” (strata fees). This tax is applicable both where the “Comune” (local council) does curb side collections of trash and where they use communal collection bins that you have to walk your rubbish to. Beware that Italians councils are VERY strict when it comes to recycling – they can decide not to take your trash if it hasn't been separated correctly and can even issue a fine! It´s worth reading up on the rules: here is a handy pdf from the local council in Rome and a great site for Milan.

Now, if the stamp tax didn’t already have you frantically scrambling to remember your six-grade maths class, the waste tax surely will! There are two parts to the waste tax in Milan, a fixed component which is multiplied by the square metres of the property and a variable component which depends on the number of occupants living in the property. Then just because we need a cherry on top, add another 5% to the total which goes to the local government for “environmental hygiene”. You can find a chart detailing this info in Italian on the Comune di Milano (local council) website. Meanwhile, the lovely people of Rome have made it easy for you with this handy calculator.

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It's always fun when your Vespa gets cornered in by a trash bin

Strata Fees

The “spese condominiali” are essentially the community fees for your building and cover all the communal services such as cleaning of common areas, doorman, painting of the building, general repairs, garden maintenance, heating and water depending on whether they are central or autonomous and sometimes even the waste tax (see above). These fees should be included in the monthly rent, unless otherwise specified.

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The Vittoriano in Rome, aka the Wedding Cake: impressive monument or eyesore?

If you still haven’t found your new crib, check out Spotahome. The details in the listings will tell you if and what additional fees you need to pay although contract registration and stamp tax often aren’t mentioned since these are “expected” by Italian landlords.

So, there you have it, an exhaustive list of the little surprises that might pop up. Have we missed anything? Let us know in the comments and we’ll put on our Inspector Gadget goggles to investigate!