Alison Harris is a British trained lawyer with such a strong passion for Italy that this has led her to become a bilingual freelance project manager assisting Britons and Europeans with their purchase, development and on going management of property in Italy.

In this article she has given us at Degtev great insight into how those who have a property in Italy can let it out for the maximum period possible, and how to do so successfully and without stress.  She is drawing on her own personal experience as she has been involved with renting out her family’s property in Tuscany for 20 years, as well as the experience she has gained from assisting clients with renting out the properties she has helped them buy.

If you own a home in Italy and you want expert advice for letting your Italian property, read on…

According to Alison, if you have a garden or outside space with your property then this is a great asset when it comes to the rental attraction of your home.  You need to maximise this by having a gardener in to water it and generally keep things tidy for you, especially in the peak rental months which are usually May through to October.  Having a gardener is particularly beneficial if you have last minute bookings too, and if you can’t get over to the property yourself to get the garden organised and set up for your guests.  It also means that the gardener can keep an eye on the property in your absence.

Alison advises storing any garden furniture that you have in a sheltered area when the property is not in use as well, this is to safeguard it against opportunist theft and also the effects of the elements.  If renting in peak season you should ideally provide an outside table with chairs, sun loungers or deck chairs and an umbrella.  A barbeque is also always welcome.

In terms of marketing the property it’s a good idea to put together a website of the property with photos of the house and garden and details of the property and the facilities available.  Provide useful information on the local area, any amenities and points of interest.  Include details of the nearest airports, transport links to the property and a map.  It is especially important to provide comprehensive directions to your property too, especially if it is in a rural location or a bit isolated.

Be honest when talking about distances and estimated travel times to and from your property.  It is vital to manage your guest’s expectations especially if they are not able to visit the property prior to booking, thus making your website their only guide.  It is also helpful and courteous to provide a welcome pack or guide on arrival.  Remember, the better you present your property, the more likely you are to receive bookings, and the better you treat your guests, the more likely they are to return and even recommend your Italian property to their friends.

Other options for actually getting your home rented include using a local estate agent to market your property.  Although such an agent may take around 3% of your rental income, using them can offer peace of mind especially if it is not practical for you be there to deal with the logistics of showing your home and managing the hand over of it week by week.  Agents can minimise the hassle for you in terms of taking an inventory at the property, meeting, greeting and showing your guests into the property, as well as organising cleaners.  Often for an extra charge they can be on hand for any emergencies that may arise during the letting period too.  A word of warning though: Alison says make absolutely sure you find an English speaking estate agent since many of your guests may not speak Italian, and if they have to contact the agents in an emergency but cannot be understood, the whole experience may end up being frustrating and stressful for them.

You may wish only to use the agent to find the lettings rather than manage the property, in which case you could consider advertising for someone who could clean, carry out the changeover of guests at the property (including doing the laundry), meet and greet your guests and perhaps be on hand for any queries.  Again, they would need to speak good English.  You may be fortunate enough to find a couple willing to take on this and the upkeep of your garden and/or pool perhaps.

The next expert tip is make sure you have up to date contents insurance for your house, and keep inventories of belongings up to date.  It is also really important to source reliable contractors such as plumbers and electricians who you can call upon particularly in emergencies.  Make sure you find out about their fees and call out charges in advance, since they may charge extra if your property is not local to them.  Be wary of those rogue contractors who may be giving you a quote for work including IVA @ 20% (VAT), but who then either don’t provide you with a receipt, or fail to give you a breakdown of the cost.  Alison says that experience shows that some of them are often tempted to mislead the unassuming foreigner, especially if they don’t speak the language particularly well.

It goes without saying that you must make sure all your quotes for any work that needs doing are in writing and are not presented as estimated costs, and if you don’t speak Italian get someone to translate them before proceeding.

Finally, remember to keep up to date records of all taxes, charges, expenses and bills associated with the rental of your property, since you may need these when filing a tax return declaring your income from your lettings.  If you are unsure of how and when to pay taxes or of how much the relevant taxes on your property are (e.g., the local ICI council tax), it is worth investing in the services of a local accountant or “Commercialista” to manage your finances for you.  Nearly all Italians use them since the tax system in Italy is so complicated, plus the taxes and charges in each local area or council (“Comune”) often vary.  Remember also that if you’re tax resident in the UK, you will need to declare any income you earn from your property in Italy to the British taxman too.

Alison Harris grew up in Rome, is bilingual and has 20 years’ experience of renting her own property in Tuscany.  After training as a commercial lawyer and practicing in both Milan and London, Alison now runs a property consultancy offering project management and translation services throughout Italy.