There's no requirement to have cover for your home or belongings and most Italians don't bother to insure their home or its contents, although if you have a mortgage (ipoteca), your lender will require you to have building (edificio) insurance. Nevertheless, it's highly recommended to take out insurance covering damage to the building due to fire, water, explosion, storm, freezing, snow, theft, vandalism and natural catastrophes. Household insurance (assicurazione sulla casa) generally constitutes a multi-risk policy for building and contents, although some companies require separate policies for fire and theft (assicurazione contro furto e fuoco)and for liability (assicurazione contro terzi) and others offer fire and damage (incendio ed altri danni ai beni) with an extra premium for theft and liability. Special conditions apply to holiday homes (see below).
It's possible (and legal) to take out building and contents insurance in another country for a property in Italy, although the policy may still be written under Italian law (so always check). The advantage is that you have a policy you can understand and you're able to handle claims in your own language (you may also be more likely to be paid or be paid earlier). This may seem like a good option for a holiday home in Italy, although it may be more expensive than insuring with an Italian company and can lead to conflicts if the building is insured with an Italian company and the contents with a foreign company.
It's particularly important to have insurance against storm damage in Italy, which can be severe in some areas. Read the small print and check that you're covered for natural disasters such as floods. However, that if you live in an area that's hit by a succession of natural disasters, your insurance may be cancelled. Note also the following:
- Water damage caused by burst pipes due to old age or freezing may be excluded; under Italian law you're required to turn off the water at the mains if a property is left empty for more than 24 hours (although almost nobody does).
- If you use bottled gas, you must inform your insurance company, as there's an extra premium to pay.
- You must also specifically insure electrical systems and major apparatus against risk such as lightning strikes, or an insurance company won't pay.
- Italian policies usually exclude trees in your garden damaging your house and garden walls falling down.
- You cannot insure against earthquakes on an Italian policy, although a foreign insurance provider may offer cover for an exorbitant premium (e.g. Lloyd's of London). If there's an earthquake, the Italian government assumes responsibility, which is limited to the value stated in the land registry (well below a property's actual value), although the insured value of your home is also taken into consideration.
In the event of total loss, building insurance is based on the cost of rebuilding your home. Make sure that you insure your property for the true cost of rebuilding. If you have a property restored or modernised, you must obatin a professional valuation on completion for insurance purposes.
Apartments: If you own an apartment or a property that shares common elements with other properties, building insurance is included in your service charges, although you should check exactly what's covered. You must, however, still be insured for third party risks in the event that you cause damage to neighbouring apartments, e.g. through flood or fire. Having insurance also helps you claim against a neighbour if they cause damage to your apartment.
Rented Property: Your landlord usually insists that you have third party liability insurance, as detailed in the rental contract. A lease requires you to insure against 'tenant's risks', including damage you may make to the rental property and to other properties if you live in an apartment, e.g. due to flood, fire or explosion. You can choose your own insurance company.
Contents (contenuto) are usually insured for the same risks as a building (see above) and are insured for their replacement value. Contents polices are restrictive with regard to security, including locks, window shutters or grilles (all windows less than 3m/10ft from the ground must be barred), armoured doors, etc.. All security requirements must be adhered to or claims are reduced or won't be paid. Note that Italian policies usually exclude loss of frozen food (after a power cut). There's usually an excess of between â‚?25 and â‚?50 for each claim.
You cannot usually insure valuables (e.g. antiques, jewellery and other precious objects) unless they've been valued by an approved Italian expert and they generally need to be stored in a safe, which must be approved by your insurance company. You should insist on a safe being approved by your insurer and a certificate being issued to verify this (otherwise your insurance company is liable to use the argument that your safe was insecure to avoid paying a claim). Valuables are usually covered only when you're present, rather than abroad or on holiday. Due to the many loopholes, you may be better off keeping your valuables in a bank safety deposit box. When claiming for contents, you should produce the original bills (keep bills for expensive items) and bear in mind that imported items may be much more expensive in Italy.
Premiums are generally higher for holiday homes due to their high vulnerability (particularly to burglaries) and are usually based on the number of days per year a property is inhabited and the interval between periods of occupancy. Cover for theft, storm, flood and malicious damage may be suspended when a property is left empty for more than three weeks at a time. It's possible to negotiate cover for periods of absence for a hefty surcharge, although valuable items are usually excluded. If you're absent from your property for long periods, e.g. more than 60 days per year, you may also be required to pay an excess on a claim arising from an occurrence that takes place during your absence (and theft may be excluded). You should read all small print in policies. Where applicable, it's important to ensure that a policy specifies a holiday home and not a principal home.
In areas with a high risk of theft (e.g. most major cities and resort areas), you may be required to fit extra locks and other security measures. Some companies may not insure holiday homes in high risk areas. It's unwise to leave valuable or irreplaceable items in a holiday home or a home that's vacant for long periods. Some insurance companies do their utmost to find a loophole which makes you negligent and relieves them of their liability. Always check carefully that the details listed in a policy are correct, or your policy could be void.
Premiums are usually calculated on the size of the property (either the habitable area in square metres or the number of rooms) rather than its value. Usually the sum insured (house and contents) is unlimited, provided the property doesn't exceed a certain size and is under a certain age. Premiums depend on the area, although you should expect the premium for a policy that includes theft to be around double what you would expect to pay in another western European country. The cost of multi-risk property insurance in a low-risk area is around â‚?0 per year for a property with one or two bedrooms, â‚?60 for three or four bedrooms and around â‚?25 per year for five or six bedrooms. Premiums can be much higher in high-risk areas. If you have an index-linked policy, cover is increased each year in line with inflation.
If you wish to make a claim, you must usually inform your insurance company in writing (by registered letter) within two to five days of an incident or 24 hours in the case of theft. Thefts should also be reported to the local police within 24 hours, as the police statement (denuncia), of which you receive a copy for your insurance company, usually constitutes irrefutable evidence of your claim. Check whether you're covered for damage or thefts that occur while you're away from the property and are therefore unable to inform your insurance company immediately.
This excerpt has been republished with permission from Survival Books. Some of the information may apply to EU citizens only. If you would like to get the inside track on moving to Italy, pick up your copy of this great book by clicking here.