Private Rental Allowances and Information

Helpful Pages


Overseas Housing Allowance

  • Overseas Housing Allowance is paid to service members living in private rental housing at overseas duty stations.
  • Family members must be living overseas on an accompanied tour (whether command sponsored or not) to receive OHA. If family members stay in CONUS while the military member is overseas, they will receive BAH.
  • Unaccompanied service members receive OHA only if government housing is not available.
  • OHA is calculated in the local currency and paid in US dollars. This means that you will receive a different amount each month, depending on the exchange rate in effect.
  • You will need an account with a local bank (BNL, Community, Global) to pay your rent and utilities. In Italy it is illegal to make any transaction over 1,000 without a local bank account.

OHA covers three (3) components for private rentals:

  1. Rent:  You will have an allowance for rent each month. The cost of you rent is paid dollar for dollar. You do not get to keep the amount that you do not use like you would with BAH, therefore it is in your best interest to use it up or negotiate more into the lease. Ex. If you have 1,300 euro OHA, but choose a house that is only 1,000 euro a month, you will not see any of that extra 300 euro. You are not limited by the rental ceilings, if you spend over that amount the remainder will be taken out of your base pay.
    • What is usually included in the rent: routine maintenance, furnace and A/C cleaning, minor repairs, lights, trimming trees/bushes.
    • Negotiated services: Lawn mowing, additions such as window screens, bath tubs, and safety features.
    • First month’s rent: this is due when you take the keys from the landlord on move in day, not when signing the lease.
  2. Utilities/Maintenance: You will have a separate allowance given to you for utilities and maintenance each month. If you do not use the full amount, you can keep it. For finances keep in mind that utility bills are paid on an irregular basis (every other month, 1-2 times a year).
    • Water: the landlord keeps their name on the account. Bill is paid 1-2 times per year. Averages 500 euro a year for a family of four (4). This will be your lowest bill.
    • Electricity: renter puts their name on the account. Bill comes every 2 months. Electricity in Italy is expensive! Keep this in mind when looking at large houses or older homes.
    • Utility Tax Exemption Program: The Italian government taxes the use of natural gas, which will be your biggest utility bill. These taxes make up 32% to 48% of an Italian gas bill. Customers that join the UTEP program through the Tax Relief Office, are exempt from these taxes. Membership requires a $232 annual service charge. The average cost of gas is 1200-1300 euro a year.
  3. Move in Housing Allowance (MIHA): defrays move-in costs associated with occupying privately leased quarters. It covers three categories:
    1. Miscellaneous: A one time, up front, lump sum payment covering average move-in costs. The money is yours to spend or not spend however you see fit. It is meant to be used for making the house livable, but some use it to purchase small appliances. Examples include transformers, pest fumigation, heating units, air conditioner, dehumidifiers, curtain rods, ceiling fans, screens, light fixtures, cabinets, shelving, trash barrels (where required),  and hook up charges (electric, plumbing, phone, heat). It also covers security modifications (smoke detector, fire extinguisher, window security bars, locks, alarms) when “MIHA security” does not cover it. Members receive the full allowance with their first OHA rental payment.
      • MIHA #2: A second MIHA is given to the landlord upon moving in. It covers move out costs like re-painting and filling in nail holes.
    2. Rent: $ for $ reimbursement. Used for paying a fixed, one time, nonrefundable fee related to renting the dwelling. It can be used for restoration or redecoration fees that are paid up front when signing the lease (does not count as a damage deposit) to paint and fill in holes upon move out. Also includes acquisition fees and rental agent fees (when a housing office is not available).
    3. Security: Only given when living in high crime/threat areas as determined by the Department of State. $ for $ reimbursement for physical dwelling modifications (i.e. alarm system).
  • Taxes
    • The landlord usually pays taxes on the house (flat tax), but this is a relatively new concept to Italian landlords. If the landlord is not willing to pay all of the tax, then you may have to split the tax.
    • Taxes average around 1,000-1,200 euro per year

Steps for Private Rental Housing

  • Initial Housing Appointment: You must first make an appointment with the housing office to go over your housing options. Sponsors will also apply for an Italian social security card aka “codice fiscale”. If you are given the option of a private rental, then you or your spouse will have to attend a private rental brief. You will also be given a print out of your overseas housing allowances.
  • Housing Brief: You will receive a folder with information on private rental housing, briefly review the information, ask any questions, and sign a couple forms. After this you are eligible to begin booking houses.
  • Search Houses:
    • Use OPH to view houses in the Vicenza Garrison. For additional information on the houses, ask the housing receptionists for a print out from the old housing system that they have access to. It has more information than OPH does like pet limitations, fenced in yard, fireplace, garage, included services, etc.
    • Housing suggests not looking at houses that are more than 100 Euro above your OHA. You may be able to negotiate the rent down a bit, but not by a lot.
    • It may also be a good idea to look at houses that are a little below your OHA, because then you may be able to negotiate more things into the lease like lawn maintenance, window screens, etc.
  • Book a Viewing: You can view up to two (2) units at one time/trip with a taxi interpreter. The total number of “houses” we could view for free with a taxi interpreter in fall 2014 was five (5). You must be physically present at housing to book your viewings. You will give the receptionist the ID number of the unit and your next day of availability. The receptionist will check to see if a taxi interpreter is available and okay the time with you. The receptionist will then call the landlord to make sure the time also works for them.The houses you view will be removed from the housing website and placed on hold for 24 hours after viewing or until the next business day. Nobody else can schedule a viewing of the home until those 24 hours are up.
    • Landlord viewing: If you use up all 5 free viewings with a taxi interpreter, you also have the option of meeting the landlord at the housing office and having them take you to view the house, if they are willing to do so. If the landlord doesn’t speak very much English, you can ask the housing receptionist to translate when you get back.
    • Realtor: You also have the option of using a housing office approved realtor. You only pay for their services if you decide to lease a house that they have shown you. This finder’s fee is equal to 1 month’s rent plus a 22% tax. In special circumstances, such as 5 bedroom houses being unavailable through housing, real estate agent fees may be reimbursable. Housing has a list of English speaking real estate agents that are familiar with with lease requirements for military personnel. You can use other agents but you should consult the housing office for advice.
  • Pre-Negotiation: If you like the home, but want to negotiate something into the lease you will call housing to set up a pre-negotiation appointment. During this appointment a housing representative will talk to the landlord over the phone while you are in the room. If you do not feel a need to negotiate, you can go directly to the lease signing phase. Hint: ask the housing representative to let you see past tenant comments about the home/landlord. They only show them if you ask!
  • Lease Signing: Once you are completely happy with the house and the lease, you will schedule an appointment to sign the lease. During the lease signing appointment you will meet the landlord in person, because the landlord must be present. Your lease contract will be for four (4) years as required by Italian law, but it will have a military clause included.
  • 1st Payment: Your first payment that is due by your move in date consists of the security deposit, the the remainder of that month’s rent, and an entire one month’s rent. Once you have made the payment, you will need to give housing a copy of the receipt for their records.
    • Example: Say you have a $1,000 security deposit and each month’s rent is $1,000. If you start your lease on the 20th of the month, then you would divide $1,000 by 30 (days) and then multiply that number by the remaining 10 days to get around $670 for the remainder of the month. You now owe 1,000 security deposit + $1,000 first months rent + $670 remainder of the month’s rent = $2,670.
  • Set Up Utilities: Housing will assist you in setting up appointments to switch on utilities (gas, electric, water). You will need to have a copy of your lease with you for these appointments. After you have signed your lease, you will also be able to go to the WIND store to set up internet service.
  • Housing Inspection: Housing will set up an inspection date before your move in date. A taxi interpreter will take you to the house to go over any damages. At this time you can also ask the landlord how to operate things in the house (thermostat, gate, etc.). At this time you should also receive keys to the house and be able to start moving in furniture from this point forward.
  • Move Out Notice
    • Military orders: with military orders you must give a 30 day notice before moving out.
    • Private to private: if you do not have orders, you must give a 6 months notice to move from one private rental to another.

Other Responsibilities

  • Free Residential Physical Security Assessment Service: recommended before signing a lease, so that you can negotiate with the landlord to repair security issues. Takes 1 hour to be completed. You will be given a home inspection report identifying vulnerabilities. Addresses doors, windows, shutters, walls, fences, off street parking, lighting, CCTV, alarms, American features, landscape features, prior signs of forced entry, and Gypsy symbols. You will also be provided with a crime threat analysis for the neighborhood.
  • Safety features you may want to add to the home: clips for shutters, stronger locks, and alarm systems. You may want to install a small safe, but you may have to purchase it yourself, have the landlord install it, and then agree to leave it when you PCS.
  • Smoke/carbon monoxide detectors: Italian law does not mandate smoke or carbon monoxide detectors in the home. Therefore, it is your responsibility to purchase them for the home.
  • Mold: Leave your windows open for a while each day (even during the winter) to prevent mold growth on the concrete walls.
  • Recycling and Trash: find out what the trash and recycling procedures are for your home.
  • AFN Cable: Find out if your house is already set up with a satellite dish to receive AFN cable.
  • Internet: you should ask if the house is set up for internet (DSL or satellite). If it is not set up, you should check with the WIND store to see what kind of internet is available (hard-line vs. satellite) in that area.
  • Illegal Frequencies: It is illegal in Italy to use wireless devices such as cordless phone, baby monitors, and walkie talkies that do not conform to European standards. You can be fined for using them.
Advertisements

2 Comments

  1. Hi, I had a question about housing. I’ve heard that there is no option to live off-post for E-6 and below now. I can’t find much online. We will be PCSing in May for Vicenza, and I was hoping to actually have a choice when it came to the number of bedrooms this time.

    Thank you,
    Kayla

    • Housing is always a complicated question to answer, because it has many factors involved… #1 being what is available at the time you arrive, then other factors like rank and number of dependents. The housing policy is to first fill up any available government owned units (aka Villagio). If that isn’t available or doesn’t suit your families needs. then they will give the option of government leased. If there are not enough government leased units available or it doesn’t suit your families needs, then you will be given the option of choosing a private rental.

      The most accurate, but unsatisfying answer is that nobody knows what kind of housing they will get until they arrive. Availability is changing all the time, especially during the start of peak PCS season when you will be arriving.

      My post on Housing Options explains the process a bit more:

      https://pcsadventuresoverseas.wordpress.com/2014/07/08/housing-options-in-vicenza/

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s