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Worried about Cash On Arrival Schemes for Italian Apartments

Worried about Cash On Arrival Schemes for Italian Apartments

Old Jan 24th, 2013, 01:02 PM
Original Poster
Join Date: Feb 2007
Posts: 6
Worried about Cash On Arrival Schemes for Italian Apartments

We are considering several rentals in Italy, some (mostly the US-based agencies) require prepayment and others (Italian owners and agencies) want much of the payment cash on arrival. I would appreciate hearing what others think about this practice that makes me nervous.

My wife says I am over-thinking it, but that is what I do best, and here are my concerns. I would appreciate responses.

1. Obtaining a couple thousand Euros in advance from the US is difficult; I have to order from my local bank a week in advance and maybe worse, their exchange rate is poor.
2. If I were to try to withdraw the funds from an ATM in Italy, I think I’m limited to about €300/day not enough to pay for my rental on my day of arrival.
3. Traveling around with a lot of cash makes me a nice target for a thief.
4. I show up at an address in Italy in a totally jet-lagged state and hand over a big wad of cash to a total stranger who claims to be the person who should receive it, but how do I know? Maybe s/he just waylaid the real person, took the key and then my money.
5. What if the apartment is not the one I thought I was renting? (I see many references to this shady practice in these forums.) The stranger can shrug and say, “Ciao, then don’t take possession.” I can walk away, of course, but someone has my deposit money and I have no place to sleep.
6. Or what if the apartment is deficient in some serious ways? (Again, I see many such cases in these forums.) The stranger has all my cash. There is no way I’m going to get that back. I have no leverage as I would with a credit card payment.
7. What if there is a break-in or serious problem and I want to call in the Police? The stranger with my cash could deny anything, even that we are tenants.
8. What if the property is somehow an illegal rental? I can think of many scenarios: the owner is out of town and doesn’t know it is being rented for cash and comes home unexpectedly. I read about that happening.
9. Or what if it hasn’t been registered with the local authorities? It seems like there are some registration requirements so the city can collect a tax. If I go to the authorities for any reason, maybe I have an illegal rental and what will they say or do? I can imagine everything from a shrug to being put in jail.
10. And finally, we all know this cash on arrival scheme is a tax dodge. I pay my taxes, I complain, but I pay because that is how my community and my country manage to provide me with a pretty good and safe place to live. If I am supporting the Italians' tax avoidance, then I am supporting their underhanded and illegal actions to avoid taxes which is causing their whole country to be on the verge of economic collapse.
Abba is offline  
Old Jan 24th, 2013, 01:08 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 48,328
I think you're overthinking it, too, and being close to paranoid. It's perfectly normal. Go to a succession of ATM machines and make multiple withdrawals. There's nothing to prevent you from doing this.

If you really are this scared of the arrangement, book a hotel.
StCirq is online now  
Old Jan 24th, 2013, 01:20 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 11,212
2. Call your bank and increase your limit.
3. Where are you traveling around? Go to the ATM. Go to the apartment. How much traveling could that be.
4. You've been reading too many mystery novels. (You've gone over the top with this one.)
5. Unlikely
6. - 9. The sky is falling said chicken little.
10. You don't know that it's a tax dodge at all.

I disagree with StCirq - you're not close to paranoid - you're there.

You should probably not travel. What if the Colosseum has been spirited away, etc., etc., etc.
adrienne is offline  
Old Jan 24th, 2013, 02:35 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 53,251
Abba - yes, i do agree you are worrying excessively.


unlikely in the extreme. would such a person know how to set the washing machine? it seems a hard way to turn a [dishonest] crust.


Do you see that many complaints here about seriously deficient apartments? I'm struggling to think of one. yes, it could be that that you might not be able to get a problem remedied, but i have to say that the only place I had a real difficulty was in the UK [my own country] where I picked up the key from an agency, having paid in advance, and found that the place was filthy.

as for being worried about a break-in, and being thought by the police to be the burglar, presumably you will have the paperwork showing that you have rented the property. Police would see that your property was in the apartment and that you were tourists.

where have you read about places being rented out when the owner's away on holiday? I suppose it's possible but it's not exactly a common occurance.


sadly this is how Italy works. it is a fact of life. if you don't want to do it, use your credit card to rent through an american agency. you may pay more, but you'll have a clear conscience.

oh yes - and what if it's not registered and you have to go to the authorities? why would YOU be put in jail?

We have rented a number of apartments in Italy and we've paid in a number of different ways - cash on arrival, paypal, credit card, bank-transfer to a UK based owner, and had varying degrees of luxury, but we've never encountered any of the problems you anticipate.

do you worry like this in real life?
annhig is offline  
Old Jan 24th, 2013, 02:41 PM
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 597
I frequently rent in Rome and even though I live in Italy, I only book apartments that take a credit card. (This is true of other apartments I rent in other cities in italy as well).

I feel there are now enough places dealing in credit cards I don't have to bother with getting tons of cash out of my ATM days in a row.

This is the Rome agency I like to use for apartments:

goldenautumn is offline  
Old Jan 24th, 2013, 02:46 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 33,908
I don't think you are wacko, some of these are real concerns, and some are just very unlikely.

First, you can eliminate most any of these concerns by simply renting only from an agency that you've read good reviews about (on Fodors or slowtrav or somewhere).

I wouldn't worry about the one where the person meeting you has just kidnapped the real landlord, though. I do think that is over the edge.

I also think the break-in part is a little paranoid. Certainly you aren't envisioning renting from some guy who won't give you a contract, are you? Don't do that. If you have a signed contract, obviously you could prove you were entitled to the place and not a stranger.

Okay, I've done this and can mention a couple things for your concerns. First, I didn't hand over the money to the person on the street and then they disappear. I would hope they wouldn't expect that. YOu should meet the person, you go into the place, they show you around and then you sit down to settle affairs, and that's when you pay them the cash. So you should know there are not serious deficiencies at that point.

As for your bank limit, you just have to solve that problem, that's all. YOu don't say the amount you think you will need but I've solved that problem in a couple ways. One, I have two ATM cards. I'm just a single person and I have two, certainly you and your wife can come up with two between you (2 diff account). I have one for my regular bank account and I have one for a seprate online money market account I keep for saving reasons (and so as not to have all my cash in one bank). YOu can easily do that, my MM account is Capital One bank and they have about as good rates as any money market account (you don't get rich, you can easily open a small account of maybe $5K just to get the ATM card, you might find it handy to have two seprate ones). Cap One doesn't have any foreign exchange markup on that card, so it is a good one.

So, I can withdraw the amount I need from two cards. Although actually, I have one bank account that has about a $700-1000 limit on withdrawals, more than you have.

Another option which I've used, although not intentionally so much, is to arrive in the city and just check into a 2* hotel near my apt rental and stay there one day. I actually kind of like that for a couple reasons. First, many apts I've rented do not allow you to check in until the afternoon, and that means nothing (no leaving luggage). THis way, you can at least dump your luggage even if your room isn't ready at a hotel, and you can do that early in the morning. You then have that day to handle some routine business, such as the ATM. I am not the kind of traveler who tries to cram everything into every hour of the day when traveling, my first day is usually down time, anyway (espec. due to jet lag). I just pick any reasonable hotel I find online that is within a short distance of my apt so I can just roll my bag there easily in the morning. And if the apt won't allow you to check in until afternoon, and you want to check out of that hotel by noon, you can still leave your bags at the desk until you come back to get them and walk over to your new place. And you can then make a withdrawal on two days that way.

So those are some options on how to handle it. I've never needed more than about 1000 euro myself. YOu want a couple thousand which you should be able to manage with a couple ATM cards, but that is more than I've needed, and if I've rented long-term I've had CC payments for a lot of it.

Another item you are concerned about is that the rental may be illegal. You are right, it may very well be. I don't know the laws in the city where you want to stay, but it is possible. If you don't want to contribute to that, then don't do it (or if you don't approve of the tax dodge, there may well be one). However, if it is illegal, I would not worry that if you had to call the fire dept or police, that they would throw YOU in jail due to an illegal vacation rental. I can't imagine such a thing, the owner would be the one in trouble.

On the other hand, I haven't rented in Italy and they are a little on the edge in terms of the law there, but I really wouldn't worry about that one except your own conscience about whether you want to do that (if you find out it is, in fact, illegal, it may not be in that city, don't know).

Finally, if this is so anxiety-producing, don't do it, you don't have to, you know. Stay in a hotel.
Christina is online now  
Old Jan 24th, 2013, 02:52 PM
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 597
Oh by the way:

Please ignore everything annhg told you about Italy's tax system and "this is how Italy works." What a load of hogwash!

The link I gave you is an Italian agency. You will pay no added fees for using a credit car for transaction. Unless you are renting an entire palazzo, a cash payment for a week's rentalfalls under the limit of cash transactions that are forbidden by Italian tax law. Of course your landlord is obliged to report income from rental properties, but you have no liability if he or she does not do so, anymore than I have liability if my landlord isn't paying his taxes, or you have liability if you pay your lawn service in America and they don't pay their taxes. Gee, Italy works like America, no? Ohhhh, how SAD!

By the way, it is perfectly legal for Roman residents to rent our their apartments. Many Italians have excess property they inherited from family ties, so they rent it out. SADLY, this is how Italy works.
goldenautumn is offline  
Old Jan 24th, 2013, 02:53 PM
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 4,897
I've rented places that only took cash, one was in Hawaii, another in Santorini and last June in Bermuda. Hawaii & Santorini we had to take out cash in installments due to ATM limits, we didnt have any issues at all. In Bermuda we took whole amount for the apartment rental in USD in cash & paid on arrival, owner was a sweet old lady. The owners of the Hawaiian condo left the key in an envelope and didn't see us until the next day (late arrival) and the ones in Greece didn't come back to be paid, we had to chase them to be paid.
Odin is offline  
Old Jan 24th, 2013, 02:55 PM
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 597
Oh, get this quote:

"On the other hand, I haven't rented in Italy and they are a little on the edge in terms of the law there."

The voice of an expert, right?

"I haven't rented in Italy."

Maybe everyone would feel better if they rented in some other city with frequent mass shootings or urban riots rather than go where people rent out the apartment of their grandmother (who died of natural causes at age 90) because they'd like to keep the property in the family.
goldenautumn is offline  
Old Jan 24th, 2013, 03:03 PM
Join Date: Feb 2006
Posts: 53,251
Please ignore everything annhg told you about Italy's tax system and "this is how Italy works." What a load of hogwash! >>

GA you tell me why my italian hotel wanted me to pay 1/2 of the bill in cash and to give me a receipt only for the part I paid by credit card then.

if that wasn't a tax dodge, i don't know what is.
annhig is offline  
Old Jan 24th, 2013, 03:47 PM
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 1,155
ATMs (bancomats) are the easiest and cheapest way to get euro.
Check with your bank to verify your limit is high enough to cover the amount you want, if not, ask them to raise the limit. On joint accounts sometimes the limit is per card not account so two cards could each take out the limit on the same account.
Open another account to increase the amount you can withdraw. It is also a good idea for a backup. Look for the best deal for this new travel account. See http://flyerguide.com/wiki/index.php...reign_Exchange
You want a low(or Zero) foreign transaction fee and a low or zero charge for out of network fees. Italian banks will not charge you for using their bancomats.
On the back of your ATM or debit card you need a Visa - Plus or MasterCard - Cirrus symbol.
The Italian bank ATM may have a transaction limit (the amount you can pull out at one time), usually between 250 and 500 euro, but you can perform multiple transactions until you reach your bank's daily limit.
When you get there ask your apartment owner where is the nearest bancomat? The owner will probably walk you to it so you will not be carrying a lot of cash long.
Henry is offline  
Old Jan 24th, 2013, 04:45 PM
Join Date: Apr 2005
Posts: 2,933
Keep your life simple, reduce your stress and just stay in an apartment that takes credit cards. I'm sure you can find one.
zoecat is online now  
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