For Your Information

Law Governing Landlord and Tenant Relations in Housing
Researched By Cornelia [19 April 2007]

What laws apply to Landlord and Tenant agreements?
The Civil Code is the first layer. It is called Mimpo. Then there is a special law which applies in all of Japan called "Shakichi Shakuya Hou". This translates as "Lease, Land & Rental Housing Law". This second layer supercedes the Civil Code. The Shakichi Shakuya Hou was first enacted before World War II to protect families of soldiers. The most recent update to that law was in about 1992.
There is one more law enacted in 2000 called the Teiki Shakuya. It is a very brief piece of only about 40 articles, and pertains very specifically only to rentals of definite duration without an option of renewal. This type of contract is very rare, so most tenants are not affected by this law.

Where can I find out what the law says?
There is a booklet published, in Japanese only, by the Real Estate Transaction Improvement Organization (RETIO). They are a public foundation.
Fudosan Tekisei Torishiki Suishin Kikou (RETIO)
booklet 3-8-21-3F Toranomon, Minato-ku, Tokyo
tel: 03-3435-8111, Open: 9:30-16:30
Website: http://www.retio.or.jp/
Closest bus stop: Toranomom 3-chome, Closest subway: Toranomon or Kamiyacho stations (4 minutes each).
From Mita Line Onarimon station 10 minutes.
The booklet costs 100 yen. The title in Japanese is: Jutaku Chintai Shaku Keiyaku no Tebiki.The edition pictured at right is dated June 2006.
This organization provides consulting services only, both by phone and in their office. At any time there are about 6-7 consultants available. At the time of this writing there was even one fluent in English!

How does this booklet help me find answers?
The booklet has been written in layman's language to describe what the Shakichi Shakuya Hou states.
For example, in the last five lines on page 22 of Jutaku Chintai Shaku Keiyaku no Tebiki it says that, fundamentally, the maintanence cost is the responsibility of the landlord, in reference to the use of the deposit money for cleaning after the tenant vacates. The deposit may not be used for regular cleaning.

Are there discrepencies between the Civil Code and the Shakichi Shakuya Hou?
Yes, and in those cases, the Shakichi Shakuya Hou reins supreme over the Civil Code. For example, in the Civil Code article 617, it says that Landlord or Tenant must give 3 months notice of request or plans to vacate. However, in the Shakichi Shakuya Hou it states that the Landlord must provide 6 months notice of request to vacate. In effect, the Landlord is recognized as the more powerful party in the relationship. Accordingly the law seeks to provide more balance.

My landlord does not wish to repair things that are broken. What can I do?
The Civil Code is clear on this, in article 606: The landlord is in charge of repairing all facilities of rental housing (that were present in the house at the time it was leased). This is basic, and everyone knows that the landlord is under this obligation. Nevertheless, it is difficult to force the landlord to do anything.

What is a guarantor? How do I find one?
A guarantor is someone who will sign your lease as the person or company responsible should you misbehave. The guarantor must be Japanese, and is often the employer in the case of foreigners living in Japan. But Japanese renters also can use senior family (for example the father might be the guarantor for his newly wed son and daughter-in-law). The guarantor signs the first lease, but not the renewal contracts. But if one moves to a new place, then a guarantor signature is needed again.
There are people who have no access to a guarantor, such as aged people with no children, living on a pension. This used to be a big problem, but now there are companies that offer guarantor services for a fee. A real estate agent usually has information regarding such a company. The fee is maybe a one or 1.5 months of the rent, and payable one time.

What is this Japanese "Custom" about rental contract renewal fees?
As best as I can make out, this custom arose during the acute housing shortages after the war. Unfortunately neither the Civil Code nor the Shakichi Shakuya Hou have anything to say about the renewal fee. Thus it is entirely dependent on what is written in the contract, which has been signed by the tenant and the landlord. However, current accepted procedure is generally a fee equivalent to one month's rent (April 2007).

Vocabulary:
Civil Code article 606 = Mimpo roku hyaku roku jo
Renewal fee = Coshin ryo
"The current custom is a renewal fee of one month." = Coshin ryo no Souba-wa shtotsuki desu.
Guarantor = Hashou-nin
Maintenance fee = Kanrihi/kyoekihi (A small monthly maintenance fee for expenses in a multiple unit building. Usually included in the rent and paid by the landlord. But sometimes...)

Fees (when you first make a contract to rent a place):
Reservation fee = Tetsukekin (refundable upon signing of contract)
Key money = Reikin (non-refundable fee paid to the landlord, starting to fall "out of fashion")
Service fee = Chukai tesuryo (non-refundable fee paid to the real-estate agent)
Deposit = Shikikin (refundable fee minus cost of repairs above and beyond normal wear and tear)
Rent = Yachin (non-refundable)


Related links:

Manual in Japanese and English (7 pages): http://jafnet.co.jp/manual/chintai/migigawa/point.htm
Small Claims Court (started in 1998): Japanese Small Claims Procedure: How Does It Work?
Education Japan: The Education Japan Guide to Accommodation
Japan Times - by Ken Joseph, Jr.: Renewal Fee Woes
Japan Guide on Real Estate Agents: Looking for an apartment in Japan
Japan With Kids - Forums: Shopping in Japan: Real-estate, Purchase/Rental: http://www.tokyowithkids.com/discussions/messages/333/169.html

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