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Tips for Renting in Japan
January 26th, 2011Category: Apartments
Note: This article originally appeared in a modified form on RealEstate.co.jp.
Coming to Japan can be a daunting task. You have to cut the cord from your home country (or the last country you set roots in) and place new roots here in either one of Japan’s huge metropolises or one of its smaller, rural towns. For many, this involves quickly finding a place a place to rent. The one downside, however, is that Japan does have a reputation for not being very foreigner friendly. Serviced apartments in a city offer one way around this. If you are looking at a different kind of residence, however, then there are a few things you can do to make renting in Tokyo smoother.
1) Figure out your budget – your maximum budget for your rental property is 1/3 your JAPAN EARNED monthly income. For example, if you want an apartment that is listed at ￥100,000 / month, then you have to prove you make at least ￥300,000 / month.
2) Get your paperwork ready ahead of time before contacting an agent – The paperwork you need to prepare is as follows;
a) Copies of your passport picture page, visa and both sides of your alien registration card.
b) A letter of employment from your company (or companies) with salary information (in Japanese 在籍証明書 or zai-seki-sho-mei-sho)
c) If you have been in Japan longer than 1 year, then it would be prudent to prepare a copy of your yearly income slip (in Japanese your 源泉徴収表；gen-sen-cho-shu-hyo)
If you have a Japanese guarantor, they will have to prepare the following as well;
3) Jyu-min-hyo (住民票 or proof of residence) b) Gen-sen-chu-hyo (Same as yours but only theirs) c) In-kan-sho-mei-sho (印鑑証明書 or proof of registered hanko)
Be certain to give your guarantor PLENTY of time to get these things ready as they will have to go to their local government office to obtain A and B listed above.
Please note that guarantors will be evaluated the same way you will be; they must show that the rent of the apartment they want to guarantee does not exceed 1/3 their monthly income. If it does, then they cannot be your guarantor and you will not have an apartment.
In this case, you can use a guarantor company. A guarantor company is a third party insurance company that agrees to act in lieu of a guarantor. The property manager of the apartment you wish to apply for will be able to efficiently introduce their preferred guarantor company and there is no extra paperwork necessary as the same information to apply to the property manager is used to apply for the guarantor company.
However, the guarantor company will need an emergency contact person listed in order to contract with you. An emergency contact is NOT the guarantor but is someone the guarantor company can call in case you don’t pay your rent (hospitalization or sudden departure of the country, for example). They are not in any way personally responsible for your lease at all.
The emergency contact person must provide the following information to the guarantor company through your realtor in email format;
- Name in kanji (this person must be a Japanese citizen) – Home and cellular telephone numbers – Work telephone number – Home postal address – Work postal address – Birth date – Email address
Please note that when most Japanese people hear the word “Guarantor” as in “I need an emergency contact person for my guarantor company,” they will be apprehensive to agree as penalties can be severe if somebody runs out before their lease has ended.
Collect all the information above and THEN start contacting real estate agents. If all of the above information is ready by the time you start looking, then it will be a much smoother and painless process in getting through the necessary paperwork and getting your keys!
Photo credit: Toshihiro Oimatsu / Flickr
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Conventional real estate companies
The rental system of many conventional real estate companies is not very foreigner friendly.
Apartments are usually rented for a minimum of two years, which conflicts with the fact that many foreigners stay in Japan for less than two years.
Furthermore, most landlords are naturally reluctant to rent their apartments to foreigners who are not able to communicate in Japanese. Some of them will even categorically refuse their service to non permanent residents out of fear of frictions.
Many agents also require you to provide them with information about your financial background and to have a guarantor co-sign the rental contract as another security measure. Certain conditions apply as who can serve as your guarantor. It must usually be a Japanese national with a stable financial background.
Not at last, entering a rental contract with a conventional real estate company is very expensive. A number of refundable and non refundable fees have to be paid, often totaling three to ten months’ rent, depending on the company and apartment:
- Reservation fee (tetsukekin)
The tetsukekin is paid when you apply for an apartment, and before the actual rental contract is signed. It serves as a guarantee for you that the apartment is not given to somebody else, and for the agent that you do not change your mind. It is refunded after the actual contract is signed and is usually equivalent to about one month’s rent.
- Deposit (shikikin)
The deposit is used to cover eventual future damage to the apartment. The deposit minus the cost for repairs is refunded when you move out. The deposit is usually equivalent to several months’ rent.
- Key money (reikin)
This is a non refundable payment to the landlord in the amount of up to several months’ rent.
- Service fee (chukai tesuryo)
This is a non refundable payment to the real estate agent in the amount of at most one month’s rent.
Real estate companies for foreigners
Real estate companies, which specifically target Japan’s foreign community, exist mainly in Tokyo and other large metropolitan areas. They offer private and shared apartments for conditions that are much more suitable to the needs of foreigners, and often have staff trained in foreign languages.
For example, they offer rental contracts for much shorter time periods and lower and fewer initial fees than conventional companies. In addition, their apartments are often already furnished, and the cost for utilities may be included in the monthly rent.
Many real estate companies for foreigners operate so called gaijin houses (“foreigner houses”), a very inexpensive type of accommodation, while others target individuals and businesses on larger budgets and with higher requirements.
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