One of my colleagues moved into the new apartment the other day. She said that she had to read the contract together with the owner for an hour. That’s what Japanese apartment contracts are!
I should probably mention this more often, but Japan is an incredibly bureaucratic country. Their mind set on putting everything on paper, that’s why there are a lot of manuals and contracts. The bureaucracy has its plusses, once the deal is made you are fully protected by various papers. But there are also minuses, such as no one dares to set off the right path of a manual, for example. The rent contracts are part of that bureaucratic routine of every Japanese and every foreigner.
The procedure of signing a contract
I suppose you’ve heard a lot about shiki-kin (the so-called insurance fee) and rei-kin (the so-called contract fee). These transactions are clearly stated in the contract along with other procedures. For example, if you find a new place, you need to inform your landlord two months before you plan to move. There are a lot of minor rules in the contract as well. Some places do not allow kids, so families lookout for a “kids ok” sign in the contract. Some places allow/do not allow animals and so on. Of course, everything is different if you buy a flat. But if you rent a flat, there is always a contract for you.
Be sure to read (or translate and read) it carefully. Do not neglect it because it is written in Japanese. There are some useful regulations as who is responsible for cleaning the conditioner, or who is responsible for some repairs that you may need during the rental period.
The funniest things that are written in contracts
These contracts don’t have a template. I mean there are some things that are written in every contract, like this two-months term that I’ve mentioned before. But most of the contracts are drawn upon the wishes expressed by the landlords.
I’ve signed two contracts during my stay in Japan. The first one was particularly interesting. I was in Russia at that time, so I asked the housing agency that had ties with my university to find me a place to live. I couldn’t possibly look for the flats on my own. So, after a few emails I finally have a Skype video call to discuss the contract.
The contents of the contract are usually read outlaid during such discussions. If you have questions, raise your hand. My contact was a couple of A4 sheets of paper. Can you imagine what kind of reaction I had when I heard:
Don’t bring poisonous snakes to the apartment
I honestly didn’t know how to comprehend. So I asked the lady if poisonous snakes are easy to encounter in Japan. I mean I was not moving into a forest. It was somewhere near the center of Tokyo that we were talking about. And yes, a no-no rule was to bring poisonous snakes into the apartment. Apparently, the non-poisonous snakes were welcome.
Don’t bring yakuza to the apartment
Right after prohibiting poisonous snakes I discovered that I could never befried a yakuza upon the condition of my rental contract. Surprisingly, that was the first and the last contact which prohibited inviting yakuza home so explicitly. I asked my friends and I signed the second contract after I moved out of the place where poisonous snakes were unwelcome. It seems that it goes without saying that foreign girls should not bring criminals to their homes. Everywhere… except my first Japanese apartment.
No pets, humans ok
I think that was the reason why I got married eventually. Most rental contracts in Japan prohibit keeping pets. But it was ok, for example, for my parents to come and spend a week or two in my apartment. It was also ok for my future husband to spend the night. Being alone in a big foreign city is very lovely so no wonder that some foreigners buy pets to keep them company. Everywhere… except Japan. Turns out, it was a lot easier to keep a person in my flat then to search for a flat that allows pets.