Hi Blog. Just spotted an excellent article in Tokyo’s METROPOLIS Magazine, on Shikikin (rental deposits), what they cover, how you can get them back, and, very importantly, the Japanese terminology involved in negotiation. Well done. For those who cannot get the magazine, here is the text of the article. Arudou Debito in Tokyo
HOUSE PROUD SECTION page 12
Metropolis Magazine, March 20, 2009
THAT SHIKIKIN FEELING
WE DELVE INTO THE CONFUSING WORLD OF APARTMENT DEPOSITS—AND HOW TO GET THEM BACK
You may feel like you’ve had to wrestle with all kinds of bureaucracy to land that perfect 1DK apartment, but the fun and games don’t end when the contract is stamped. Moving out can present a whole new world of hassle. For many tenants, both foreign and Japanese, the hard-earned shikikin (deposit) they paid when they moved in becomes nothing but a distant memory, as landlords have their way with the cash and return only the change to the renter.
Kazutaka Hayakawa works for the NPO Shinshu Matsumoto Alps Wind, a group that specializes in helping get that deposit back. Here he offers up the basics on renters’ rights.
What is shikikin for?
Shikikin is a form of deposit that was originally meant to cover unpaid rent during or at the end of a contract. Somewhere along the lines, landlords began to use the money for other purposes, known under the umbrella term of genjou kaifuku, or “returning the room to its original condition.”
So what does genjou kaifuku entail?
Genjou kaifuku is the maintenance done on the room to make it suitable for the next tenant. Everything from simple cleaning to re-wallpapering or replacing tatami mats is categorized under this term, and unfortunately, shikikin is often used to pay for the work. While this is not illegal per se, it’s debatable as to why a renter should have to pay for cleaning or renovations for the next tenant. To protect renters’ rights in this gray area, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport released a set of guidelines about ten years ago for the types of maintenance for which shikikin should be used, based on who is responsible for the damages.
While these remain merely guidelines for the rest of the country, Tokyo Prefecture enacted a law in 2004 (the Chintai Juutaku Funsou Boushi Jourei) that was directed at landlords and real estate agents, detailing the responsibilities of landlords and tenants in returning rental property to its original condition, as well as covering maintenance during the contract.
What to do if your shikikin is being used unfairly or unlawfully
While the balance of power between landlord and tenant traditionally doesn’t favor the little guy, times are changing and renters are finding it easier to defend their rights. Hayakawa has the following tips for those who smell something fishy:
• Know your rights: Familiarize yourself with the relevant laws, and never forget that shikikin is legally your money.
• Talk it out: Many landlords are open to discussion, and some don’t even realize they’re doing anything wrong. Show your landlord a copy of the government guidelines and try to work things out face-to-face.
• Recruit some support: Numerous organizations and businesses like Shinshu Matsumoto Alps Wind exist in all parts of the country, and are willing to work as mediators for a nominal fee.
• Last-ditch effort: Small claims courts offer special services for shikikin disputes, and they can work things out in the space of a few hours for a small percentage of the total disputed amount.
Hayakawa stresses that 99 percent of shikikin disputes can be resolved just by talking things through. Take photos of the apartment for evidence, ideally before moving in (though afterwards is fine too). Make sure the landlord provides copies of all receipts for work done using shikikin money. Sometimes real estate agents will also be willing to mediate disputes, but many provide little follow-up service to renters and will disappear from the scene after the contract is signed and they’ve received their cut. Agents who have long-standing relationships with landlords also tend to be a bit biased, so it may be best to recruit the help of a Japanese-speaking friend or special “Shikikin Dispute Mediator” (shikikin henkan dairinin) when entering into negotiations.
DIVISION OF RESPONSIBILITIES FOR MAINTENANCE OF RENTAL PROPERTY
Responsible for: marks on flooring and carpets caused by heavy furniture; fading of tatami and flooring due to age and/or sunlight
Procedures: replacing tatami, waxing floors
Walls & Ceiling
Responsible for: nicotine stains; marks on walls left by fridge or TV; pinholes from hanging posters, etc.
Procedures: replacing wallpaper, filling holes
Fittings & Doors
Responsible for: glass broken due to earthquakes; naturally occurring cracks in reinforced glass
Procedures: replacing glass
Responsible for: lighting and other machinery that no longer works due to age
Procedures: replacing locks, disinfecting kitchen and bathroom, replacing water heater, etc.
Responsible for: scratches on flooring caused by moving furniture; stains on carpet, tatami or flooring due to spillage or rain damage
Procedures: replacing tatami, carpets, etc.
Walls & Ceiling
Responsible for: oil stains on walls in kitchen; mold and stains due to accumulated moisture; corrosion of air conditioning unit; holes from nails; ceiling damage caused by lighting fixtures
Procedures: replacing wallpaper, filling holes, patching
Fittings & Doors
Responsible for: damage and stains caused by pets
Responsible for: damage due to lack of care or misuse
From the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport’s “Guidelines for Returning Rental Property to its Original Condition” (Genjou Kaifuku Wo Meguru Toraburu To Gaidorain)