Metropolis Mag on how to get your housing deposit (shikikin) back

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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

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HOUSE PROUD SECTION page 12

Metropolis Magazine, March 20, 2009

http://metropolis.co.jp/specials/782/782_top.htm#2

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

LANDLORD’S RESPONSIBILITIES
Flooring

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

Other
Responsible for: lighting and other machinery that no longer works due to age
Procedures: replacing locks, disinfecting kitchen and bathroom, replacing water heater, etc.

RENTER’S RESPONSIBILITIES
Flooring

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

Other
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)

ENDS

14 comments on “Metropolis Mag on how to get your housing deposit (shikikin) back

  • Nice piece of information. I had to argue pretty strongly to get back about 60% of my deposit. I thought I was doing well as they originally offered about 20%. Wish I had these guidelines then.

    Reply
  • Thanks for re-posting this man, I only check Metropolis magazine when I go into Tokyo and probably wouldn’t have come across this article otherwise.

    stay black dude.

    -sam

    Reply
  • THank you! Very useful stuff. I’ve heard before on the TV that you’re not responcible for cleaning and minor damages(like the small hole you’ve hung your calender), only I forgot how were these called-something like “excpectable result of daily living” or something like that,but I’ve never had my shikikin returned. As a mater of fact, our professors in Nagoya Uni warned us that the landlords in Nagoya do not return shikikin. Now we’re moving again, and this information is really priceless. Thank you very much!

    Reply
  • treblekickeresq says:

    I know Metropolis is a Tokyo magazine but I would have liked more info on the differences between the customs and laws in Kanto and Kansai. Compared to Kanto, most apartment owners in Kansai require even more money up front but what you get back when you move is written into the rental agreement. Or at least it was in Kobe.

    Reply
  • I investigated this topic a while ago too. The article from Metropolis is excellent.

    For what it is worth, I had absolutely no trouble getting my shikikin back a year ago. I had prepared to argue with the guy, and even read the official guidelines in Japanese. But I only got charged for one very small thing, and that was clearly my fault. I felt positively guilty for having expected them to try to rip me off.

    This was the real estate agent: http://www.choutarou.co.jp/ (north Tokyo and Saitama). Highly recommended. Also they don’t discriminate against foreigners, and as I recall the agency staff make the decisions about customers, so you won’t get rejected by the landlord for being foreign either.

    Reply
  • Once at the point of leaving an apartment here in Japan, the landlord turned up, looked around the place, complained about absolutely everything and was adamant that we would get none of our shikikin back. But we couldn’t see anything wrong with the place at all and were feeling very aggrieved of course. Then my father-in -law stepped in and went off for some private negotiations with this landlord. The result was that 100% of our shikikin was returned to us the next day. I didn’t know for many years exactly what my father-in law had said to the landlord. But I found out recently that my now deceased father-in law apparently somehow had some connections to a well known yakuza gang leader! As you can imagine I was flabbergasted!

    Reply
  • We rented an apartment for one year. We really looked after the place, and cleaned it top to bottom before leaving too. When we mentioned getting our deposit back to the agency, they just laughed. My hubby replied “Well, we’ll let a judge make the decision”.

    In court, the agency talked endlessly to make their case. When it was finally my hubby’s turn to speak, he said “We just want our deposit money back as stipulated in the law’. The agency got to keep 10,000 for cleaning, and we got the remaining 70,000.

    Reply
  • There is also the hidden Reikin to consider too. Im being hit for a major one..when i thought this was my shikikin!!

    Reply
  • FukuokaGuy says:

    In Fukuoka the real estate agent had us sign some clause that stated we would only get 1.5 months of out 5 months deposit back. I found this to be quite fishy, but we really loved the place and my wife (a J woman) didn’t want to make a stink. Ever hear of this? The agent claimed it was “typical in Fukuoka”. I am sure I will try to renegotiate this when we move, signature or not (either that or trash the place and take 1.5 months of rent money back).

    Reply
  • TokioDoitsujin says:

    The shikikin is a deposit for the rent (in case you fail to pay), not for damage.
    An old tradition/trick well used in Europe is just to stop paying the last number of months of rent equivalent to your deposit, i.e. you dont pay the last two months of rent if you paid 2 months deposit, and to inform your landlord about what you are doing. They are never happy with that, but they cannot do anything about it either.

    Reply
  • huh, wish I had known this when I had to move last summer. Probably could have gotten another 4man back from the landlord >:/

    My current apartment is managed by Century21. When we first moved in, a maintenance guy had to come fix something, and while he was there I had him go over the apartment with me and make a note of everything I saw wrong with the place. At first he seemed a bit confused, but when I explained why I wanted it done he was happy to have me inkan a copy of everything he wrote and provide me with a copy. I’m hoping this means we’ll get most of our shikikin back this time.

    Reply
  • Well that is about as clear as mud, isn’t it. I don’t think that waving these guidelines in front of the landlord is going to help at all. Still masses of room there for a good argument. Seems to me that they’ve made sure that there are lots of loopholes:

    The landlord is responsible for scratches made by ‘heavy’ furniture; the tenant is responsible for scratches made by furniture.
    The landlord is responsible for for tatami damage due to sunlight; the tenant is responsible for tatami damage due to rain.
    The landlord is responsible for fixing nicotine stains. The tenant is responsible for fixing oil stains
    The landlord is responsible for fixing pinholes from hanging posters; the tenant is is responsible for holes from nails.

    etc etc. I can just see ourselves arguing about the weight of furniture, or whether a hole was made by a pin or a nail. The best thing to do is take pictures of everything when you move in, then make everything right yourself, keeping all receipts, and taking photos. Then withhold the final monthly payment until the landlord has produced adequate justification, and receipts, for any work done. (Not advisable, however, if the landlord has, eh, connections).

    Reply
  • The Big Mikan Man says:

    I have in the past, when it came to move, I owed the exact amount of rent as the deposit. The realtor company plays the game that you are doing some injustice to the landlord, but it is just tatemae. They either know the law and do NOT want you to know, or like most they pretend they know the law (but really do not) and make whatever rules up they can, just to get you to do what they want.
    If you owe two months, just be two months in debt when you leave. And to be nice, just make sure you clean up the the place, that way they you can mitigate their wind sucking whines.

    Reply

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