Updating “What To Do If…” Site: Getting your “shikikin” rental deposit returned


Hi Blog. Updated a section of my “What do do if…” artery site, where people can troubleshoot for some problems which may arise for them while living in Japan.

The most recent addition as follows: Debito



…you want to get your deposit (shikikin) back from your landlord when moving out.

Adapted from mails by Kirk Masden and Joe Tomei:

Tokyo to clean act of dirty landlords
The Asahi Shimbun

For tenants tired of kissing their maintenance deposits goodbye, the Tokyo metropolitan government plans sweeping changes to the shabby system exploited by greedy landlords. There are no clear rules on how much of the costs to clean or repair apartments should be covered by tenants’ deposits.

“Actually, the last sentence is not exactly right. The government has published guidelines:

but the pdf file is 118 pages long. Here’s a couple more in Japanese, from a quick google
http://www.zentaku.or.jp/223/index.htm (issues 12-14, I think)

“The guidelines (in Japanese) focus on the concept of “genjo kaifuku” (restoration to original condition). According to the guidelines, you are NOT responsible for normal wear and tear. You are only responsible for damage that you did to the apartment beyond normal wear and tear. The guidelines help you figure out what should be considered to be normal wear and tear.

“When our family left our apartment a few years ago we were asked to pay a lot of money to, among other things, replace all the wallpaper in the apartment to make it as nice as it was when we first moved in (restoration to original condition) — even though we had been in the same apartment for 10 years! After I did a little research, the government guidelines enabled me to get a more reasonable agreement from the landlord. We had been asked to pay a significant amount of money in addition to the deposit (shikikin) we had paid. Instead, we received a good chunk of the deposit back.

“Sometimes you have to be firm with landlords, who are used to intimidating people and taking more than they deserve. I told the landlord that if we could not work this out between ourselves that I was prepared to have the matter settled in small claims court (kan’i saibansho–see section below). In this respect, the goverment guidelines were a big plus. I also sent explanations about the guidelines and the reasons why we found the landlords claims to be unreasonable by certified mail so there could not be any dispute about what we had or had not told the landlord.

“In the end, we accepted an agreement that was not perfect (we had to pay to replace the tatami — even though this should not be our responsibility according to the guidelines), but much, much better than what were almost forced to accept. What we did required a lot of Japanese. Still, even if your Japanese is not good enough for you to fight on your own, it may be worth your while to get someone to help you so that you can know your rights and tell the landlord about the government guidelines.

“Here’s another related site (in Japanese):

“The idea of taking the landlord to small claims court, especially with the backing of goverment guidelines, is a good one. Take digital pics of everything, making sure the camera’s date function is on. You can also take a picture of the ‘problem points’ with a newspaper to verify the date. Retain everything and keep records of when you spoke to people, who you spoke to and what they said. I have found that when bullying from the landlord occurs (and this is clearly what it is), the bully is generally strong on the standard fronts, but with something like this, especially when it comes to documenting in meticulous detail in your favor, they never see it coming. Don’t look for the knockout punch–just calmly get all your ducks in a row and be ready to use official channels.”



1 comment on “Updating “What To Do If…” Site: Getting your “shikikin” rental deposit returned

  • Debito,
    Cheers for all the great info and good work you do.

    I had this very experience last year. I had lived in my apartment for only a little over a year, largely got along well with the elderly landlady, and got along very well with her son, who did the maintenance work (in fact the only tension at all was that the old lady refused to believe it was not me flicking cigarette butts into the little garden behind my apartment.)

    When I told her I’d be moving out, she did a 180 and immediately started talking about the damage I’d done. (She hadn’t been in the apartment since I rented it and had been to the door only once, when the census-taker came [and I don’t know why she felt obligated to stand there as the census-taker went through her schpiel.])

    In the end, I got every yen of my deposit back with two simple steps. When she pulled the “in Japan. . .” junk to try to cow me into just saying OK. I said, “No, that’s not true. Tokyo’s law is. . .” At first, this convinced her I must have done something awful to the place, so my then-fiancee (now wife) came by and said pretty much what I’d said (only with a degree of formality I could barely understand.) The old lady got positively hostile for a couple days until I did what it had never occurred to me to do: I told her the place was fine, nothing had been damaged, and that I might even be able to get it cleaner than it was a year ago.

    Apparently, the idea that the place might be OK had never crossed her mind. My fiancee and I scrubbed the place to shine and I got the entire deposit back.

    This furthers my general impression that, especially when dealing with older people who don’t know you well, the best thing a foreigner can do is just remind them you might be all right after all.


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