Mainichi: New real estate guarantor service set up for NJ residents


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Hi Blog.  Here’s some information about Japan’s “notorious” housing rental market.  About how it takes an average of about 15 visits to a realtor before NJ can even find a place willing to rent to them!  And how the company offering guarantor services is having them pay handsomely for the services (says below about half their monthly rent up front — no small sum in places like Tokyo — plus a stipend every year thereafter).  Submitter JK adds additional commentary on how the hoshounin system makes life difficult for Japanese as well.  Time to abolish it.  It causes too many abuses and justifies discrimination.  Arudou Debito in Sapporo



Hi Debito:  Here’s some good news for the new year:

New real estate guarantor service set up for foreign residents

家賃保証サービス:外国人向けに実施 NPOが団体設立

IMO, the best part is the first sentence: “A Tokyo non-profit organization has set up a new real estate guarantor service for foreign residents negotiating Japan’s notoriously discriminative housing system.”

“Notoriously discriminative housing system” — Holy shit, some brutal honesty for a change! [NB:  Doesn’t say the same thing in the Japanese article — Ed.] Funny thing is that I was watching a show on NHK the other day that talked about old people without kids (read: guarantors) having trouble moving in due to a lack of 保証人. In fact, this has gotten to the point where the old folks are resorting to using something called 高齢者専用賃貸住宅 (a.k.a. 高専賃) to bypass the whole 保証人 requirement! Sheesh!

Anyways, allow me take the 保証サービス concept a step further for a minute — thinking out loud, I wonder how “Japanese Only” establishments would react to serving NJs if some type of  guarantor service were in place similar to the 家賃保証サービス (e.g. an 温泉保証サービス). Your thoughts?

Personally, the whole idea of 保証 (especially 家賃保証) is a turnoff for me (hey people, I am a big boy! No, really, I am! Sure, the need for 債務保証 is obvious as there’s typically non-trivial sums of money involved with loans). So I don’t find the idea of something like 温泉保証 particularly tasteful as it sets a bad precedent (i.e. the underlying assumption is essentially that the patron can’t be trusted — he/she might commit an abomination like peeing in the bath thereby causing financial harm to the establishment). That being said, if there’s a chance to paint J-only establishments that refuse clients with 保証 as engaging in ‘unrational discrimination’ (ring a bell??), I can see how the 保証 avenue *might* be worth pursuing. –JK


New real estate guarantor service set up for foreign residents
(Mainichi Japan) January 8, 2010, Courtesy JK

A Tokyo non-profit organization has set up a new real estate guarantor service for foreign residents negotiating Japan’s notoriously discriminative housing system.

The service, the first of its kind, is set up by the Information Center for Foreigners in Japan and will start offering guarantor services in Tokyo and surrounding prefectures in South Korean and Chinese later this month. The services will later be expanded to cover people from English-speaking countries.

The service was set up after a 2006 questionnaire showed that foreign residents in Tokyo were visiting an average of 15 real estate agents [!!!] before finding a landlord willing to lease a home to them. Common excuses given were language problems, different lifestyle habits and fears over non-payment of rent.

Prospective lessees will pay 40-60 percent of their monthly rent as an initial payment, followed by 10,000 yen a year every subsequent year. In turn, the service provider will guarantee up to a year’s missed rent to landlords. Lessees can also receive the service provider’s information packs on living in Japan.

South Korean student Kim Yon-min, 23, says: “I’ve got friends who have been told ‘no foreigners allowed’ by real estate companies. I’m still not confident about my Japanese, so this kind of service makes me feel reassured.”

“When I first arrived in Japan, I was in trouble because no one was willing to be my guarantor,” says a 28-year-old Indonesian designer. “I think other Indonesians will ask for this kind of service.”

The Information Center for Foreigners in Japan was set up in 1995 to aid foreign victims of the Great Hanshin Earthquake. It provides volunteer Japanese lessons, and provide information on living in Japan to the editors of newsletters in 14 languages.

Original Japanese story
家賃保証サービス:外国人向けに実施 NPOが団体設立
毎日新聞 2010年1月5日







15 comments on “Mainichi: New real estate guarantor service set up for NJ residents

  • One of the many big problems with the residential leasing system in Japan is that it is so damn difficult and expensive to evict anyone – even if they have not paid their rent or other fees for a long period. Landlords want to avoid this at all costs, which is why they want to make sure that (a) the person they are renting to is reliable and not likely to skip out on paying the rent, and (b) they have another recourse even if the renter proves unreliable. Major legal reform is definitely needed in this area, including (i) clear, streamlined and inexpensive procedures for eviction if the tenant breaches the lease; (ii) a rental board of some kind to hold the rental deposit and arbitrate over any disputes once the lease finishes (to prevent landlords from unfairly holding onto the rental deposit); (iii) abolishment of fees like key money, renewal fees, and anything else the purpose of which is unclear. If the landlords had the security of knowing there was an easy system to fix any problems, they might be much more willing to rent to foreigners and other Japanese who also have a hard time renting (part-time workers, people who work in certain industries (believe it or not, lawyers sometimes have a hard time finding a place to rent!!) and anyone without a guarantor).

  • Yes, the housing system is in need of some serious change. Discriminating and expensive should not be words used to describe the system. I’m glad this service is available.

  • I used a service similar. The company Recruit offers the same, 100,000 yen application fee and 10,000 yen a year. They did credit checks and wanted a another family member (not my wife) to co-sign the guarantee as well (pretty crap).

  • Now what are they going to do about the landlors who won’t take gurantor companies? (Or is this set up so that an individual’s name goes down as the guarantor?)

    The system is deifnitely in need of reform… but the idea that land is the only real investment, and landowners a kind of aristocracy still very much exists here. This is a great step in the right direction as far as helping people who are being needlessly victimized.

  • Without hard evidence, it’s tough to tell how many of NJ skip out on rent or do bad things with their apartments.

    I have a feeling it’s a very small minority, who become the caricature for every foreigner trying to rent in Japan.

    The Land and House Lease Law has many favorable protections for tenants, and should apply whether someone is Japanese or non-Japanese.

    I am sure there are other ways to regulate situations with tenants who do something against the contract. Everyone should be able to rent under the same set of rules. Anything else invites Japanese “shades of gray”, which are always painted agains the non-Japanese person’s interests.

  • Kimberly, that’s one of those odd problems. You have a limited resource (with the exception of some of the Pacific islands they aren’t making more land) and a basic human need (some form of housing). The problem is how do you find an equitable middle ground between the people who have invested in land and those who need housing.

    Do you suggest a socialist/communist approach where all the land is owned by the state such as China where your whole community could be flooded and you forced to relocate at the whim of the state?

    Or do you suggest something more like India where squatters can basically take over property at will and are impossible to evict?

    That is ultimately the problem in a society where laws are enforced (and part of the problem in Japan is that the laws really do favor the tenant which is why Landlords are so selective in their renting practices) how do you incentivise the haves to allow access to that resource to the have-nots? After all if you remove the profit incentive (you make it more expensive to rent the property to someone than it would be to leave it vacant) you get rid of part of the problem – noone willing to rent out their property means no discrimination in renting practices right?

    I guess that depends on whether you happen to be one of the people who has saved and invested (or even inherited) in property or if you haven’t. It’s amazing what that one little change will do to your outlook on the “social justice” of landlord-tenant relations (obviously I am not supporting “bad” landlords but “bad” tenants are just as much of a problem – for instance do you think this is “fair” that squatters can basically blackmail a hotel into paying them to leave).

  • I’m really divided on this- on one hand a service (albeit for profit) that helps people get access to housing seems a positive step.
    And it might be peripherally important in highlighting discriminatory practices.

    On the other hand, doesn’t this in certain ways, by recognizing a two-tier system, in some ways condone or even reinforce discrimination:

    “OK, we’ll take Koreans and Chinese because they are coming via this service.”

    I think, paradoxically perhaps, such services could even be a retrograde step?

    Forgive me for being a bit utopian, because I am sure some people would be glad to get a better place through such services, but I think others would also find it offensive- you know, you got this place thanks to the service…

    mmm, doesn’t leave a good taste in my mouth…

  • How many readers here have actually had to go to 15 or more agents before they would find one that would handle them? I have had a total of one landlord turn me down (when I first arrived something like 15 years ago) but no real estate agents. I guess things are different for those who don’t speak the language. I actually had a worse time at agents specializing in foreigners (pricy, lot of extra paperwork). Average of 15 means some people have had to go to 20+ if you take into account people who find a good agent the first or second try…

  • “Without hard evidence, it’s tough to tell how many of NJ skip out on rent or do bad things with their apartments.”

    It seems fairly likely to me that this is just a bog-standard bogeyman trotted out to justify racism, like the hordes of Russian sailors that supposedly ruin onsens, etc etc. The basic facts are clear enough on non-Japanese having a generally lower rate of criminality than the Japanese, it seems implausible that the NJ are a particularly serious problem in these areas, and far more likely that people choose focus on this facet of the offenders when it does happen (as I’m sure it will occasionally with all nationalities) and spread scare stories to bolster their prejudices.

    Incidentally, following a few house-moves in our neighborhood, there have been several faux-pas regarding the trash regime. How I laughed. Thankfully no-one tried to blame the only gaijin in the area.

  • I have not had very good experiences with trying to rent property. Despite having a Japanese family, guarantors, and a job as a public servant, I have been turned down flat by most landlords (only one estate agent though, in general they seem less hung up than the landlords).

    Renting a cheap apartment or mansion is not a problem, but my rejection rate for trying to rent a house is 90% (2 yes and 18 no, for the record), and for renting commercial property is about 50%.

    Given my financial and employment situation, I should be a landlord’s dream tenant. There is definitely something illogical about the above picture.

  • Guarantor companies have been around for a long time. A google search for 保証会社 will undoubtedly turn up many results, and every realtor I’ve been to has been able to refer me to one, and no Japanese ability was required. I use Recruit guarantee for my apartment now. I just had to pay half a month’s rent for two years.

    At least in Osaka, there are a lot of places where guarantors aren’t required or guarantor companies are accepted. You can negotiate with some places and pay guarantee money「保証金」 (and get it refunded) instead of having a guarantor.

    I wonder about the entire 15 realtors thing. It seems far too big of a number, so I wonder if it counts students and unemployed people. When I first needed an apartment, I asked a friend for recommendations (for a realtor) then he made an appointment. The next time, I just sent e-mails to places explaining my situation (that I was a foreigner who spoke Japanese and needed an apartment) and just went with the first place that responded (I e-mailed like 5 places in the space of 20 minutes).

  • Mark in Yayoi says:

    The “15 visits” number makes some sense if it’s the total number of visits to all realtors together, from the first inquiries until the papers are signed. I could easily imagine initial visits to three or four agents, each of which take down the prospective renter’s details and then invite them to visit potential homes. You inspect them, maybe come back with your partner to get their opinion, then after you’ve decided on a place, you visit a few more times to make sure the landlord is doing whatever construction/cleaning work is being promised. It’s easy to get up to 15 visits, particularly if you’re moving within the same city.

    When I moved to Bunkyo-ku, I encountered only one landlord who had a problem with foreigners. All of the other eight to ten places I visited didn’t mind at all. And the room owned by that one prejudiced person wasn’t anything special.

    If only one person in ten dismisses you because of how you were born, those are pretty good odds — you’ll find one idiot in ten in *any* population, no matter what you’re screening for. I was happy to give my business to one of the “normal” 90% who treated me as a valuable customer.

  • “Kimberly, that’s one of those odd problems. You have a limited resource (with the exception of some of the Pacific islands they aren’t making more land) and a basic human need (some form of housing). The problem is how do you find an equitable middle ground between the people who have invested in land and those who need housing.”

    ….I’m obviously not suggesting that all land be state-owned or whatever. I do think that that’s a viable option for some societies but it obviously wouldn’t go down well AFTER people have owned their own property for years, I doubt anyone would consent to losing their land, or even the possiblity of ever owning their own. But I DO think the attitude that landowners can do whatever they want needs to change. It’s one thing to reject a tenant who can’t pay or who violated the contract, another thing entirely to be able to reject someone who DOES have employment, references, etc, based on the color of their skin or the country that issued their passport.

    And this may not hold true nationawide (although I kind of suspect it does), but a quick walk around MY neighborhood at least reveals that most of the apartments, monthly parking lots, etc, have one of about four family names somewhere in the building/parking lot name. “Investing” in the amount of land you’d need to build a fair-sized apartment building probably doesn’t happen all that often around here, I get the impression most of it is inherited. Fair enough, of course people should be able to leave their property to their children… but the amount of POWER that certain people have over the rest of the population based solely on the fact that their ancestors got here first… its a little crazy. Anyway, point is, the law needs to be looking out for the underdog a little more here (as long as the underdog pays his rent and follows the rules of course), and if it WONT, I’m glad there are groups like this one at least doing their small part to pick up the slack.

  • And what about abusive landlords, who make it a habit to bail out on their obligation to refund the 敷金(保証金)to renters, who terminate their contracts, leave the property as they found it, and then return to their home countries? I think there are far more of those than there are NJ who skip the rent. The money required to collect by filing a lawsuit are mostly much higher than the amount due, and the scoundrels among the landlords know it!

    For NJ and J alike, the rental deposit should be held by a third party and should not be accessible unless released by the landlord, or – in case of default on the rent – by court order.

    The guarantor system is designed to save the landlord a few legal hoops by giving him a chance to harass the guarantor instead. A 保証会社 will not be intimidated as easily as a private individual, hence the lack of acceptance in some instances…

    — I’m not sure I understand the first sentence.

  • Getchan replies:

    Hey Debito,

    Pretty simple:

    Many landlords just don’t refund the rental deposit. J and NJ alike run into trouble for phony repair bills (I’ve had 5,000 yen to change a light bulb and others, when I moved out of my Kamakura “office mansion”, among others). I think in 2008 or 2009, a Kyoto court decision put an end to that! And NJ whose residence permits and work permits have expired & who had to leave by a set date, would not have their deposit refunded at all.
    Seen several cases during my tenure with an eikaiwa. Teachers on one-year contracts regularly were cheated out of their deposits – what could they do from back home??? Sue the landlord??? $5K legal fees to collect a $1K rental deposit??
    Easy prey for landlords…

    Hope this clears it up…


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