Finding a home in Japan can be a stressful endeavor, from finding the right agency, to filling out all of the required documentation. But with the right tools and knowhow, the process can go from being a stressful one, to a fun life transition. Whether you’re a first-time mover to Japan, or you’re a veteran planning on making another move, this page will seek to dispel some of those woes regarding housing, while preparing you for your big move.
- An Overview of Rental Housing
- Apartment Size, Rooms, & Measurement Types
- Facilities & Services
- Before Entering into a Lease
- Required Documentation
- Types of Lease Contracts
- Landlord Gratuity [礼金]
- Deposit [敷金]
- Realtor’s Fee
- Lock/Key Exchange Fee
- Initial Cleaning Fee
- Management Fee
- General Terms and Conditions of a Lease
- Payment of Rent
- Lease Termination
- Conditions at the End of the Lease
- Other Things to Register
I. Preface: Company Support
For many newcomers to CC2, your accommodations will often be sorted out before you even arrive in Japan. For this process, CC2 will assign a real estate agency to communicate directly with you. This method is convenient for foreign nationals who have not yet made the move to Japan, as it streamlines a lot of the application process.
- The agency provides you with apartment suggestions that are suited for your specified needs and conditions
- The company and agency will handle your guarantor (more on this below) and some other basic information for your contract
- Your apartment will be ready for you by the time you arrive in Japan.
- Miyoshi, the real estate agency recommended by CC2, will do everything in English, making understanding the content very easy.
However, for CC2 employees that are already in Japan and are trying to move, or for those who simply wish to know the overall process of finding a home in Japan, the information presented here is designed for you. As mentioned above, a lot of the work has been done for you to make your transition easier, but it is not without its demerits.
- You aren’t able to see any of the apartments in person to confirm the size, quality, and general location.
- You can’t speak face-to-face with the real estate agent to discuss conditions in real time, causing the process to take longer, and limiting your search options.
- Unless you know someone Japanese residing in Japan who is also willing to act as your guarantor, the role will most likely be a company employee/manager. This can make the situation quite awkward should you ever decide to leave the company.
With all that said, this page is geared towards helping you find your new apartment from scratch. It will try to explain, in simple terms, how to go about securing rental housing and what rules you need to be aware of when living in Japan.
II. Rental Housing in Japan
When renting a home or apartment in a Japan, you need to sign a lease with a real estate agency (fudosan [不動産] in Japanese). This procedure can be quite different than in other countries, as contracts generally require very specific details that are unique to Japan and its culture.
An Overview of Rental Housing
When you begin your search, there are many different factors to consider in order to find your dream home. Here we’ll discuss things to consider when conducting your search, from rent to size; and from furnishings, to access.
Apartment Size, Rooms, & Measurement Types
- The size of the entire apartment is generally displayed square meters, and this includes every bit of space in the apartment, such as but also the toilet, bathroom, kitchen, closet space, and any other rooms (e.g. 35.2 m2).
- The size of each room however is measured with a unit unique to Japan: the tatami mat. For example, a common apartment bedroom size in Japan is roughly 6 tatami, which when converted to m2 is about 9.6 m2 (conversion rate is approx. 1 tatami = 1.6 m2
- Rooms are categorized as either Japanese style (tatami rooms) or Western style (rooms with floorboards). The terms DK (dining space + kitchen) and LDK (living room, dining space + kitchen) are also often used. DK and LDK do not always mean separate rooms, and can sometimes refer to a shared space that can serve those functions, so it is always recommended to see the apartment in person.
- t is a bit archaic, but the size of a residence can also sometimes utilize the unit type “Tsubo”. One tsubo is about 3.3 m2.
Facilities & Furnishings
- Virtually all rental housing units in Japan are equipped to provide electricity, water, and gas, but it is up to the resident to follow the procedures required to start using these utilities. Many modern apartments have made the switch to all-electric, which replaces
- While there are apartments that are furnished at higher rent prices, in many cases there will be little to NOTHING provided in your new home. Here is a list of most of the things that may not be included:
- Furniture (sofa, bookcases, chairs, tables, bed)
- Lights (bathrooms & kitchen lights are usually installed, but check to make sure)
- Curtains (balcony and other windows)
- Appliances (washing machine, microwaves, ovens/stoves, refrigerator, etc)
- Air Conditioner (Rare, but these apartments are NOT recommended, as you will be forced to buy one on your own, and they are very expensive)
Access is generally the distance or time it takes to walk to the nearest station (e.g. a 15-minute walk from Hakata Station). Keep an eye out for the listed station(s) as those can also include minor stations, and even bus stops (Hakata Station vs Hakata Higashi [bus stop]). The listed times and/or distances are not very accurate though, so if you really are interested in a specific apartment, it is recommended that you test out the distance/time for yourself.
III. Your Apartment Contract
Before Entering into a Lease
When you rent a house or apartment in Japan, you must sign a lease or rental contract (賃貸契約 or “chintai keiyaku” in Japanese). The lease clearly specifies the rights and obligations of both the apartment owner and you, the applicant. Your signature on such a contract is legally binding and indicates that you agree to abide by the terms and conditions listed therein. You should read the contract carefully and have anything you do not fully understand explained to you. It is imperative that you are aware of the type of contract you’re entering into, as well as the documents required for completing it.
The amount of documents required to completing your contract may vary due to the contract type, the owner of the apartment, and the city in which you wish to reside. Such documents may include, but not be limited to:
- Residence Card
- A certificate of income (your company contract will suffice)
- Your personal seal (印鑑 or “Inkan” in Japanese)
- Your personal seal registration certificate (*Generally not a requirement in Fukuoka*)
- A copy of your current Certificate of Residence (住民票or “juminhyo” in Japanese. Only applicable to those already residing in Japan.)
- A guarantor** (a co-signer that will be responsible for the rent, etc. should you fail to pay)
While co-signing isn’t an unheard-of concept abroad, the rules behind the guarantor (保証人”hoshounin” in Japanese) system in Japan can seem a bit archaic and even counter-intuitive, especially for those that are not native Japanese. Though they are used in many different types of contracts, it is most common for foreign residents to come across this system when renting an apartment. Like with co-signers, the guarantor acts as a voucher for the applicant, and will take responsibility for the applicant should they fail to pay their rent on time. The person you may select as your guarantor must meet the following minimum requirements:
- They must be at least 20 years of age
- They must have a stable income (income/workplace documentation may be required)
- They must be a Japanese Native citizen
The first two requirements are relatively standard in any country, but the third requirement is something unique to the country (for obvious reasons). Most foreign residents have no family here, and while it’s not impossible to ask a Japanese friend to vouch for you, you would basically be asking them to take responsibility for you. If you have a mentor or boss that is willing to stand in as your guarantor then you are set. If not, then you might be forced to pay for a third party guarantor company (保証会社 “hoshou gaisha” in Japanese) to vouch for you.
Types of Lease Contracts
- Normal Lease Contracts: As a rule, the same contract is renewed (continued) after the contract period expires. When you renew this type of contract, you may be required to pay a contract renewal fee and other fees. This is the most common type of lease, but it would be wise to confirm this when drawing up the contract. The fee, if one is imposed, can vary from contract to contract, so make sure that you are aware of what is being quoted in your contract.
- Fixed-Term Lease Contracts: After the contract period expires, this type of contract is not renewed automatically. You can enter into a new contract to rent the same unit, however, which typically involves a realtor’s fee and other fees. These have become less common over the years, especially which your average-sized apartments, but it’s worth confirming this with your real estate agent.
IV. Payments Required When Signing a Lease & After
Rent is paid in advance. Therefore, when first moving into a residence, you have to pay 2 months of rent (the current month’s and following month’s rent). Rent is usually paid by way of bank transfer, but paying by cash is also an option if you are local.
A security deposit equivalent to 1–3 months’ rent is given to the landlord. When you move to a new residence, the money is used to pay any outstanding rent, make repairs and clean the house/apartment as necessary. The balance, if any, is refunded* to you when you move out.
As this portion of the lease can vary from apartment to apartment, it is recommended that you narrow your search to apartments that ask for a deposit equal to 1 months’ rent. There are also apartments that require no deposit at all, but in the event that you damage something in the apartment, you can be charged exorbitant amounts of money, so accept at your own risk.
*While it is fairly common overseas to get your deposit back upon ending your lease, it is rather rare to see this money returned to you in Japan. Be sure to confirm this with your agency and landlord.
Landlord Gratuity [礼金]
“Reikin”, also commonly translated as “key money.” This fee is specifically unique to Japan, and is a rather controversial one. It was introduced during the time around the Great Kanto Earthquake in the 1920s, and was used primarily as a means to secure your “key” for your apartment. That’s where the original translation comes from, but as you will already be paying a separate key fee, the significance of this fee has been brought into question in recent years. This fee works similarly to a deposit in that you will pay anywhere form 1~3 month’ rent. This can stack with the deposit fee as well, driving the price up to absurd amounts.
- 50,000 yen apartment (100,000 yen with second month’s rent)
- Deposit: 2 months (100,000 yen)
- Gratuity: 2 months (100,000 yen)
- Sub-total: 300,000 yen
With all other fees: (AT LEAST 400,000 yen)
Fortunately, this is also something you can change in your search conditions. There are apartments which require no gratuity at all, and while it may limit your search options a bit, there are no other major drawbacks to requesting to pay zero gratuity.
Not to be confused with the old translation for the gratuity, this fee ACTUALLY is related to the keylock which you will use upon moving it. While it can vary depending on a number of factors (lock type, apartment type, location, etc.), it will generally cost between 20,000~30,000 yen. This is usually non-negotiable.
This is the commission paid to the real estate agency. In principle, the tenant and landlord each the agency pay the equivalent of half a month’s rent, making a total of 1 month. However, if both parties agree, the proportion paid by each party may be changed. While this is not guaranteed, this fee often becomes easier to negotiate the longer your relationship with your agency continues, so it is recommended to go through the same agency for every move to benefit from this.
Rent and Management Fee (AFTER Moving in)
Rent: To be paid monthly in advance by the date agreed to in the lease.
Management Fee: A management or common service fee is added to the rent. These fees pay for the cleaning and electric bills of common facilities. Depending on the apartment, it can vary between a few hundred yen to several thousand. It’s common to see a 50,000 yen/month apartment have around a 2~3000 yen management fee (in which case you can think of the total rent as 53,000 yen/month in this example.
V. Obeying the Contract
General Terms and Conditions of a Lease
Now that you’ve signed your contract, it’s time to move in! But just make sure that you hold up your end of your lease. Here are some things to keep in mind in order to keep your landlord off your back!
Payment of Rent
As stated before, rent must be paid one month in advance by the date stated in the lease. It is recommended to set up auto-payments from your bank account directly with your real estate agency. You may be required to register the agency at your bank as well.
You cannot allow anyone other than family members to live with you without the prior consent of your landlord. Living together before marrying is a common practice overseas, but many landlords still assume that couples are married when they move in together. As such, you must fill out the application together. If one of the co-signers is a resident of Japan Regardless of income, the head of the household will generally go to the Japanese resident, so this will affect who will the main signee and what documents will be required of you individually.
You cannot sublet the property or any part thereof to a third person. Breaking this rule will result in a breach of contract, and you will subsequently be forced to vacate the apartment.
Renovating and Redecorating: You must obtain permission before renovating (e.g. installing electrical and gas lines, demolishing walls, or putting holes in walls) or redecorating (e.g. replacing wallpaper).
Should you want to terminate the lease prior to its full term, you must give your landlord advanced notice. If you move without informing the landlord of your intention to do so or wait until just before you move, your deposit might not be refunded. There is generally a one-month window in which you can cancel your contract without any repercussions (1 month prior to its renewal). Most contracts also stipulate a cancellation fee that will incur in the event that you try to end it outside of that 1-month window, as well as any “extra” rent to reflect the time after your last payment.
Conditions at the End of the Lease
As mentioned earlier, be aware that there are instances where deposits are not returned, and exorbitant cleaning charges are made at the end of leases. You should agree as to what fees will be required at the end of the lease before you sign.
Most landlords do not allow pets. If you want to keep one, please tell your real estate agent before you enter into a rental agreement, and make sure that the rental agreement allows pets.
VI. Things to Do After Moving In
- Electricity: For first timers, you will initially have to set up billing with the electric company in charge of your building. In most cases they will contact you to confirm your name and details, so be sure to answer the phone call. For CC2’s recommended agency, the procedure is automated, and you will start receiving your bills in the mail regularly. Payments can be made at any major convenience store, and you can also request automatic withdrawals from your account by filling out an application for it. In other instances, you may have to call the electric power company yourself and set up a date for them to turn on the power for you.
Turn on any breaker or fuse switches after you move in.
- Water: CC2 will also have this automated for newcomers, but a worker from the water division of the district you reside in will have to physically come and turn the water on for you, and they may contact you to set up a date for that. Make sure to choose a date and time that you can be present when they do so, as your presence is often required. This is generally the same regardless of what agency you go through.
- Gas (if applicable): Similarly to water, the city’s gas company will contact you and try to set up a date to come and turn on the gas for you, so make sure you’re present at that time.
Other Things to Register
- City Office/Ward Office: After utilities, one of the first things you should do is register at the nearest City/Ward Office, as this will make help with many other aspects of your life in Japan, most notably your Certificate of Residence. (See “Necessary Documents” for more)
- Cell Phone: This is only for those who are already on a phone plan in Japan. Call the telephone company you currently have a contract with, and inform them that you’re moving and give them your new address.
- Mail: For new comers, if you have completed your registration at the City Office/Ward Office If you notify the post office that you are moving, they will forward your mail to your new address for one year.
- Personal seal registration: When you move to a new municipality, you should re-register your personal seal at the office of your new city, ward, town, or village. If you have a personal seal but have not registered it yet, then this step can be ignored.
All images are for illustrative purposes only. Photo credit: pixabay.com