Know your rights as a tenant in Japan: Introducing the principles of “Tokyo Rule”

Your Japan Properties
Your Japan Properties
Published on July 8, 2018

How many of you had a problem with high repair costs when moving out from an apartment in Japan?

We have witnessed many cases like this in our practice. A lot of people are not aware of their tenant rights, and many of them end up paying huge fees for the damage that they did not cause or were not responsible for. In Japan Properties Co. Ltd., we believe that we can challenge the existing state of affairs by providing foreign nationalities living in Japan with trustworthy and helpful information. Thus, seeing how the rights of the people are violated, we decided to dedicate today’s topic to the tenant’s rights and introduce the principles of Tokyo Rule.


1. What is “Key Money” and “Deposit Money” and why do I have to pay for them?

First of all, let us briefly explain the meaning of “key money” and “deposit money” mention of which can suddenly raise tension in the room. 😀

From the early 90s, the shikikin and reikin fees are losing their influence. Currently, there are properties which do not require any “key money” or “security deposit.” It is slowly becoming a dying custom. However, unfortunately, most of the central residential areas come with these fees because they are in high demand.

礼金・権利金 – れいきん・けんりきん – Reikin・Kenrikin – Reikin is considered to be “key money,” which you give your landlord as a “thank you” for letting you rent his house/apartment. This money is not coming back after moving out.

敷金 – しききん – Shikikin – Security deposit – the money you give to the landlord at the commencement of the rental period. For example, in a situation when you are required to pay for any damage that you cause intentionally or accidentally the repair cost will be deducted from Shikikin.

If there is a need for repair/cleaning expenses at the time of moving out from the apartment, the amount will be deducted, and the remainder will be refunded when you leave. However, due to the difference in recognition between the owner and the tenant, there are many issues of “deposit checkout at the time of move out.” The Japanese government protects vulnerable and urges tenants from the potential pitfalls and scams. To avoid such troubles, Tokyo Metropolitan Government issued the “Leased housing conflict prevention ordinance” so-called “Tokyo Rule,”  which came into effect from the new lease contract after October 1, 2004.


2. What is Tokyo Rule?

  1. The principal of the Tokyo rule is that the owner collects rent which includes maintenance cost of the building and the room. The owner is obliged to keep the place to a standard which is habitable for humans.

For example, the apartment would need air conditioning unit installed because summer heat in Tokyo is unbearable. If the aircon breaks then the owner is responsible for repairing it because it is the part of the house/apartment. It is his/her duty to provide the reasonably comfortable living environment. The same rule applies to the water heating unit break down in winter.

  1. Tenant is not responsible for the usual wear and tears in the room. The owner cannot charge you for the full replacement of the wallpaper because of minor scratch and mark. You may be partially responsible and will need to contribute the repair cost of the damaged part.


3. What is Depreciation Table?

As a part of the “Tokyo Rule” government set a depreciation table, which is reflected in this document.

Let’s take a wallpaper as an example. It depreciates from 100% to 0% in six years. In other words, wallpaper loses its value after some time due to normal wear and tear. Therefore, an owner can not charge for repair cost after you lived in the apartment for six years because the wallpaper already lost its value. If you lived for four years, theoretically, the ⅓ of the value remains. If you damaged the wallpaper, you need to replace the injured section of wallpaper. Therefore, the price for replacing a part of the wallpaper – 2/3 of the depreciated cost.


4. How to Prevent Misunderstanding and Potential Pitfalls?

According to Tokyo Rule, before moving in, there must be an initial check of the apartment condition conducted by the property management company. You should receive a check sheet to write every damage what was there before and even take photos if necessary. If there is even a scratch and you are not responsible for it, it must be written on the check sheet. Both parties should keep the copy of the checklist and photos. On the moving out day, you will meet with the Property Management staff. They will go through the rooms to check if there is any damage that is not included in the check-list. Having this document will prevent both parties from any misunderstandings.

In addition to this, try to settle the apartment check date ASAP to be sure that you have enough time to solve any issue. The residential lease agreement typically requires you to give one month notice to the owner before moving out. You need to provide a written notice with the relocation date, which you can not change. The company is most likely to plan a repair work on your move out day. Therefore, they will make the necessary arrangements right after you send them the notice. If you contact the owner approximately one month prior, then you still have enough time if they ask you to fill in any documents. And the management company have some room to discuss the issue with the landlord as well.


5. Conclusion.

Finally, it is beneficial to familiarise yourself with the “Tokyo Rule” issued by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government. Unfortunately, currently, it is available in Japanese language only. We have translated at our own risk the section of “Tokyo Rule” which reflects who is responsible for what type of damage – tenant or lender.

It might seem that it is the tenant who is responsible for any damage, but it is not that straightforward. “Tokyo Rule” shows that there are different levels and types of damage and lender cannot charge the tenant for usual wear and tear. The following is a translation made by our team, so we apologize in advance for any errors, omissions, or ambiguities. We hope that you will find it useful and it will help you to understand the basic principles of the “Tokyo Rule.”




Download the Tokyo Rule Translation PDF file

We hope that this article would be useful for all foreign nationalities living in Japan! Please feel free to contact us with any question related to this topic. We would be more than happy to assist you!

Disclaimer: No liability is assumed by Japan Properties Co., Ltd. for any errors, omissions, or ambiguities in the translations provided on this website. Any person or entity that relies on translated content does so at their own risk.

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