Common obstacles can include:
(1) casual discrimination due to landlords having the right to rent to whomever they wish, excluding foreigners, the elderly, the disabled, same-sex couples, and even single women, if they don’t fit with the residence’s “image”;
(2) the requirement of a financially reliable guarantor (often Japanese);
(3) outrageous “start-up” fees including (but not limited to) security deposits, key money, gratitude payments, and commissions;
(4) renewal fees; and
(5) manipulative contracts that illegally force restoration responsibilities upon the tenant rather than the landlord.
For a foreign resident, many of these issues can be mitigated by allowing their employer to act as their guarantor. However, while this may provide the foreign resident peace of mind in the beginning, these kinds of relationships can often turn sour later down the road. In addition, the employer may impose special rules upon the tenant – often illegally – which can restrict their freedoms and tenancy rights.
For example, an employer can give an employee a choice to either live where the employer tells them to live, or have the employer withdraw their support as a guarantor entirely. The author of this article in particular was once told that he was “free to change apartments” as he saw fit, but that his employer “would not act as guarantor”, effectively limiting his options.
More egregiously, an employer will often demand that the employee / tenant adhere to special “Housing Contracts”, complete with clauses, rules, and regulations, that the tenant may not realise are unenforcible – if not outright illegal.
While tenancy rights are not a labor issue per se, the General Union has experienced many instances in which an employer – upset at an employee’s freedom to speak with a union or exert their civil rights to improve their working conditions – will seek to undermine the employee’s residence status as a means to intimidate them into backing down.
At the time of writing, the General Union was aware of a non-union member who, after providing thirty days of notice to his employer, was being asked to vacate his apartment (and return his rental car) a full ten days before his employment contract’s date of termination (which, for the record, has little bearing on someone’s right to remain in an apartment).
For an even greater example, let’s not forget that the situation in Takatsuki between the city government and the city’s former Assistant English Teachers was sparked by a disagreement over housing conditions to begin with.
Therefore, the purpose of this series of articles about tenancy rights will attempt to inform and education people about their rights in relation to dubious housing contracts and what protection the law provides to tenants, regardless of their employment situation, so that people can feel empowered to fight back against power harassment and intimidation.
Japan is a country in which tenancy laws are very strong and protective of tenants. We hope that you will never need to call upon this information, but equally hope that it will be useful in the event that you do.
Is your company threatening you with eviction? Have they demanded that you vacate your apartment as a condition of ending an employment contract? Let the GENERAL UNION know about these unfair practices at:
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