YOU ARE PROTECTED BY TENANCY LAW
The first thing that you need to know is that the law is on your side.
You may well be living in “company housing”, and you may well have signed a contract that had a “tenancy agreement” (or something similar) written into it – but this is Japan, laws supersede company rules, and you can’t sign your rights away in Japan.
No matter how loud or intimidating a company might get, and no matter how many times they might invoke “the agreement” or “the contract” or “the understanding”, the law is the law is the law, and Japanese tenancy laws are about as strong as they get.
If you live in company organised housing, and you have a lease-contract*, you are a tenant, and you are protected by tenancy law (especially if you’re paying rent at market rates).
TO BE (EVICTED) OR NOT TO BE (EVICTED)
To begin with, if you have a lease-contract*, your company or landlord (henceforth referred to as the lessor) can’t evict you on a whim, no matter what they claim.
However, let’s say that your (former) manager is a particularly obstinate person who’s ignorance of the law is equal only to their penchant for bullying people that dare question her unwarranted self-importance.
This manager claims that they can “legally” evict you by the end of the week.
Your ex-manager. Probably.
The Act on Land and Building Leases disagrees:
In cases where the building lessor has submitted a request for termination of the lease, the building lease shall be terminated by reason of the passage of six months from the day the request for termination was made.
A lessor has to give a tenant six months of eviction notice.
This is a mandatory provision (Article 30).
In addition, the eviction notice begins as of the date of notification – it is not retroactive.
However, just giving notice of tenancy contract termination isn’t enough to evict a tenant.
Should the tenant refuse the termination, the lessor will need a court order.
(Note: Article 617 (1) of the Civil Code actually states that a lessor must give only three months of notice. However, in this case, the Act on Land and Building Leases supersedes the Civil Code.)
LESSORS VS TENANTS
In regards to tenancy contracts, both the tenant and the lessor can request a contract termination at any time.
In such a case, it is possible for a tenancy contract to be terminated if both parties agree on the conditions of the contract’s termination.
However, the lessor cannot themselves terminate a contract without the agreement of the tenant.
If the tenant refuses to accept the eviction notice, the eviction notice is rendered invalid.
Even after an eviction notice has been served, if the tenant refuses to leave the residence by the final date of the eviction notice, the eviction notice is rendered invalid.
A contract termination is only valid if a tenant agrees to it OR if a court finds the termination to be valid.
In such a situation (and assuming that other attempts at conciliation have failed), thanks to the “just cause” doctrine, a court order is the only way a lessor can evict a tenant against their will.
(Note: If a court finds the tenancy contract termination from the lessor to be valid, there is no defense available for a tenant against an eviction.)
THE “JUST CAUSE” DOCTRINE
The “just cause” doctrine is a very important, very pro-tenant/anti-eviction element of Japanese tenancy law that is essentially a comparison of the needs and necessities of both of the landlord in consideration of tenancy law.
The prior contract history between the tenant and the lessor, the conditions of the building’s use, the state of the building, the reasons behind the termination request, are all taken into consideration by a court to determine if the “just cause” of the tenancy contract termination is valid or not.
For example, if a lessor wishes to terminate a tenancy contract because the building in which the tenant is residing is about to collapse (e.g. due to age or natural disasters), a court may find that to be an acceptable “just cause” for termination.
If a tenant is using their residence for criminal-related activities, then a court may also find that to be “just cause” for termination.
However, “leave because we said so” is not something that would be valid under the considerations of the “just cause” doctrine, no matter how much noise a lessor may make about it.
This is all detailed by Article 28 of the Act on Land and Building Leases:
The notice on the part of the building lessor set forth in Article 26, paragraph (1) may not be given, and a request to terminate a building lease may not be made, unless it is found, upon consideration of the prior history in relation to the building lease, the conditions of the building’s use, the current state of the building and, in cases where the building lessor has offered payment to the building lessee as a condition for surrendering the buildings or in exchange for surrendering the buildings, the consideration of said offer, that there are justifiable grounds for doing so in addition to the circumstances pertaining to the necessity of using the buildings on the part of the building lessor and the lessee (including the sub-lessee; hereinafter the same shall apply in this Article).
Notice that Article 28 includes mention of “the sub-lessee“.
In this case, the “sub-lessee” would be a company that is subleasing an apartment to a third party (for example: Amity to an employee of Amity, via a contract between Amity and the real estate agency).
In this regard, it is very clearly stated that companies must also adhere to law instead of attempting to create their own rules and regulations.
Claims of “but it’s company housing though” do not circumvent the Act on Land and Building Leases in any way, shape, or form.WHAT TO DO IF YOU’RE BEING EVICTED
All of this leads us to one important question: “What do I do if I’m being evicted (and don’t want to leave)?”
If you’re a member of the General Union, you should (of course) notify the General Union of the situation so we can assist you.
If you’re not a member of the General Union (seriously: join a union before you need a union), please be aware that while we may do our best to help you with your situation, we are not “cheap lawyers for hire”, and priority will be given to union members.
In either case, you should not voluntarily vacate your home, nor should you voluntarily permit any representative from a company or realtor entry into your residence.
This is important: no matter what is written in the employment contract, and no matter what people might tell you, no one can enter your residence without your permission under any circumstances (short of life-or-death situations).
Entering someone’s residence without their permission is absolutely a crime (and is well defined as such in the Japanese Penal Code).
Should anyone threaten to enter your residence without your permission, inform them that you will contact the police should they attempt to do so.
Refuse to accept phone calls if possible.
All contact should be conducted via e-mail so that you are able to keep a record of what the company is saying and/or threatening.
Inform the company of your refusal to accept the termination of the tenancy contract, and make it known that you are aware of your rights as a tenant.
Be calm, professional, and succinct in regards to what you write – foul language and ranting walls of text will not serve you well in any capacity, and you don’t want to give the company ammunition to use against you.
Continue to pay rent if possible.
If it is not possible to pay rent, try to contact the actual building owner and/or realtor company and inform them of the situation.
If it is still not possible to pay rent, keep the rent that you should have been paying in a separate account (i.e. pay the rent to yourself) so that the money is there when needed.
If they do not have a court order for your removal from the residence and/or termination of the tenancy contract (and, again, that could take more than six months), there is nothing that they can do to you without entering into criminal conduct (which further weakens their case).
If all else fails, pay for the services of an actual lawyer.
Should a company dismiss and then subsequently attempt to evict you from your residence (even if they call it “company housing”), or try to evict you after you have ended employment with them, Article 27, Article 28, and Article 30 of the Act on Land and Building Leases protect you from eviction.
Should a lessor wish to evict you, they must give you six months of advance notification.
In such a case, if an agreement between the lessor and the tenant is not possible, the matter must be taken to court.
If the matter is taken to court, the lessor must provide “just cause” for tenancy contract termination.
What the lessor considers to be “just cause” may not be considered “just cause” by a court.
These are the steps that a lessor (in this example, a company) must go through to lawfully terminate a tenancy contract.
Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
That being said, reaching such a conclusive verdict takes a lot of time, money, and effort on the lessor’s part, and is certainly not as simple as the “get out” demand that companies wish they could enforce.
While Article 27, Article 28, and Article 30 may be strongest defense against eviction, they are by no means the only protection that a tenant has from an overzealous lessor.
For example, the length of a tenancy contract is also a consideration, but these additional defense mechanisms are beyond the scope of this article.
Simply put: a lessor can huff, and a lessor can puff, but a lessor cannot – in practice – blow your house down.
* This article concerns lease-contracts, which are the most common form of contracts in regards to housing in Japan. If (due to special circumstances) you do not have a lease-contract with your company, and/or you are not paying rent, things can become much more complicated. In these cases, you will need a lawyer.
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