Parking Spaces in Japanese Condominium Buildings Explained

If you have a car, a parking space is an essential consideration when buying an apartment in a condominium building. And even if you aren’t a car owner now, you may want to plan ahead just in case.

In this post, we explain how parking spaces work in condominium buildings, the different types of parking structures, and how the lack of a parking space or too many vacant spaces in a building can affect you as the owner of an apartment.

A parking space is not guaranteed when you buy a condominium

Japan’s Building Law does not require developers to include a parking lot or parking spaces in a condominium building. However, many local governments have ordinances that stipulate a parking space ratio for multi-family dwellings. So whether an apartment building has a parking lot and how may spaces are available depends on the municipality.

In Japan, the 23 Wards of Tokyo are infamous for the paucity of pay-to-park spaces. The national average for a monthly parking space in a lot is about ¥8,300 ($75 USD). The average for the 23 Wards is between ¥30,000 and ¥40,000, depending on the ward; as can be expected, the more central the location, the higher the parking rate.

Parking off-site from your home can be an inconvenient and expensive prospect, but it may also be unavoidable if you’re living in the city-center and your building doesn’t have a parking lot.

The percentage of newly constructed condominium buildings in the Tokyo metropolitan area with a parking lot peaked at about 77.3% in 2007 and has been steadily declining year by year. In 2013, less than 50% of condominium buildings in metropolitan Tokyo had a parking lot and in the first half of 2017 (the latest data available), only about 42.2% of new condo buildings did.

One of the main reasons for this is that car ownership among young people is declining; as demand for parking spaces is forecast to be on a downward trend, developers will tend to build fewer of them in apartment buildings.

In the suburbs and rural areas, however, where the price of land is much less expensive, there are many condominium buildings where the parking lot can accommodate more than 100% of the actual number of apartment units in the buildings (so your guests can park their car on-site!)

When you are buying an apartment

When you buy an apartment in a pre-owned condominium building with a limited number of parking spaces, a space may not be available at the time you purchase the property. In newly constructed buildings where there are fewer parking spaces than the number of unit owners, parking spaces are often assigned by lottery. In these cases, you will have to contract at an off-site pay-to-park lot in order to park your car until a space opens up in the building.

Parking rights

“Parking rights” in condominium buildings are assigned either by “for rent” or “for sale”.

Parking spaces in condominium buildings are considered part of the common area, which means that every unit holder in the building technically has a right to use the space, but depending on the management association’s rules, the actual parking space will either be rented or sold to a unit owner who wishes to park there.

In buildings that use the “for rent” method, unit holders who want to use the parking lot must pay a monthly parking fee to the building management association. The monthly parking fee for condominiums in the Tokyo 23 Wards, varies widely, from about ¥3,000 to over ¥80,000, but the average is about ¥30,000 to ¥50,000, about in line with the cost at very central pay-to-park lots.

In buildings where a sparking space is “for sale,” the parking space is, obviously, sold along side the apartment. There is no monthly parking fee, but the purchaser of the parking space has to pay the actual purchase price of the space, as well as the registration fees and property taxes associated with the space. It is more common, however, for building management associations to rent, rather than sell parking spaces.

Vacant spaces and under usage of parking spaces in condo buildings and how it affects owners

As car ownership declines and car sharing increases, the demand for parking spaces in condominium buildings will also tend to decline, but if you are a current car owner who is also an apartment owner, you may be negatively affected in the short run.

Parking lot usage fees are an income stream for the building management association and are set aside for management costs and repair reserves for the building.

If you live in a building where there are many vacant parking spaces, the forecast parking fees may not actually cover the actual cost of managing and repairing the parking structure. This is especially the case for mechanical multi-story parking structures, where the repair cost is very high. The Ministry of Land estimates that the monthly repair cost for one parking space in a 4-level “lifting and traversing” mechanical parking structure to be about ¥14,000 ($126 USD). If the building association cannot cover the repair costs due to too many vacant parking spaces, the building may actually discontinue maintaining the parking structure.

Parking lot types in condominium buildings

Flat parking lot

Flat parking lots are the most common type of parking spaces in condominium buildings. Basically, this is your typical parking lot built on flat land.

The advantages of flat lots are that you can park any type of vehicle in them and that it is easy to access your vehicle. There’s no need to operate a mechanical lift, for example, as in multi-story parking structures. It is also relatively inexpensive to maintain them, since there are no moving parts. The main disadvantage of a flat lot is that most of them are uncovered, which exposes your car to the elements.

Due to the lack of land, however, flat parking lots are uncommon in Tokyo city-center condominium buildings.

In some apartment buildings, there is both a flat parking lot and mechanical multi-story parking lot available to residents, but the former is usually preferred, so the usage fee for flat lot spaces is usually much higher.

Multi-story parking lot

A multi-story parking lot is basically a stacked parking structure, similar to those found at large shopping centers and airports. In condominium buildings, they are either separate structures or built in the sub-basement levels of the apartment building itself.

The advantages of multi-story parking structures are that they are have a roof (except for the top-level of free-standing ones), so your car will not be exposed to the elements. It is also relatively easy to access your vehicle and the lot can handle all vehicle types.

The main disadvantage is that you may have to walk a ways, up or down a slope, to get to and from your car!

Mechanical multi-level parking lot

A mechanical multi-level parking structure is a parking lot that uses a machine to elevate or move cars in and out of a multi-story parking structure.

This type of parking structure has the advantage of providing a roof for the vehicle. You car will also be less likely to be scratched or bumped by another car compared to parking in a flat parking lot. However, a disadvantage is that it may take some time to park your car and then to access it because of the time involved in lifting and moving the vehicle. Mechanical parking structures are also limited in their ability to accommodate very large or tall vehicles.


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Lead photo: Mechanical parking structure in Shinagawa, Tokyo. iStock Credit:iam555man 687347626

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