In this article, we explain what a stigmatized (jiko bukken) property is in Japan and whether you can get a big bargain by renting one. Also, how do you go about renting a jiko bukken?
What is a “Jiko Bukken” Stigmatized Property?
A property where the former tenant died of unnatural causes, such as suicide, murder or neglect is known as a jiko bukken (事故物件) or a stigmatized property.
For two years after such a death occurs in the property, landlords are required to inform potential renters of the incident. As these are perceived as properties that some renters may feel reluctant to live in, popular rumor has it that landlords are often obliged to give sizable discounts to attract tenants.
Erik Oskamp, a long-time real estate agent in Tokyo, in this article (“A tale of a haunted apartment in Tokyo: Renting out a stigmatized property“) says that landlords are often obliged to give discounts of thirty percent to make their properties competitive on the market.
So is it true that you can get a bargain by renting a stigmatized property?
How big a bargain can I get by renting a stigmatized property?
Based on research done by Mansion Market Lab (マンションくらし研究所), the short answer is that you can get a discount of about 20 percent on a typical stigmatized property, compared to a similar property in the same neighborhood, especially for small studio apartments.
One example from the study looked at comparable rent for a particular stigmatized property in Ikebukuro with these characteristics: a 14-year old 7th-floor 12-sqm studio apartment located 9-min from the station. It was not specified whether the unit was a 1K or 1R layout. The property was listed with asking rent of ¥85,000 per month. Data was pulled for properties with similar characteristics, as these are the main determinants of how properties are priced for rent. The study found that comparable (non-stigmatized) properties were priced at between ¥80,000 and ¥100,000 per month, suggesting that the discount for the stigmatized property was about 20 percent., which is not a small discount on your monthly rent.
However, another takeaway from the data is that a stigmatized property is not always the best bargain in the neighborhood.
In the example above, there were three comparable properties that had asking rents of ¥80,000, ¥81,000, and ¥83,000 (all below the ¥85,000 monthly rent for the stigmatized property).
How can I search for stigmatized properties?
There is a sub-question associated with the question of “how to search for stigmatized properties” so that you can find a potential bargain, which is “how do I know if an unusual death has occurred at a property I’m thinking of renting?”.
How do I know if an unusual death has occurred at a property I’m thinking of renting?
When you rent an apartment in Japan, you will be given a disclosure document called the 重要事項説明書Juuyoujikousetsumeisho or juusetsu), or Explanation of Important Matters. By law, the agent must give you this written document and explain the contents to you verbally. As mentioned above, the landlord or property manager is required to disclose to you whether someone has died of unnatural causes in the property.
One line item in the Explanation of Important Matters is called “告知事項あり” (or “there is a notification item”).
When you see this (告知事項あり) in the disclosure document, the notification will usually indicate that there is a “重要な事” (“important thing”, which is a euphemism for “事故物件であること” (“This is a stigmatized property”). Another euphemism used to describe a stigmatized property is “心理的瑕疵あり” (literally, “there is a psychological defect”).
In general, an important thing to know about renting in Japan is that tenants enjoy very strong protections under Japanese law.
The Explanation of Important Matters disclosure document and verbal explanation are meant to provide you with all the information you need to know before you rent a property. If you feel uncomfortable about anything that is explained to you by the agent during the final document signing, you should not hesitate to ask. It’s a big commitment to rent an apartment for two years (which is the usual lease term in Japan), and you should never sign anything unless you are completely ok with the financial (and possibly pyschological!) responsibility.
Finding a stigmatized property to rent
If you are ok with living in a stigmatized property and want to try to find one to rent, the best online resource is a website called 大島てる or oshimaland.co.jp (in Japanese) and oshimaland.com (in English), which allows anyone to submit incident reports of stigmatized properties worldwide. The results are mapped onto a Google map interface. The map defaults to New York, but you can simply click over to Japan.
The website is searchable in both Japanese and English. In both versions, you can zoom in on stigmatized properties by clicking on the “fire” symbol. The property address will be displayed plus the date on which the death occurred, as well as a brief description of what happened. However, the information is displayed only in Japanese (in both the Japanese and English versions of the site).
The next step would be to find a real estate agent who would be willing to make inquiries to the property owner on your behalf, or to help you find the listing (if there is one) in the rental property database for your region (eastern or western Japan). In Japan, unlike in many western countries, it is almost unheard of to rent directly from a landlord without going through an intermediary agent.
In summary, it is possible to find a stigmatized property on your own, but the process of renting one will involve working with a conventional real estate agent.
Here is a nationwide list of English-speaking real estate agents who currently list properties on Real Estate Japan: English-speaking real estate agents in Japan
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