How to Live in a Japanese Apartment

When something breaks in your rental apartment in Japan: Who is responsible for fixing it?

In this article, which is part of the series on “how to live in a Japanese apartment,” we discuss what to do when equipment, such as an air conditioning unit or cooking range, breaks. Who should you call to fix it? And who is responsible for paying for the repair?

What you are responsible for

In your rental apartment, you are responsible for generally keeping your apartment clean and  for changing the lightbulbs for interior lighting fixtures, the batteries for remote controls and smoke alarms, and cleaning the filters in your air conditioner and range hood.

What your landlord is responsible for

But who is responsible when something actually breaks?

Most often, this question is asked with respect to air conditioner units, especially in the summer (and especially this summer), when many of us running air conditioning non-stop. Not meaning to be condescending, but before assuming that your air conditioner is actually broken, first check that it isn’t something else. Make sure it’s plugged in (sometimes the plug can get dislodged if you have it plugged in behind a tall cabinet), clean the filters, and make sure that there isn’t anything blocking the exterior part of the air conditioner, which is usually located on your balcony.

If it is actually broken, then it’s time to contact your building’s property management company. If you have an on-site building manager, it’s easiest to ask that person first.

エアコンは壊れているようですEakon wa kowarete iru yōdesu: My air conditioner seems to be broken.

The building manager may be able to fix it for you or they will call the property management (PM) company on your behalf.

If you don’t have an on-site building manager, you will have to call the PM company yourself. The PM company’s contact info is often posted somewhere on the first floor of your building. If not, look through the stack of papers that you received when you signed your lease for the word 管理会社 (kanri kaisha), which means “(property) management company”.

The PM will call a repair company. The repair company may contact you directly to set up an appointment for a repair person to come. They may also as for the manufacturer, model number, and the error code that is displayed on the remote control unit.

If the repair requires multiple visits,  you might be caught in the middle of winter without heating or the in the middle of summer with cooling. Some repair companies will actually let you borrow a floor fan or small heating unit if the repair takes an extended period. This is something you can ask your PM to inquire about or you can ask the repair company if you are in direct contact with them.

Who is responsible for paying repair fees

The answer to this is not as straightforward as it may first appear.

Your landlord is responsible for paying repair fees for any equipment that they own, as described in your lease. However, if the previous tenant of your apartment installed equipment which they then left in the property, your landlord is not responsible for maintaining it or paying to repair it.

For example, if the previous tenant installed a second air conditioning unit (in the bedroom, for example) and moved out without having it uninstalled and this unit breaks down, you would have to pay to have it repaired yourself.

GaijinPot Housing Service

If something breaks in your apartment, let the GaijinPot Housing Service handle it for you! The GaijinPot Housing Service is a bilingual full-service rental housing option for foreigners who want to rent an apartment in Japan without having to deal with the language barrier. With the GaijinPot Housing Service you can apply for an apartment without having a guarantor, do the entire application in English, and get full English support even after you move in.

You may also be interested in: How to clean tatami mats in a Japanese apartment

And  Japanese apartment air vents: How and why to use them