In this article, we discuss the main reasons why landlords in Japan reject applications from potential tenants. And how you can improve your chances of getting the apartment you want.
#1 If you’re a foreigner….housing discrimination
Let’s deal with this one front and center. Housing discrimination against foreigners exists.
Even if you are the perfect candidate for an apartment in every other way, a landlord may reject you simply because you are not Japanese. It’s not legal, and it’s not right but it happens.
Depending on who you ask, you’ll come away with different answers as to how prevalent the problem is.
In 2016, Japan’s Ministry of Justice conducted the first nationwide survey on discrimination against foreigners living in Japan. The survey found that of the people who had looked for rental housing in the previous five years, about 39% reported that they their application was rejected based on the fact that they were foreigners; 52% said that they had never been denied housing based on their nationality.
In a separate question, about 27% of respondents said that they had at some point given up their apartment search because they saw signage on a property they were interested in saying: “No Foreigners” (gaikokujin okotowari, 外国人お断り).
For details on the survey, please see: Survey on housing discrimination against foreigners in Japan
Unfortunately, a landlord or property manager is not required to tell you the reason why they have rejected your application, which makes it almost impossible to prove that this was the specific reason.
Foreign Residents Advisory Centers
Some cities in Japan operate Foreign Residents Advisory Centers where you can go for advice. However, be aware that these advisors may, at most, lend you a sympathetic ear and may not have the power or resources to advocate your case directly with the landlord.
The Tokyo Metropolitan Government operates a Foreign Residents’ Advisory Center, in English, Chinese, and Korean for consultations about daily life issues in Japan. They ordinarily take inquiries over the phone, but also welcome walk-ins.
English (Monday-Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 12:00 noon 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.) 03-5320-7744
Chinese (Tuesday and Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 12:00 noon 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.) 03-5320-7766
Korean (Wednesday, 9:30 a.m. to 12:00 noon 1:00 to 5:00 p.m.) 03-5320-7700
Please visit their website for details.
Most major city and ward offices in Japan have a foreign residents’ advisory or support service. Please contact your city and ward office for more information.
#2 Your income isn’t high enough
As a rule of thumb, the amount you pay for rent should not be more than about 33% of your salary.
Some landlords and property managers use a similar calculation based on an income multiple of 36, meaning that your annual income should be about 36-times the rent for the apartment you are applying for.
In the latter case, they will evaluate your ability to pay your rent based on a table like this:
Insufficient income is one of the main reasons that landlords and property managers in Japan reject rental applications.
#3 Your job or career is seen as being unstable
When landlords and property managers are evaluating a rental application, they are trying to make a call about the stability of their potential revenue stream (your rent payments).
As we’ve explained in other articles (What happens when a tenant is delinquent with rent in Japan?), tenants enjoy very strong rights under Japanese law, and it is not easy for a landlord to evict a tenant once they have established a record of on-time rent payments.
Basically, landlords want to avoid a situation where they may have to try to evict you for delinquency; and one of the ways to ensure this is to pick a tenant with a steady job at an established company.
For this reason, if your employment situation falls into one of the following categories, the landlord may perceive that you are a rental risk:
- You are a contract employee (as opposed to a regular seishain (正社員) employee)
- You are dispatched from an employment agency
- You are self-employed, a freelancer, or own your own business
- Your income is irregular and not predictable (based on your tax returns and pay stubs)
#4 Your guarantor’s income isn’t high enough
A guarantor (hoshounin, 保証人) is a person who agrees to pay on your behalf in case you aren’t able to pay your rent. Almost all landlords in Japan require tenants to designate a guarantor as part of their rental application. An exception to this rule are short-term rental properties, catering to people who only plan to rent for two to three months.
It’s important to know that landlords and property managers require that all applicants, not just foreigners, provide a guarantor when they apply for a rental apartment. Many young Japanese use their parents or grandparents as their designated guarantor. However, as Japanese society is aging and people are retiring, what this has meant in recent years is that fewer and fewer older people are earning a high enough income to act as guarantors. This is because when they retire and start receiving a pension, their income decreases.
So this is an issue that affects all young people trying to rent an apartment in Japan, not just foreigners.
The workaround for this is to use a rent guarantor company (hoshoukaisha, 保証会社). For a fee equal to about one-third to a full month’s rent, a guarantor company will act as your guarantor. More and more landlords and property managers in fact prefer that tenants use guarantor companies rather than a person as their guarantor because a corporate guarantee is seen as less risky.
#5 You made a bad impression on the real estate agent, landlord, or property manager at the property viewing
When you are going to a room view, the landlord’s agent will be evaluating you as a potential tenant and whether you have the basic civilities and common sense to live in a rental apartment.
This means that you should do your best to make a good impression. These things include:
- Being on time for the appointment
- Dressing neatly and appropriately
- Conducting yourself like the responsible adult that you are! 🙂
- Covering up tattoos
- The first three things are obvious! The fourth is due to the fact that many people in Japan still associate tattoos with yakuza (Japanese gangsters), and just to be on the safe side, it’s better to cover them up during the room view.
For more on this, please see: Tips for getting the apartment you want
As mentioned above, a landlord does not have any obligation to tell you why they have rejected you as an applicant, but let’s not not give them an excuse to reject you based on how you might have dressed or acted during the room view!
What documents do I need to rent an apartment in Japan?
Finally, it’s important to have all your paperwork ready for your application.
During the busy season (January to March), properties go very quickly. This means that there may be multiple applicants for a property. The first person to submit their application has priority in the review process. You don’t want to lose out on an apartment you really want because of paperwork.
Please see this article to see what documents you’ll need:
If you want to rent an apartment without having to deal with the language barrier and other stresses, you may want to consider the GaijinPot Housing Service. This is a housing service for foreigners looking for an apartment in Japan. With this service:
- You can apply from overseas
- Don’t have to speak or read Japanese – And will get full bilingual support
- Don’t need a guarantor
- Can pay for everything with a credit card
- Will not be rejected for an application because of your nationality
Learn more here: GaijinPot Housing Service