Guide to Renting an Apartment in Tokyo, Japan

Finding the right home and understanding lease in Japan

While any international move can be challenging in its own right, a move to Tokyo often requires unique lifestyle adjustments and the reordering of one‘s priorities.

The sheer size and complexity of Tokyo may initially seem insurmountable. However, with proper planning many expats are able to comfortably settle in and quickly come to appreciate the unique cultural and social opportunities living in Japan’s capital affords.

The key lies in creating a lifestyle that is convenient and rewarding for all family members. The first steps toward achieving this are:

Choose the neighborhood that is right for you

In order to understand the characteristics of each area in Tokyo–transportation access, commuting office or school–we recommend referring to the following pages.

This residential area guide has maps of areas in Central Tokyo and suburbs that are popular among expats.

Tokyo Expat Area guide

Maps–including train route maps–written in English recommended for foreigners living in or visiting Tokyo.

Map of Tokyo

A list of recommended residential areas for those with children commuting international schools in Tokyo. Learn the bus routes of your child’s school to find a suitable location for an easy commute.

Residential area for commuting International Schools in Tokyo

Housing Types - Furnished or Unfurnished

Furnished housing

Recommended for those who are planning to stay in Japan for less than 1 year. Options range from “weekly economical mansions” to spacious fully serviced executive grade apartments. Furnished housing generally includes basic furniture, a television, DVD player, an internet connection, dishes, white goods, and weekly cleanings. Amenities such as front desk service, health club facilities, and business centers may also be included. The rental rate often includes utilities such as gas, water, and electricity.

Monthly Apartments & Serviced Apartments for Short term stays

 

Unfurnished Housing

Apartments

Unfurnished apartments make up the majority of available properties in central Tokyo. Apartments range widely from compact studio type units to large 5LDK units, low-rises and high-rises, apartments that allow pets, designer’s apartments, vintage apartments, apartments with specifications geared towards foreigners, luxurious apartments with hotel-like concierge services, apartments with earthquake proof structure, etc.

Houses

These properties include detached houses with a garden, terrace houses, houses with a layout geared towards foreigners, houses in a gated compound, and more. For houses located within Central Tokyo or in its Suburbs, PLAZA HOMES can introduce properties that are on or located near an international school's bus route.

Rental Apartments & Houses for Long term stays


*Most rental residential properties in Japan require that renters do not wear shoes inside the property.

Understanding the Lease

Terminology

Rent

Paid monthly in advance to the owner. A late fee may be exacted if the rent is overdue. Payment of the first and next month's rent is generally required upon initiation of the lease.

Deposit

All properties in Japan require a deposit. The size of the deposit may very from as little as two months rent all the way up to four or six months rent for expatriate grade properties. The deposit is "technically" refundable. In most cases, a portion of the deposit is deducted to pay for the maintenance of the property.

Key Money

Sometimes called "thank you" money. A sum generally around one to two month's rent is paid to the lessor at the initiation of the lease. It is not refundable.

Agent Fee / Commission

Industry standard requires that one month's rent be paid to the real estate agent as commission.

Management (Maintenance) fee

A monthly fee for general building maintenance and possibly to contribute to the cost of an on-site building manager.

Renewal fee

Money to be paid to the owner when you renew the lease contract upon the expiration of a lease's term. The amount is in most cases equivalent to one month's rent.

Types of Lease Contracts

Normal Lease Contract (Renewable)

Usually the length of a lease contract is 2 years. Sometimes a renewal fee arises at the time of an agreement renewal.

Fixed-Term Lease Contract (Not renewable)

The rental agreement terminates on the expiry date of the agreement. The agreement can be re-contracted only if both the lessee and lessor agree to do so.

Time frame and Steps Involved in Obtaining a Home

You should generally begin your home search at least two weeks prior to your desired move-in date. It is difficult to secure a suitable property more than eight weeks before a move-in date, except when applying for a property that is currently under renovation, or the existing tenant cooperates in its showing.

You should plan on spending at least one day viewing properties, and up to week if special needs must be met. Below is a typical schedule of events once you have located a property that interests you:

Application

Basically a document stating intent to contract a lease. (Applications are not legally binding but they should not be submitted casually - let your PLAZA HOMES agent guide you in this process). Any requests related to the property must be submitted at this time and will be considered by the owner. Requests typically include minor maintenance or renovation work, the addition of various fixtures, cable, or satellite TV. Once again, it is best to let your agent guide you in making these requests as their negotiability will vary from property to property.

Landlord's response

The time it takes to receive a response to your application varies by landlord. One landlord may give you an answer immediately, while another may take up to  10 days when a background check of applicants is required.

If “accepted”- move on to draft lease. If declined - continue your housing search. Note: Landlords may “accept” under certain conditions, meaning the elimination or reduction of requests. Your PLAZA HOMES agent will negotiate on your behalf in these situations.

Draft Contract

This is generally prepared in Japanese. An English translation may be available depending on the landlord. A copy will be sent to your corporate HR for review, negotiation, and approval. Your real estate agent will also review the lease terms.

Final 'Original' Contract

Once all parties agree, an 'Original' contract is made. There can be no further negotiation at this stage. The original is taken to your company for completion, and all related fees will be due and must be paid before the lease's start date. Japanese landlord's will never turn over a property before receiving a payment in full.

Prior to move in day

Your PLAZA HOMES agent will see that all utilities, telephone, and satellite or cable services are arranged before you move in. Your agent will provide you with detailed information as to your many options and inform you of any pertinent building policies. Please be very specific about your needs in this area. Your real estate agent will also coordinate with your moving company and the building manager to see that the move is as smooth and trouble free as possible.

Move-in day

Your agent will conduct a thorough inspection of your new property and will train you in the use of all appliances and climate control systems.

Taking Care of Your New Home

Now that you have settled into your new home here are a few tips on caring for your property. These simple recommendations can significantly reduce damage claims when you move out. You may or may not be responsible for paying these claims (according to your company's policy), but a little care can ensure that claims are kept to a minimum.

Some allowances will be made for the natural aging of carpets, wallpaper, and fixtures. However, stains, scratches, holes, 'dings', and any matter of child or pet damage that will require 'restoration' will be paid by either you or your company. The things your Japanese landlord will be most concerned about are: holes in walls or woodwork (defined as anything larger than a small tack mark); stains, marks, or abrasions on wall surfaces; stains to carpeting or mildew damage; scratches or abrasions on counter surfaces in the kitchen and bathroom(s); damage to kitchen appliances, plumbing, or A/C systems. A little care can help you avoid such damages.

Wallpaper

The majority of houses and apartments have a textured wallpaper on the walls. As wallpaper can be easily scratched and damaged special care should be taken to minimize damages and stains.

Furniture (bed, desk, bookshelf, closet, chair)

Place furniture a few inches from walls to avoid any damage to the wallpaper. If your apartment or house has wooden floors, be careful not to drag furniture when moving it to prevent damaging the floors.

Hanging photos and pictures on the wall

Do not use nails to hang things on the walls. It will be counted as damage and will come out of your restoration deposit upon moving. Ask your consultant / agent about special hooks that you can use in order to avoid making holes in the walls.

Air conditioner

If your A/C is not working, or it is leaking water, call your management company. Allowing the water to leak will cause stains on the wall as well as on the floor. If you notice this happening, be sure to call your management company as soon as possible and inform them of the situation. In order to keep the A/C in good working condition, be sure to clean the air filters on a regular basis.

Floors

Carpets and wooden floors are easy to stain and scratch. Do not hesitate to contact your management company if you have stains from things such as curry or coffee as they can be hard to clean up.