Home Truths #2

Caveat emptor

Our latest column in the Japan Times was published today. You can read it here. It’s about the recent Supreme Court decision regarding koshinryo (renewal fees). One small clarification: The photo caption mentions that cheaper rents may mean higher renewal fees and “gift” money. In many cases if the landlord has set the rent lower for the purpose of attracting potential tenants, he/she may also not charge gift money for the same reason. Renewal fees, however, are more hidden because they are usually only mentioned in the fine print, meaning they kick in later, when the tenant has to renew the contract a year or two after moving in. Also, some landlords, especially corporate ones, are making their rental agreements longer, say five years, and then setting the renewal fee a bit higher than average. Another theory associated with renewal fees that we neglected to mention is that some landlords use it to generate higher turnover. Since supplemental fees allow the property owner to make a bit more money in a slumping market, logic says that you make more money if the turnover is higher because more new tenants mean more supplemental fees. This is the same economic logic behind the shaken (regular vehicle inspection), which all car owners have to pay for every two years (or every year, depending on the age of your automobile). When the shaken, which is expensive, comes due, many car owners simply trade their vehicle in for a new one. The first shaken for a new car is three years. The same concept is supposedly used for renewal fees: People will move to a new place because they don’t feel like paying it. The reason we didn’t mention this theory is because we’re not really sure it’s credible. People’s attachment to the place where they live is different from their attachment to their car. If people move because they don’t want to pay the koshinryo it probably means they don’t like the dwelling in the first place.

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