New real estate guarantor service set up for foreign residents

A Tokyo non-profit organization has set up a new real estate guarantor service for foreign residents negotiating Japan’s notoriously discriminative housing system.

The service, the first of its kind, is set up by the Information Center for Foreigners in Japan and will start offering guarantor services in Tokyo and surrounding prefectures in South Korean and Chinese later this month. The services will later be expanded to cover people from English-speaking countries.

The service was set up after a 2006 questionnaire showed that foreign residents in Tokyo were visiting an average of 15 real estate agents before finding a landlord willing to lease a home to them. Common excuses given were language problems, different lifestyle habits and fears over non-payment of rent.

Prospective lessees will pay 40-60 percent of their monthly rent as an initial payment, followed by 10,000 yen a year every subsequent year. In turn, the service provider will guarantee up to a year’s missed rent to landlords. Lessees can also receive the service provider’s information packs on living in Japan.

South Korean student Kim Yon-min, 23, says: “I’ve got friends who have been told ‘no foreigners allowed’ by real estate companies. I’m still not confident about my Japanese, so this kind of service makes me feel reassured.”

“When I first arrived in Japan, I was in trouble because no one was willing to be my guarantor,” says a 28-year-old Indonesian designer. “I think other Indonesians will ask for this kind of service.”

The Information Center for Foreigners in Japan was set up in 1995 to aid foreign victims of the Great Hanshin Earthquake. It provides volunteer Japanese lessons, and provide information on living in Japan to the editors of newsletters in 14 languages.