Housing Discrimination Against Foreigners in Japan

05:37 06/03/2024

Along with the increasing number of foreign immigrants comes the growing demand for rental housing in Japan. However, many foreigners may find it challenging to find a place to settle down due to various reasons, with some may even seem rather discriminative.

In this article, GoEMON will introduce to you several major reasons why many Japanese properties refuse to rent out to foreigners, as well as suggestions on what you, as a foreigner, can do to make the house-hunting process easier. 

Major reasons why foreigners struggle to find housing in Japan

Below is a list of some of the reasons why Japanese landlords may be hesitant to rent their properties to foreigners: 

1. Language barrier

Contracts are the basis for any sort of transaction, in which housing rental is also no exception. And of course, as you are renting a property in Japan, the contract will obviously also be in Japanese. Not having a good command of Japanese may cause difficulties in understanding the terms of the contract or negotiating the terms and conditions with the landlord. However, there are many housing rental agencies with English-speaking staff that can assist you in this aspect. 

Even in cases where you have successfully rented a place and settled in, not being able to speak Japanese may also cause problems when it comes to dealing with your neighbors or catching up with notifications from your landlord and such. 

2. Guarantor issues

When renting a property, you will also need to have a guarantor. Things are easier if you have relatives or acquaintances (preferably a full-time working Japanese national) living in Japan. However, if you are fresh in the country for work or study purposes without knowing anyone, things may be a bit more challenging. 

Being a guarantor comes with a lot of responsibility and thus not everyone is willing to become one. Thus, there have been many cases where foreigners are not able to sign lease contracts due to not being able to find a guarantor. 

On the other hand, there are also guarantor companies that you can hire to become your guarantor for such contracts. 

3. Difficulties in proving the ability to pay rent

When renting a property, the landlord/ housing agencies will determine your ability to pay rent based on personal information such as your annual income and current employment to make sure that you will be able to pay your monthly rent in time. Therefore, those who are new to Japan and have yet been able to find a job might struggle when it comes to finding a place to move in. 

4. Job stability 

Another element that will also be taken into consideration when it comes to renting in Japan. More specifically, those with stable jobs at established companies are more likely to be approved. 

 Your job may be considered unstable if you are: 

  • A short-term contract employee
  • A temporary worker 
  • Self-employed or working for private businesses

5. Other related issues

There have been many cases where foreigners would deliberately leave Japan for good without contacting the landlord to return the rented property. Thus, many landlords in Japan may also refuse to rent their properties to foreigners for fear of having to deal with such situations. 

What you can do: 

Though housing discrimination is a real issue in Japan, below are our suggestions on the things you can do to facilitate the house-hunting process: 

  1. Look for housing companies with English-speaking staff or bring along an acquaintance who is fluent in Japanese with you
  2. Prioritize properties located in areas with a higher concentration of foreigners
  3. Inform the landlord whenever you leave the country 
  4. Look for houses with rent according to your annual income

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