When looking for a rental property, you need to keep in mind to check and understand the conditions, equipment, and surrounding environment before signing a lease agreement. Otherwise, trouble after moving in may happen from conflicts, saying, “I didn’t know that” or “That is quite a change from what I was told.” However, how do you find an invisible matter – a stigmatized property or Jiko Bukken? Here summarised are the legal guidelines and how to cope with Jiko Bukken.
What’s Jiko Bukken?
Jiko Bukken 事故物件 literally means an accident property, is known as a stigmatized property where a death-related incident has occurred in the past. To hide a negative impression, Jiko Bukken is sometimes called a discounted property or Wakeari Bukken 訳あり物件. Though people often consider Jiko Bukken has a history that something cruel happened in the past, Jiko Bukken actually implicates any incidents of deaths, including sickness, suicide, murder, fire, and even natural deaths in daily life.
What Jiko Bukken means for the tenant
Jiko Bukken rental properties are hardly detected from their appearance. Rental properties are restored to their original condition before new tenants move in, where no traces of death were left in the rooms, naturally. Therefore, the chance is that the new tenant signs a contract and finds out it was a Jiko Bukken through hearsay after moving in. Living in a Jiko Bukken is not physically harmful, but it can be psychological distress that people want to avoid. The tenant may recognize Jiko Bukken as a psychological defect, on which not being informed in advance can be a breach of the lease agreement.
About psychological defect
A psychological defect (Shinriteki Kshi 心理的瑕疵) is an “invisible defect” that causes psychological distress. For example, a room where the previous tenant committed suicide has a negative impact that can be a psychological defect. The Japanese law “Building Lots and Buildings Transaction Business Law” requires lenders to be responsible for ensuring defects to the tenant’s detriment and inform about psychological defects.
What Jiko Bukken means for the owner
The owner is aware that they are required to inform to the tenants about psychological defects. On the other hand, they are sometimes unclear about how to define Jiko Bukken and when it is necessary to inform. It is true that some people feel uncomfortable about death in general. The question arises, however, as to whether any properties with a death-related incident are considered Jiko Bukken. Is the owner is still obligated to inform the tenant even in cases of natural death, such as when a relative dies of old age?
The legal guidelines concerning Jiko Bukken
Being unclear to what extent a tenant should be informed of a psychological defect in advance creates a disadvantage for both the tenant and the lessor that hinders them from signing a contract with peace of mind. Therefore, the Japanese government established guidelines in October 2021 regarding the duty of property transaction business operators to report deaths under the Building Lot and Building Transaction Business Law.
According to these guidelines on rental properties, the owner and real estate agency are not required to inform about death in the past as long as it was a natural death or accidental death in daily life (death from fall, aspiration, etc.). However, the owner/real estate agent is obligated to respond to inquiries about whether the rental property has had a death-related incident in the past.
In the case that a real estate agency mediates between a property owner and those looking for a rental property, the agency is responsible for the investigation to respond to the inquiry, fundamentally by gathering information from the owner in writing. If the property is owned by a new owner who is unsure about previous incidents and answers “Unknown” in writing, that answer can fulfill the agency’s duty as the result of the investigation.
In the case of death from a severe incident, the owner/real estate agent is responsible for informing to the tenant about the case. The death-related incident in the common area, such as the elevator and the stairways, is also to be informed. This obligation lies approximately three years after the incident of the death, and in principle, it is not necessary to inform after the three years. As for incidents of death that shook up the society with a significant impact and the owner recognizes the tenant should be aware of it, the responsibility continuously lies regardless of the elapsed period.
How to find Jiko Bukken
For those who intend to avoid accident properties, it is advisable to ask a question about Jiko Bukken in the middle of room searching. If you find a property where rent has somehow significantly dropped or has a room “very-partly” renovated, it seems better to ask.
In any case, Jiko Bukken is only a psychological thing, a matter depending on how much you care about it. Accident properties do not always have a tragic history. People will live comfortably there as usual as long as they are not concerned about it. In fact, some people prefer Jiko Bukken as it comes out with better rental conditions, spacious rooms, etc., at a reasonable rate. The rent of Jiko Bukken varies depending on the circumstances, but it is usually set lower than its regular rate. If you dare to look for Jiko Bukken, tell the agency your intention and request a Jiko Bukken in advance. Most likely to be difficult to get further discounts after signing the lease agreement, even if you insist on not having had known it was a Jiko Bukken.