We've covered some of the most commonly asked questions by our clients. If there's something you're unsure about that isn't included, please reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Do I have to use an agent to rent an apartment?
Yes, you will need to use an agent (unless you know someone who owns properties and allows you to live in that property).
Can I have my pet in the apartment?
Sure, but you need to find a pet-friendly apartment. These definitely exist, but the listings are more limited and may require a larger sum for the refundable deposit.
Can I live with my friends?
While this may be possible, there are only a few apartments that allow tenants to live with their friends. Most landlords are concerned about the unexpected moving out of a tenant, leaving the other unable to cover the full rent.
What types of apartments are available?
In Japan, there is a unique naming convention for apartment sizes and layouts: 1R, 1DK, 2LDK, etc.
L= Living room
S= Service room
The first number indicates the number of rooms.
1DK means it has dining, kitchen, and one bedroom.
2LDK means living, dining, kitchen, and two bedrooms.
How far ahead should I start looking for an apartment?
Most landlords require the potential tenants to move in no later than 2-3 weeks after the application is submitted. We recommend starting your apartment search one month before your desired move-in date.
I'm interested in an apartment posted on a different website. Is it possible to rent it through AtHearth?
It might be possible! Please send us the link. We will check if it's still available, and can help you apply for it.
Do you have listings for furnished apartments?
We do. And for unfurnished apartments, we have a furniture rental plan to help arrange your furniture rental (if you require this). You'll need to pay the furniture rental fee, but there's no additional cost for us to help you get it all set up. We want to help you get comfortable!
Are the apartments shown on the website the only available ones?
Nope, as the real estate market in Tokyo is constantly changing. Listings available today are likely taken within a few days, sometimes even the same. Please submit the search criteria form to us, and we will make a list of the available apartments and send it to you ASAP.
How long does it take to rent an apartment?
Usually, it takes three weeks to 1 month to go through all the procedures (viewing, application, screening, signing, move-in).
Can the company I work for be the leaseholder?
Yes, but not all apartments. We can provide you the listings which allow it.
What are the criteria for screening?
There are various criteria, but income status and Japanese language ability tend to be the most important criteria. To pass the application process, you will be required to show proof of income that shows that your monthly income is at least three times as much as the monthly rent.
Eg. If the rent is ¥90,000, you'll need to earn at least ¥270,000/ month.
Some of you may wonder or worry about what Japanese level will be required, but please don't worry! We can provide you the listings that are open to non-Japanese speakers as well.
I am a freelancer. Can I pass the application screening?
It may be more challenging if you work freelance as most landlords and building companies prefer tenants who work in a company and have stable wages. You need to have financial documents to prove you are capable of paying rent every month. In some cases, if the potential tenant can show that they have enough savings (for example, more than two years of the rent), they may pass the screening.
What is the "Tokyo Rule"?
It's an ordinance established in 2004 in Tokyo to prevent rental housing-related disputes between tenants and landlords (building management companies). For more in-depth details about this ordinance, please visit the Tokyo Metropolitan Government website for the guidebook.
I don't speak Japanese. Can I rent an apartment?
Yes. We can provide you listings that are open to non-Japanese speakers. Also, our multilingual staff will assist you with all steps through the process. Our documentation is also provided in English as well as Japanese.
I don't have a guarantor. Can I rent an apartment?
You can use guarantor companies instead. Recently, most management companies don't require guarantors and ask tenants to use guarantor companies instead.
Can I cancel the application?
Yes, and most management companies don't charge a cancellation fee.
What is a fixed-term contract?
A fixed-term contract does not provide an option for the tenants to renew their contract upon the expiration date. For those thinking about potentially renewing their contacts, please be sure to check if this is the case for your property of interest.
How long is the contract period?
Two years is standard for a contract. You can renew the contract if it is a regular contract.
Can I apply for an apartment before viewing?
Yes, but most of the management companies don't allow cancellation if you don't like the apartment after viewing. Please make sure you will sign the contract if and when you pass the screening.
What information and documents are required when I apply?
Your information (name, current address, birthday, phone number, email address, income status), company information you are (or you will be ) working for (name, industry, your role, the number of workers, capital), emergency contact (it has to be someone who is Japanese or has permanent residency), and the copy of your Zairyu (residence) card.
I don't have a stamp (hanko). Do I need to get one?
In most cases, you don't need to get a Hanko, but some management companies don't allow signatures for the signing of contracts. We will inform you if you need to get it.
AFTER MOVING IN
Can I rent furniture?
Yes, we have a furniture rental plan.
How can I sign up for utilities? (Electricity, Water, Gas, wifi, etc. )
We do all the required procedures for you as part of our support package. There is no extra fee for this.
Something in my apartment is broken. What should I do?
Please either contact your property's management company or AtHearth. Please do not call the repair company by yourself, or you will be charged the entire repair fee.
I don't know how to separate garbage
Please visit the website of your ward. Most cities in Tokyo have documents in English explaining the rules of garbage disposal.
Can I park my bicycle?
It depends on the rules of the management company. Sometimes they charge an extra fee or require you to put a sticker on your bicycle.
Can I park my car?
It depends on your contract. Sometimes car parking is included, but in most cases, it will require an extra fee. If you would like to rent a parking slot during your tenancy, please contact the management company or AtHearth will contact them on your behalf.
Can I sublease my apartment?
Most landlords don't allow subletting to someone whose name is not on the contract. Please check the contract carefully.
Can I make a duplicate key?
You'll need permission to make duplicate keys, and if you make them, please hand it back to the management company when you move out.
Can I bring my furniture before the move-in date?
No, it is not allowed. You can enter your apartment after the start of the contract.
I want to move out of my apartment. What should I do?
You need to hand in the move-out notice to the management company. Usually, it is required to submit it 1 or 2 months before the move-out date. Please check your contract carefully. On the move-out day, you have a move-out inspection with the management company and you will return all your keys to them. They calculate the cleaning fee at that time, and it will be deducted from your security deposit.
Can I move out during the contract term?
Yes. Sometimes the management company charges a cancellation fee based on the contract. The amount equal to 1 month's rent is standard. Please read your contract as the rules of contract termination vary among management companies.
How do I get the security deposit back?
After the move out inspection, the cleaning fee is deducted from your security deposit. The rest of it will be refunded to your bank account later.
How much is the agency fee?
One month's rent + consumption tax. This must be paid within a month after you move in, and can be paid by bank transfer or credit card.
How much does the initial fee cost?
It's roughly five times the rent. Please note, most real estate management companies don't accept credit card payments for these fees.
What is included in the initial fee?
First month's rent + key money + management fee + refundable deposit + rent for the first month + key replacement fee + initial guarantor fee + fire insurance fee + agent fee. Fees vary between properties, but these will be clearly listed and explained to you in English, so there are no surprises or hidden fees.
What is key money?
Key money means "gift money" in Japanese. Since it is considered a "gift" to the landlords, it is not refundable after the cancellation of the contract. There are no-key-money apartments out there, but you will notice their rents tend to be set a bit higher than average. Generally, it is thought that most apartments in good condition will require a key money fee.
What is a refundable deposit?
It's the deposit you pay when you move in, and will be used to compensate for any damage or wear and tear that occurs during the rental period, and the cost of restoring the property to its original condition will be deducted when you move out. When you move out, the cleaning fee will be deducted from the refundable deposit regardless, and usually, the price is stated in the rental agreement.
What is the guarantor company?
The guarantor company pays the rent to the landlord on behalf of the tenants if they become unable to pay. After they pay the rent to the landlord, they will collect the money from tenants, so paying a guarantor fee does not mean that the tenants don't have to pay the rent. Due to an aging society in Japan, it's becoming more difficult for many people to have a guarantor who has the ability to pay the rent, so recently almost all properties in Tokyo require the tenant to use a guarantor company.
How much is the initial guarantor fee?
It is usually 50%-100% of the rent, and some companies also require a monthly guarantor fee, and it's roughly 1 to 2%. It's landlords who decide which company or plan to be applied to the properties.
Do I need to purchase fire insurance?
Yes, tenants are obligated to purchase fire insurance, and in most cases, the insurance is designated by the building management companies. You can apply for it when you sign the lease contract. The average is ¥20,000 plus consumption tax per person and covers 2 years.
How do I pay my rent?
Usually by direct debit from your bank account. It's very rare that credit card payment is accepted in Japan.
What is the cleaning fee?
It's the fee that is required to clean the rooms after tenants move out for new tenants.
What is the renewal fee?
It's the fee required to extend your tenancy. The price varies among landlords and building management companies but in most cases it's about 50%~100% of the rent.
Do I need to pay the renewal fee?
If the renewal fee is described on your contract, then you are obligated to pay, so please check carefully before you sign your contract!
Is the renewal fee negotiable?
It is not negotiable in most cases.
Is the rent negotiable when I renew the contract?
It is not negotiable in most cases.
When do I pay the initial fee?
Usually, you need to pay within one week after passing the screening process by the building management company.