ABOUT SECURITY DEPOSITS IN JAPAN
Renting an apartment in Japan can be expensive. In addition to the cost of the monthly rent, most landlords and agencies require security deposits. A typical deposit, known as shikikin (敷金
金金), can be the equivalent of one or two months worth of rent, more if you have pets. From this deposit, the landlord will deduct a cleaning fee for when you vacate the apartment. The cleaning fee is usually in the ¥20,000 to ¥25,000 range. In addition to that, the landlord has the right to deduct the cost of repairs for damage you may have caused to the property beyond normal wear and tear or depreciation.
The things that constitute normal wear and tear can be a contentious issue, and although there are official guidelines, it is often difficult to interpret. Typical wear and tear damage may include:
- Marks left by furniture against a wall
- Small dents in the walls
- Discoloration of walls, floors, or tatami mats due to sunlight
- Paint wearing off on surfaces that are frequently used or walked on
Damages that do not fall under normal wear and tear can include the damage caused due to tenant negligence or right out abuse of the property, such as:
- Deep scratches or dents on wooden floors
- Scuffed wallpaper
- Holes in the wall (e.g. caused by nails or screws when hanging framed pictures or adding small shelves, mirrors, and so on)
- Water or other liquid stains on the walls or floors
- Grease build-up around the kitchen and exhaust fan
- Mold in closets or bathrooms due to general lack of cleanliness and regular ventilation
PREVENTIVE AND PROTECTIVE TRICKS
1. Protect wall paint and wallpaper in the kitchen and baths
The bathroom sink areas often have wallpaper which means that regular daily use can cause some splashing or drops of water to hit it, that over time, will discolor the wallpaper, or worse, damage it. Similarly, accidents around kitchen counters, or tables that rest against an unprotected wall or wallpaper, can cause unsightly damage.
Typically, the tenant might try to replace part of the wallpaper (if they can find the exact match), repaint a wall, or leave it up to the landlord. Unfortunately, there have been cases where the landlord has charged for the replacement of the entire wall panel and paint/wallpaper which can cost more than the deposit covers. In such cases, the tenant is forced to pay additional fees for the repairs. Though sometimes a scrupulous landlord may use such tactics to save money on renovations, the tenant has no other recourse but to pay.
SOLUTION: A simple and inexpensive solution is to buy vinyl sheets and pin them to the wall around potentially problematic areas such as sinks. Transparent plastic is sold in home hardware stores by the meter and they come in various thicknesses. Use thumbtacks or very small pins to attach them to the wall. The tiny pinholes that are left, after removing the pins, can easily be patched. The thicker vinyl best as it won’t warp as much and looks the best.
2. Protect wooden flooring
Wooden floors are sometimes made of softwood and can scratch or mar easily. Even dropping something like your phone can cause a small dent.
The best way to protect against this type of damage is to cover the floor with something functional and decorative.
One way to do this is by covering floor areas with bamboo mats that come in various sizes (similar to carpets). These bamboo mats are extremely durable and have a soft fabric material such as felt underneath. The better-quality ones are slightly more expensive but considering what it might cost to repair wooden floors, it’s well worth the expense.
Carpets are also a good way to protect flooring, especially high traffic areas. Most home hardware stores sell carpet tiles that come in many styles and colors. These can be used wall to wall or to create strips in high traffic areas such as hallways and entrances or in kitchens. They are easy to clean, and the tiles connect seamlessly. A low adhesive double-sided tape is also sold alongside these tiles that keep them flat without damaging the wooden floors or leaving a sticky residue when removed.
Another excellent idea is to use self-adhesive floor rolls that are sold in pet shops. These are absorbent and washable. They are very good for protecting wooden floors next to the kitchen counters.
All of these solutions also help in sound absorption and minimizing noise that might disturb the neighbors if you are up and walking around late at night.
3. DIY ways of creating storage shelves, racks and hanging framed pictures without damaging walls.
If you are a DIY enthusiast, you can hang heavy items such as small cupboards, shelves or paintings, there is literally no end of what can be done, and there’s no need to drive a single nail or screw into the wall. This is by making use of tension. Most home hardware stores sell tension fasteners that fit at the end of 2×4 posts. The 2×4 posts can be cut to the required length (follow the instructions that come with the fasteners) and installed against a wall or wherever needed. Once these vertical posts are fixed, horizontal slats can be added to create custom shelving. Cabinets or other heavy objects (including bikes, framed prints or paintings, clothes racks, etc.) can also be attached to the posts. Essentially, a multi-functional frame can be built that rests against any wall with no anchors, screws, or nails required.
These are some examples of home improvements that can protect you from losing a big part of your deposit after you leave an apartment while making your rented apartment lifestyle more comfortable.