Landlords getting tough with families of suicides
The annual number of suicides in Japan has topped 30,000 for the last 12 years, and according to the Sept. 27 issue of the Yomiuri Shimbun landlords aren’t going to take it any more. The newspaper reports that an increasing number of property owners and realtors are suing families of tenants who kill themselves. Rental units where suicides occur are more difficult to rent out afterward, and in most cases landlords have to reduce the rent substantially to get someone to move in.
The situation has become so dire that a Sendai-based organization called the Japan Suicide Survivors Network has asked the ruling Democratic Party of Japan to pass some sort of law that would protect families of suicides in these instances. In one case, a young woman killed herself in an apartment in Miyazaki Prefecture, and while her funeral was taking place the landlord showed up and demanded ¥6 million so that he could hire a priest to “cleanse” the property. The family, too upset to argue, paid him.
But even when a family has the presence of mind to refute a landlord’s demand, they may have to pay. In another case, a 30-year-old company employee killed himself in a Kanagawa Prefecture apartment and the landlord asked the family to pay him ¥2 million for “repairs” and another ¥5 million for “estimated future losses due to reduced rent.” The family hired a lawyer, but in the end the lawyer suggested arbitration and the family ended up paying more than ¥2 million.
Another landlord demanded ¥120 million, saying that the entire building was “cursed” and he would have to completely rebuild it.
Is this legal? Almost all rental agreements state that the tenant must leave the property in the exact same state as it was when the tenant moved in, so according to a certain way of thinking after a person commits suicide in a rental unit it becomes a kashi bukken (defective property). Also, a landlord is required by law to inform prospective tenants that a particular property was the site of an unnatural death.
(On a related note, while researching this entry we thought about the widely held belief that railroad companies charge families of people who throw themselves in front of trains the amount of money the company loses due to the suicides. It turns out that this story may be an urban myth. Though railways do lose “tens of millions of yen” an hour after a suicide due to reduced ridership and other factors, we could not find any proof that they actually demand that families of the dead persons reimburse them.)