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Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011

LIFELINES

Landlords have right of entry — the roaches don't


By ANGELA JEFFS and KEN JOSEPH JR.

Back in summer, the owner of AB's rented apartment wanted to spray the property for cockroaches (gokiburi). AB was far from happy.

"I don't want chemicals being sprayed in my home. I use natural products wherever possible and feel sick when using even regular dish-washing liquid. I am a singer and many chemicals can leave me short of breath.

"What can I do? Do I have any rights here?"

We checked with city hall. The Civil Code, or minpo, mentions only "hitsuyo no shuzen" which literally means "necessary actions," as being an acceptable reason for a landlord to enter what is legally your private space.

The problem is that the term "necessary actions" is not defined by law.

We checked further with a real estate agent and a shakkanin kumiai, or renters association.

Apparently there is a gray zone regarding when a property owner can enter an apartment. On one side, a renter has the legal right to maintain their apartment and for it not be entered at will. On the other, the owner has the right to enter the property to implement hitsuyo no shuzen.

City hall and the real estate agency suggested doing the following:

First, explain your health issue to the owner.

Second, thank them for keeping the apartment safe and clean, and propose an alternative to getting rid of any cockroach infestation.

The simplest method is the Gokiburi Hoi Hoi, or any other similar product fitted with sticky strips that catch the buggers instead.

Suggest a nonchemical way to take care of the problem and that should negate any landlord's claim that "necessary action" is needed. And, of course, your health would be protected.

If the owner absolutely refuses to cooperate, which would be pretty unusual, then you can contact the Zenkoku Shakuchi Shakkanin Kumiai Rengokai (National Renter Association) on (03) 3352-0448 and have them intervene, or ask a lawyer to contact the owner to let them know that you do not consider the request to be within the scope of "necessary action."

The Civil Code and the contract you signed to rent the property are the regulating laws.

Unless your Japanese reading ability is highly advanced, have a Japanese friend check your contract, as it may have a provision granting the landlord special rights that you may not realize you have agreed to.

Readers, please let us know about your experiences with landlords. This is a tough area as the laws are not always clearly defined and often contradict one another.

Angela Jeffs is a freelance writer and writing guide (www.thewriterwithin.net/). Ken Joseph directs the Japan Helpline at www.jhelp.com and (0570) 000-911. Send queries, problems and posers to lifelines@japantimes.co.jp


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