In the most recent newsletter published our landlord, the semi-public housing corporation UR, and deposited in our mailbox there’s a specious “conversation” between a theoretical apartment renter and a theoretical apartment owner about the respective advantages of each mode of living. Discounting the whole economic side of the issue, the most obvious distinction is that owners can “freely change and remodel their apartment and replace or install amenities.” The renter counters by saying it may be nice to change your apartment the way you want, but what a pain in the neck! You have to hire someone to do the work and then move out while the work is being done. And, in any case, you can’t actually change the size of an apartment the way you can a house; whereas with some rentals, (s)he argues, the landlord will gladly remodel the unit to the tenant’s specification before the latter moves in. What’s perplexing about this line of thinking is that, while it may be true in “some” cases, as the speaker says, it isn’t true in the case of UR rentals. You have to take it the way you see it. The only part of the renter’s argument that holds water is that renters have more freedom to choose, meaning once they move in they can always move out and find something more suitable or desirable. Owners don’t have that freedom; or, they do, but it depends on how easily they can sell their property and how much of their initial investment they get back, and those points are hardly guaranteed in Japan.
Still, remodeling needs to be addressed. In UR apartments, as with most rental units, tenants are very limited with regard to how they can decorate, since almost all rental agreements include a term that says the tenant must leave the apartment in the exact same state as he or she found it. And while usually contracts don’t specifically say you can’t make holes in the wall, that is how most people interpret it. In any case, we’ve heard of people having had money taken out of their security deposit because of holes in the wall–but then, private landlords will find any excuse to keep that money. (more…)