The former chairperson of the owner’s association of a ski resort condominium in Niigata has been accused of allegedly embezzling 1.178 billion Yen (9.6 million USD) from the apartment building’s management and repair fund over the span of sixteen years.
The owner’s association filed a criminal complaint in an attempt to recover the 400 million Yen which falls within the statute of limitations. The former chairman allegedly falsified bank statements after transferring the funds to his personal bank account to purchase shares and make other personal investments.
A 8-storey condominium in Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo, has had its construction certificate revoked due to having inadequate emergency stairs. The building was less than 2 months away away from completion and the 100+ apartments had already been sold to buyers off-the-plan.
To further complicate things for the developer, local building height limits have since been reduced which means that even if the developer corrects the evacuation exits, the top two floors of the building may need to be removed in order to obtain a new building permit. Height limits in this neighbourhood were reduced from 27 meters to 22 meters in 2014.
On November 5, the Kyoto Prefectural Police began interviewing two people who are suspected of allegedly leasing out apartments to foreign tourists for short stays without obtaining the appropriate hotel license.
The two suspects are are 52-year old advisor from a travel company in Tokyo and a 48-year old from a hotel proxy company in Yamagata City.
Both companies have been accused of renting out apartments in Kyoto’s Ukyo-ku to tourists on a short-term basis without a license which is in violation of the Hotel Business Law. As many as 300 guests used the accommodation between July and early October.
Tokyo’s Ota Ward has announced plans to relax accommodation regulations in order to provide accommodation for the growing number of foreign tourists in the lead up to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. It is expected that the new rules may go into effect by the end of this year.
Hotels in Ota Ward are currently operating with occupancy rates of over 90%, and there are concerns of a shortage in accommodation options for visitors.
The owner of a share house that has been operating out of a condominium building in Arakawa-ku, Tokyo, has been ordered by the Tokyo District Court to remove the interior partition walls that had been installed to create small share rooms.
The share house was a violation of the building’s management bylaws. The owners’ association filed a suit against the apartment owner, and the Tokyo District Court ruled in favour of the plaintiffs on September 18. The judge noted that the use of the apartment exceeded what was expected for a normal residential unit.
Osaka is considering introducing special regulations that would relax the rules on leasing apartments out on a short-term basis – a practice that is currently illegal without a hotel license.
In 2013 the Japanese government designated special zones in urban centres such as Tokyo and Osaka where regulations are to be eased, however it is up to the local governments to decide if they want to introduce these changes. If Osaka approves this plan, it will be the first place in Japan to do so.
Even with relaxed rules, operators of these short-term lodgings will need to be approved by local governments, rooms will need to meet minimum requirements such as being over 25 sqm in size, and will need clear instructions provided in several languages to assist guests. Operators will also be required to keep written records of all guests and keep copies of identification documents.
On July 10, Masashi Haranaka, a member of the Fukuoka prefectural assembly, confirmed that anyone who wants to rent out rooms on a nightly basis using online sites, including Airbnb, is required to obtain a license under the Inns and Hotels Act. This includes private individuals looking to offer out rooms in their own house to people in exchange for payment.
Under the Inns and Hotels Act, individuals and businesses looking to rent out rooms or entire homes to guests on a nightly basis must receive permission from the prefectural governor. This is the first time the prefecture has specifically indicated that this definition also applies to people renting out their own home to guests.
The prefecture has also indicated that they will conduct physical inspections to identify and prosecute people found to be operating illegally.
The residents of a condominium in Kurume City, Fukuoka, that was found to have a considerably low level of earthquake-resistance, have filed a lawsuit against Fukuoka City seeking reconstruction of the building within the next 12 months.
According to the lawsuit, the 15 storey condominium was constructed by a subcontracting company of Kajima Corporation in 1996. Issues began shortly after completion, with exterior tiles from upper floors coming loose and cracks appearing in the building’s hallways. Since 1997, residents have repeatedly requested that the developer and construction company investigate and repair the building.
Airbnb-style accommodation options in Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto and other popular tourist destinations are growing, and with rising foreign tourist numbers, more people may be considering renting out their spare room or house on an accommodation site. However, in some cases this practice might violate the Inns and Hotels Act. Local governments are scrambling to find ways to get a grasp on the situation and find ways to monitor and regulate the practice.
On December 24, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) announced a revision to the Facilitation of Reconstruction of Condominiums Act which is intended to make it easier to sell off an older apartment building and land in order to speed up redevelopment.
Under the revision, the voting ratio to sell off the building and land will be reduced to 80% for kyu-taishin apartments that do not meet earthquake-resistant codes (the ratio was originally 100%). It is important to note that this revision does not apply to all apartments built before 1981. It only applies to those that failed an earthquake-resistant inspection.
At the end of 2013, there were 6,010,000 apartments across Japan. Of those, approximately 17% are in buildings built to the older earthquake codes (called kyu-taishin). The figures are higher for condominiums, with a third of condominium apartment buildings across Japan built to the older codes.
By April 2014, there were only 196 cases where kyu-taishin apartment buildings were redeveloped, accounting for just 1.4% of the total number of kyu-taishin apartments.