Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Moving: Cancelling a Japanese Apartment Contract

This post continues my chronicle of moving to a new apartment in Japan. My new apartment contract is about to start, and I'm running out of time to cancel my old contracts. (That's a plural because my parking space and apartment were contracted separately and spaced a few hundred meters apart from each other.) Last post I cancelled my parking space, and this time I'll get on that old apartment contract.

Week 3, Friday:
When I found and contracted my old apartment, I was using a rental agency. Since these agencies don't usually own the properties that they are showing, they act as intermediaries and are listed as such on the rental contract. In Japanese they're referred to as the 仲介会社 (chuukai gaisha). They introduced you to the apartment, and they may have handled all the documents and details when you signed for it, but the contract is ultimately between you and the owner.

Sometimes the property owner requests that the 仲介会社 handles all the details in termination of a contract, too. But other owners may prefer to handle terminations themselves. That was the case for me.

This meant I was going to a different company to cancel my contract than I'd gone to when I began it. It wasn't too hard to figure out where to go, though. The owners' phone number was listed on the contract, so a simple call revealed where I needed to go and what I needed to bring to cancel.

By the way...

This contract required a full months' notice to cancel. That's different from the 30 days' notice my parking space required, and fortunately the wording on my contract spelled it out pretty clearly for me: Say you want to cancel your contract on September 20. If you contract stipulates "thirty days", it's just that. Call them by August 21.

But if you have to give a full months' notice, chances are that, unless your moving schedule matches up nicely with a calendar month, you're going to have to plan further ahead. For that September 20 move-out date, you may need to inform your landlord by the end of July--leaving a full calendar month (August) between your filing of intent and desired cancellation date.

Finally, the penalty for failing to file a notice early enough is usually equivalent to one months' rent. So if you miss the deadline, you're going to end up paying for that extra month one way or another.

Anyway, with my deadline for a full months' notice approaching, I call to make an appointment. I'm told that in order to cancel, I need to bring my existing contract, ID, and my 認印 (mitome-in), which is a new word for me. It's easier to guess what it is when it's written down than when you're talking on the phone: It's another word for an inkan.

I'm also told that the inkan I bring doesn't have to be the same one I signed the contract with, or even a registered one. As long as I have ID on me when I go in to sign, any inkan of mine will do.

Fig. 1: An accurate depiction of
the lady that helped me.
I show up in the evening after work and fill out the contract termination form. It's pretty simple stuff: I just write my name, address, and the date I intend to move out. I'm also asked to provide my new address for contact purposes and a bank account number for my shikikin deposit to be returned to me.

Since I'm filing the notification a month in advance of my move, I don't turn in the key yet. The representative who helps me just says to swing by that same office again before the move-out date I've just written down. She also provides me with a form to have my property insurance contract canceled, which she says I can fill out at home and bring along with the key next time.

She goes over basic guidelines of what my responsibilities are (basically, "clear out all your stuff" and "contact the utility companies"), and says that since I had a fiber optic line installed in the place, I might also get a call from my Internet carrier about any necessary uninstallation steps.

And with that, I've checked one more task off my list. Still waiting on the key to the new place, but it shouldn't be much longer now.

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