In Japan, Jiko Bukken (Stigmatized Property) refers to a property or a building that has been the site of a serious accident or a traumatic event, such as a suicide, murder, or any other violent incident.
Due to cultural beliefs and superstitions, many Japanese people believe that such properties are cursed or haunted, and therefore, they are often stigmatized and considered undesirable by potential buyers or renters.
As a result, Jiko Bukken are often sold or rented out at a significantly lower price than other properties in the same area, and they may remain vacant for long periods. However, some people see them as an opportunity to get a good deal on a property, especially if they don’t believe in the superstitions surrounding such places.
New Guidelines for Dealing with Jiko Bukken in Japan
On October 8, 2021, the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism (MLIT) announced new guidelines for dealing with Jiko Bukken or properties that have been the site of serious accidents or traumatic events, such as suicides or murders.
Although the guidelines are not legally binding, they are intended to serve as a “basis for judgment” for real estate agents when dealing with Jiko Bukken.
Before the new guidelines, there was no clear definition of what constituted a Jiko Bukken. As a result, different real estate agents had different interpretations and ways of dealing with them, leading to potential conflicts or issues after tenants moved in.
New guidelines were created based on actual transaction cases and legal precedents to prevent such problems.
What is a Jiko Bukken?
So what is a Jiko Bukken? According to the guidelines, a Jiko Bukken is a property where “death other than natural or accidental death” or a “death requiring special cleaning” occurred.
This includes properties where suicides or murders have occurred, as well as properties where special cleaning was required, even in natural or accidental deaths.
1. Properties with a history of suicide or homicide incidents
Before the guidelines were established, many real estate agents would label residential properties where a death had occurred, regardless of the cause or circumstances, as Jiko Bukken.
However, the guidelines now clarify that if the death was due to natural causes or an accident resulting from everyday activities, there is no obligation to inform tenants or potential tenants.
This distinction eliminates previous ambiguity and specifically categorizes properties with a history of suicide or homicide as “Jiko Bukken.”
Death is a natural part of life, and it is not uncommon for natural deaths to occur. This is particularly true for elderly individuals, who have a higher likelihood of experiencing accidents such as falls down stairs, slips in the bathroom, or choking during daily activities.
As a result, it has been acknowledged that “deaths occurring naturally in daily life” do not significantly impact real estate transactions.
2. Properties that required special cleaning
Even in cases of natural or accidental death during daily life, special cleaning may be necessary if it occurs on the property.
When a tenant’s death goes undiscovered for a certain period, special cleaning, including deodorization and disinfection, is required to remove odors and pests. This fact can influence a tenant’s decision-making and is treated as a Jiko Bukken, or accident property.
3. Properties with associated “psychological defects”
Jiko Bukken can also be called properties with “psychological defects.” Psychological defects are negative events that can sway a person’s decision to rent or purchase a property.
In other words, properties with psychological defects have significant flaws that make people feel like they would not want to live there.
A typical example is when someone decides against renting a property they liked upon learning that a previous tenant had committed suicide.
The obligation to disclose Jiko Bukken information
Real estate agents responsible for brokerage services in real estate transactions must inform potential tenants or buyers about any “defects” in a property.
This information, including the presence and details of any defects, must be documented in a statement of important matters and communicated to the contract signatories in explaining the statement.
The Building Lots and Buildings Transaction Business Law mandates the disclosure of facts that are deemed significant, including the status of a property as a Jiko Bukken.
For example, it is illegal for a real estate agent to deliberately withhold information about a property’s Jiko Bukken status, even if they believe that may result in a tenant not choosing the property. If such actions are taken, the real estate agent may face claims for damages based on unlawful conduct from the tenant, or even temporary suspension of business or license revocation due to violations of the Building Lots and Buildings Transaction Business Law.
On the other hand, there are cases where the real estate agent may be unaware of a property’s Jiko Bukken status, or may not receive a clear response when verifying facts with the landlord or property management company.
The guidelines do not require agents to investigate beyond confirming information with the landlord or management company. The agent’s obligation to disclose is limited to the information they can obtain and are aware of.
Checking online for Jiko Bukken information
You can easily research Jiko Bukken information online. The well-known Japanese website “Oshima Teru” is a popular tool many Japanese people use when searching for apartments or houses. It lets you confirm when and what incidents occurred on a map. However, remember that specific room numbers might not be available, and not all actual incidents may be listed on the site.
Additionally, the information on Oshima Teru is user-generated, and its accuracy cannot be guaranteed. While using the website as a reference is a good idea, consulting with a real estate agent for further clarification is highly recommended.
Don’t let this scare you away from finding your dream home in Japan! Death is a natural part of life, and accidents can happen to anyone. So if you’re looking for a new home in Japan, don’t be too scared of Jiko Bukken.
Remember, most properties where someone died are just old houses or apartments. Just ask your real estate agent if the property has a history of unnatural deaths, and you should be good to go!