Bad news for Tokyo slumlords

As concerns grow over the number of aging vacant houses that pose a risk to the surrounding neighborhood, local wards and cities have begun to introduce regulations that will pressure owners into either repairing or demolishing their derelict properties.

— Assistance of up to 1 million Yen —

Tokyo’s Adachi-ku is densely crowded with wooden-frame houses and small workshops. Much of the area is considered to have a high fire hazard. Adachi-ku was the first ward in Tokyo to enact rules that obligate owners of dilapidated houses to either repair or demolish them. In the event of demolition, the ward will provide up to 1 million Yen (12,000 USD) in aid. Already, two buildings have been demolished under this new rule.

There are currently 1743 properties in Adachi-ku which are at danger of collapse. Of those, 57 are considered to pose a very high risk. The ward is currently visiting neighbors and going through the titles of each of those 57 properties in order to contact the owners and request that they demolish their buildings.

Tokorozawa City in Saitama Prefecture introduced similar regulations back in October of 2010. So far they have dealt with 105 complaints from neighboring residents concerned about certain properties and have resolved 62% of the cases.

According to the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications, there were 1,850,000 unoccupied properties in Tokyo, Chiba, Saitama and Kanagawa. Aside from being an eyesore, unoccupied and dilapidated properties can be hazardous and create and crime-related problems.

In Kashiwa City, Chiba, the neighborhood association petitioned the local council to introduce similar laws. The city responded to the residents’ call for action and introduced regulations in May 2011. By September, they had received 64 cases and had resolved 18 of them.

Unfortunately the cities and wards have very little they can do to legally enforce their regulations. Currently, the only penalty is to publicly name and shame the property owners.

Source: The Nikkei Shimbun, February 11, 2012.

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