After a year and four months of waiting, residents of “Neo Heights Kuwano” in Fukushima’s Koriyama City have been given the all-clear to move back into their apartments after the building was repaired following serious damage sustained during the Tohoku earthquake last year.

The first four floors of the building suffered damage to their exterior walls and the reinforcing inside the building’s columns had broken. This led the city to declare it as ‘completely destroyed’. As the majority of the apartment doors were jammed and could not be opened, the residents had to move out.

The building in December 2011, prior to repairs.

Neo Heights Kuwano is a 9 story condominium built in 1990. There were approximately 140 ~ 150 residents living in the building. Prior to the earthquake, 50 sqm (538 sqft) apartments were selling for around 6.8 million Yen (85,000 USD), and renting for between 55,000 ~ 75,000 Yen/month (700 ~ 950 USD/month).

Residents were divided between those that wanted the building rebuilt and those that wanted it repaired. The final decision to repair the damage was only achieved after a lengthy process.

Some residents wanted to seek compensation from the original sales office and construction company, while others wanted to see it torn down and replaced with a new building. This made it very difficult to obtain a consensus on the right course of action.

Based on inspections from architects and other experts, it was eventually decided that the building would be repaired. But some residents were still concerned about how safe the building would be in the future. Experts were called back to help explain the planned outcome from the repairs in order to get agreement from all residents.

Repairs began in January 2012, and the building will be ready for occupancy by the end of this month. Under Japan’s Condominium Law (kubun-shoyuho), any repairs to the interior area of each apartment is the responsibility of the apartment owner, while the cost of repairs to the common areas are paid for out of the building’s repair fund. In this case, the total cost of repairs to common areas totaled 150 million Yen(1.9 million USD).  There were not enough funds available, so each apartment owner is responsible to pay for the repairs which are based on the ratio of the floorspace owned by each owner. Eg. the owner of a very large apartment will be liable to pay more than an owner of a much smaller apartment in the building.

However, there were some owners who were still paying off their mortgages and could not bear any additional financial burdens. For those owners, the management association is considering extending a loan to the owners, and the owners will then pay the association back.

Source: The Fukushima Minpo, June 24, 2012.