The difficulty in selling a house with 1,000+ owners

With over 1000 owners, some heirs to a traditional townhouse in Kyoto have found themselves unable to sell.

According to the property title, the home had 202 owners recorded as of 1919. That number has likely swelled to over 1,000. Some of the heirs want to dispose of the property, but selling real estate in Japan requires agreement from 100% of the owners. In this situation, this means getting permission from all 1,000 owners.

The 100 sqm house had been purchased various members of the local youth association in 1919. The current title registration document is over 22 pages, listing the numerous owners. The title has not been updated, leaving heirs and current owners’ addresses unknown. 

After WWII, the house had been maintained by some of the youth association heirs and rented out to tenants. The last tenant left in 2018, with some heirs deciding to sell the now-vacant property. They consulted with a lawyer who said it would be impossible to identify and track down all current owners to obtain their signed permission to sell the property. Kyoto City officials also remarked that this is a highly unusual situation with no precedent.

So why did this house have 202 owners to begin with? Local researchers suggest it may have been due to voting rights in those days which were only given to qualified taxpayers. The timing coincides with the Taisho Democracy suffrage movement.

Source: The Kyoto Shimbun, December 22, 2019.

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