Further details of payment
"When you are in Rome, do what the Romans do!" and so, when you are in Japan there are set of rules that the Japanese take for granted. But we know that they are new or unheard of in your country. We hope you get a better understanding of what we mean when we say .... !?
As in the title, it's the "monthly rent" of the property you are renting. In general, rent is paid in advance and on a monthly basis. So, if you are paying for July's rent, you would have to pay by the end of June usually via bank transfer or auto debit (and you would have to bear the transferring fee or debit fee). And this is the reason why you have to pay for the first month's rent along with other initial cost: deposit, key money, agent fee, fire insurance and so forth.
Sometimes this management fee is included in the monthly rent. The purpose of this fee is to pay for the maintenance of the common area. For example, wouldn't you want to have lighted corridors and elevators operating? But who's going to pay for the electricity and maintenance fees? Moreover, if you have a superintendent at site or janitors cleaning the common space, who's going to pay them? This management fee is collected from all residents in the building and used to pay for these costs.
The agent fee is our source of income and it's the remuneration for our services. The fee is governed by the Japanese Housing Law, and one month of rent plus consumption tax is the maximum we can charge, and you would most likely to be charged the same amount of agent fee in any real estate agent in Japan. But we think it's the service that counts, and will arrange your utilities and internet set up, movers, rental furniture, and any other requests you may have for no additional charge!
Not only in Japan, but many other countries have a custom of being asked for a deposit when moving in. In Tokyo, usually you are asked 1-2 months of monthly rent's worth, but sometimes you encounter a "no deposit" property (you would have to pay cleaning fee and recovery fee, if any, when moving out). The purpose is to secure some money from the tenant during the lease term. Many people think that deposit is not refundable, but in fact it is. In Tokyo, there is what's called a "Tokyo Rule," which states "who bears what cost" during and after termination of lease. Unless you make clear damage(s) to the property (in which you would need to pay to restore to its original condition), you will be deducted of cleaning fee from the deposit after you vacate the property. But then, you will get back the rest of the deposit, since you are not liable to pay for natural wear and tear. At least, we will get it back for you, and by law, you can get it back. So, why not?
Many people have the misconception that this one-time upfront lump sum money is just a gift to the owner. From the way it's written ("rei-kin": gift money) it's understandable, but it's actually a part of the rent. The purpose is two folds: first, wouldn't you be reluctant to leave in a few months if you pay key money? And that is exactly why many owners ask for key money, because they want you to fulfill the full term of lease. Moreover, some apartments with no key money will impose one month of rent as penalty if you leave within one year. Secondly, the monthly rent is lower by paying key money than not paying any key money at all. You may encounter a rental property with two payment plans: one with key money and one without. And, the one with key money has lower rent compared to the one without. But for sure, we understand that key money will pump up the initial move in cost and would want to get in without paying. Try renting an apartment in Kyoto, for example, where it is known for high deposit and key money requirements. You will think that you are lucky you're in Tokyo!
A guarantor is a person who is responsible for paying your rent, in case you cause a default in payment. For foreigners in Japan, you are most likely to be asked a Japanese guarantor who is working and financially stable. A Japanese applicant will usually be asked for his/her family member as a guarantor, but we know that your folks are back in your home country. So, your colleague, old friend, or someone you have mutual trust would be a good candidate for your guarantor. They should have a good understanding that it's difficult for foreigners to rent an apartment and may offer help. If you are new to Japan, your company or your company's boss, and your school, may offer to be your guarantor. And it is important not to betray your guarantor, and pay on time! That way, you can build your faith in them.
For those who can't find a guarantor, there are companies who serve to be your guarantor for a fee. In such case, you would have to provide a Japanese emergency contact. The fee is usually 50% of the monthly rent, but it depends on the guarantor company. Unfortunately, some owners ask for a Japanese guarantor and the use of a guarantor company. Ultimately, we would have to play by the owner's rules. And the tenant must cope with the requirements or back off. And the owner asks for these procedures, and asks to submit documents because they don't know you and needs substantial information.