Divorce and tenant troubles



Reader SJ and his wife were married nearly 40 years ago in the United States. At that time, SJ agreed to list her as half-owner of our home. For various reasons, the couple now do not get along and are on the way to separation or divorce.

SJ has limited income and cannot live on his pension, but if he sells the house he believes he could live on one half of the settlement. His wife refuses to leave Japan, but SJ would like to live overseas. However, he’s previously heard that the Japanese government does not allow a divorce to occur except in the country in which the marriage took place.

Is this really the case, he asks.

SJ will be relieved to know that there is no stipulation that a divorce between a Japanese and a non-Japanese must be done in the country they were married in.

There are two ways in which SJ can proceed. The simplest is to draw up a document between him and his wife carefully outlining both in English and Japanese what you want to do (eg. how the property will be divided). If both partners sign the document and turn it in with a divorce form to the local city office, it should be fine.

If they want to take it to the next level, SJ and his wife should contact their closest “bengoshikai” or bar association. They can do the paperwork for you under their community counseling program. It usually costs 5,000 yen for a 30-minute session.

If SJ and his wife anticipate problems or cannot agree, then they will need to take it up another level and actually hire an attorney from the bengoshikai, which will recommend a specialist in divorce if needs be. The price for this service varies depending on needs, but can cost anything from 100,000 yen to 500,000 yen. Attorney Watanabe can get you started at (03) 3226-0051.

Apartment troubles

BR recently rented an apartment. The advertisement she replied to and lease she signed both said that there was an air conditioner in the apartment, but that it was left behind by the previous tenant. The lease also said that BR would have to maintain the unit and that the landlord and owner of the apartment would not be responsible for it.

During viewing, BR did not check the air con. However, she found out on her first day in the apartment that the air con didn’t work.

BR wonders if she is obligated to keep this unit or dispose of it at her own expense, or if the agent is legally responsible for it.

Since the landlord has made clear in the lease that he has no connection to the air con, then he is not legally responsible for it. BR should try taking the rough with the smooth here. She can try to get the air con fixed at the local “denkiya,” or electric shop, which should be able to send someone over to have a look at it first. If it can be fixed, they’ll do it. If you need a new one and buy it from them, they’ll take care of the old unit.

If you think you need legal advice, as above, the best place to go is your local bengoshikai — call 104 and ask for the closest office.

For those in Tokyo, questions on this kind of issue can be directed to the Real Estate Industry Division of the Tokyo Metropolitan Government on (03) 5320-4958.