National

Leopalace21 probe finds ex-president issued directive to use unsuitable wall materials

Kyodo

Rental apartment operator Leopalace21 Corp. said Monday that its founder and former president issued the directive to change materials used in the walls of its apartments before they were built, contributing to defective construction work nationwide that later meant over 14,000 residents had to temporarily move out.

With no division to monitor overall construction operations, the company failed to detect the order by the former president, Yusuke Miyama, to change materials from those initially planned in the designs, the interim report of its investigation said.

Leopalace21 launched a probe into possible defects in its nearly 40,000 apartments nationwide after 38 defects were found last May in apartments built between 1996 and 2009.

The company said last month it had found more than 1,300 apartments built with external walls not meeting fire-protection requirements or interior walls using substandard materials for sound insulation. Ceilings at some of the affected apartments used inadequate or inappropriate fire-resistant materials.

The company said at that time a total of 14,443 residents would need to move out of their homes in Tokyo and 32 prefectures in order to repair the defects.

“We take it seriously and are prioritizing progress in the investigation and remedial measures,” Executive Officer Shigeru Ashida said at a news conference.

The rental apartment operator will continue its investigation to determine whether the direction by the former president to use substandard materials was intentional.

Ashida said he did not know whether the former president was involved in any wrongdoing and that he will await the final report of the investigation.

Miyama, who established the company in 1973, resigned in 2006 to take responsibility for misusing company funds for private purposes.

According to the probe, the company had been seeking ways to build apartments more quickly in order to increase the number of residents and used those materials to shorten the construction periods.

“It is likely that adequate checks on quality and legality were not conducted at any point in the process,” at the design, construction or final checking stages, the report read.

The product development division, which was operating directly under the former president, was believed to have a “background of making light of laws and quality,” the report said.

Leopalace21 did not have a division exclusively in charge of legal matters when it was planning to build the affected apartments. It also had no specific rules on how to check legal issues, according to the report.

The probe committee plans to compile a final report by the end of May and will outline measures that the company should take in order to prevent similar incidents in the future.