or when foreigners invade the Japanese capital.
One of the teachings I received was:
If you want good quality, you have to search early. Plan more than a month earlier.
Another important point. The rentals are not managed by Japanese citizen, but by foreigners. When foreigners serve foreigners … do not expect from them the same quality of Japanese service.
There are several rental agencies in Tokyo allowing foreigners to rent:
– Leopalace 21: the meeting at the agency of Shinjuku by an Indian, made me want to run away, which I did. In addition, their website is entirely in Japanese. And although I explained in different ways what I was looking for, the agent didn’t take it into account. He showed the apartments he wanted to get rid of, not what was really available.
– Fontana: read below. I confirm some of the negative comments on the Internet.
– OAK house: many are saying that they are excellent. maybe one day I’ll try them, but … with Fontana adventure, do I still want to test a rental agency?
For other agencies, Google, your friend, can help you. I learnt there were others agencies at an InterNations party (for those interested, Internations also exists in other capitals, such as Paris).
For rentals for more than two weeks, the most important point is to be there or have someone you trust in order to visit the apartments.
Beware of the photos on the websites. I don’t know how they manage to embellish them at this point, but often the pictures of the apartments don’t reflect the reality. They are old, broken, full of stains, etc…
Ah too! There is no insulation, neither sound nor thermal.
It is highly recommended to read the contract carefully before signing and remembering what you must do in order to recover your deposit. I advise you to ban contracts only in Japanese if you don’t understand the language (reference to Leopalace21).
I chose Fontana for two reasons:
– Some comments on Internet are really negative. Are they really that bad? (Too curious, it will ruin me.)
– 2 apartments had seemed liveable for me.
The welcome at FONTANA agency is warmer than Leopalace21. The appointments to visit apartments take place after 10:30 AM. I understood it later that it’s because some apartments are already rented. But for those waking up early it’s a bit late. If it’s summer, take a bottle of water … otherwise there are the vending machines, always practical. At the agency they don’t offer any water to you.
The first apartment I liked was as big as a handkerchief. But it suited me. The problem came from the stairs. The steps, too narrow and too high, are difficult to climb and descend for me. The second apartment … the smell was unbearable, otherwise it seemed to be made for me. Maybe I should have kept this one, because the following choice … I let you discover in writing and in pictures below.
The commercial agent Mr. S, brought me to see a third apartment.
Tip: Take photos before unpacking. It will serve as proof if there is a conflict with the rental agency. The inventory must also be very clear. Look at every corner of the apartment and read all the lines of the state of the apartment.
If you discover something after entering the premises, do not panic: take a picture and send an email to the agency on the day of discovery. This also is counted as proof.
Very dusty, too dusty. I should have been more careful. Mr S assured me that it will be thoroughly cleaned. I sign the contract and I settle 2 weeks later. 2 days before my move, I went to the apartment: no cleaning was done. I sent an email to Mr. S, who replied that he will do what is necessary to involve the cleaning company the next day. The day before my arrival, I go back to the apartment to leave some things there. The apartment is still so much dirty. Nothing seems to have changed. T____T
Was it really cleaned? How come?
On my way back to the place I stay, this time, I stop at the agency to tell them about it and I send another email to Mr S. I had insisted on cleaning the apartment. Why is it so hard to clean up?
And when I finally arrive with all my stuff … it’s still so dirty. I can assure that nothing was done. Why? Because my stuff is at the same place. How can you clean without moving things?
Knowing that I pay 20 000 yen (nearly 180 euros) for the cleaning fee, I see red. My brain is asking the question almost immediately: By chance is Fontana keeping the money for themselves? Give me back my money!
Internally I’m blazing.
Externally I remain calm and smiling. I go back to the agency, sit down and wait. If the older generations of Japanese citizen taught me one thing, it is knowing how to wait even when one has no patience. Mr. J, another salesperson, listen to my request: clean the bathroom at least. Mr. J apologizes politely and immediately calls the cleaning company in front of me. An appointment is made for 7-7:30PM.
In the meantime, I’m going to look for something to clean the bedroom, the fridge, the dining room, the table, the chairs, the washing machine, the floor and the kitchen area. I do 2 laundry to clean the sheets filled with hair and other unidentifiable things that I do not even want to identify … yuck. Yet Mr S had assured me that the sheets were new. How is it possible?
And I discover through translators that the washing machine has a drying program too. Later when I ask Mr. S why he did not tell me that, he will answer me in a strange, not very sure way, that he did not know it. Yeah sure, I’ll try to believe that one. Then he told me that the machine was not strong enough to handle laundry and drying. How come you know that if you didn’t know that it had a drying program?
Even though I’m sceptical, I let it go. I still dry my laundry to the local laundromat. It’s cheap and fast and I can handle the drying time. I mean I can stop the machine before the time runs out. Not all laundries have these practical machines.
It took me 4 hours to clean everything. A way to vent off, but my patience ran out. I didn’t rent an apartment to clean and spend my time welcoming technicians! I had to do it the entire first week, day after day. è_é
A young Japanese man came around 7PM. It was the cleaning staff. He speaks only Japanese. Besides, I noticed that all the technicians only speak in Japanese language. In a very basic Japanese language I ask him to clean the bathroom entirely, explaining that I asked Fontana 3 times the cleaning of the apartment, without success. He too apologizes politely and he goes to work. Once the cleaning was done I couldn’t believe my eyes. Wow! It’s so impressive ! Wait! do not go ! Leave me your card, please! … (Too late, he’s gone.)
Thank you, thank you very much. ^ ____ ^
The agency provides the shower curtain. I also asked them for extra storage for the kitchen, received rather quickly.
And they provide me with other sheets … new, they say, but still dirty as possible …
If one needs more furniture in the apartment, if Fontana has it in stock they will try to take it to you. That’s quite positive.
It will take me several days to learn how to use the air conditioner. “It’s easy, look on the internet.” (Fontana’s answer)
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, not everyone likes internet. And even looking on the internet, I didn’t understand. So I tried by pressing the buttons, combining them and I found out how it worked. There is only to heater part that I could never have found alone. I thank from the bottom of my heart the Japanese technician who took the time to show it to me (it is the one who solved the following problem below). No, he did not come especially to show me how the air conditioner worked. :p
There were 2 rather cold nights in June, so I used the heater.
I almost swim in happiness when the second day the air conditioner releases a medium amount of water on the table and the floor inside the bedroom. Fortunately my books narrowly escaped the dips. And I discover with horror that the kitchen sink really leaks below … The smell that comes from it is truly disgusting. The small room becomes unusable quickly.
I call Fontana trying to stay as calm as possible. And a technician comes, cleans the air conditioner, tests it, looks at my request under the sink, but can not do anything and leaves after telling me that someone else will come for the sink later.
I think I’ll be fine from now on, but on the 3rd day the air conditioner is leaking the water in the room again. I call back Fontana, and a technician comes in less than 10 minutes. Wow. I remain amazed and impressed. He looks at the air conditioning, tests it. Everything seems to work fine when suddenly, it seems to him that the device is badly positioned. He tries to straighten the device and put it in the right place and succeeds. The problem of the air conditioner is finally solved. Thank you.
Yatta! ^ __ ^
For the sink I have to wait an entire week. I’m having trouble because washing the plates, the vegetables and fruits ‘above’ the toilets, personally it disgusts me.
The technician came, did nothing and Fontana told me they will keep me informed in the next 2 weeks. I found this strange. I felt that something was wrong. So 2 weeks later, day to day, I went to Fontana’s agency. I managed to hide my dragon temper under a tired look and an exhausted smile.
This time it is no longer Mr S who takes care of me. How come?
A French commercial is now in front of me. Mystery. There were 2 French commercials at the agency. So why now and not before?
Mr. T is listening to me. It’s nice to have someone who seems interested in your problems. I then ask for news for the repair of the sink, explaining my daily discomfort. I admit that I had trouble getting back to French. English was more natural at that time.
I see Mr S taking Mr T apart to talk to him.
My feelings ? Mr S would have preferred that I did not come to the agency. He did not seem to want to give me the news he had, in my opinion, for a few days already. It’s only my feeling. I have no proof. But feelings are important when doing commercial business … Isn’t it?
For what reasons did he hide to speak instead of telling me straight what he had to say?
Mr. T told me that they just had the information that the sink couldn’t be repaired. Major work was to take place, because they needed to replace the whole kitchen block. Major work, for me it means days and days, even weeks.
But in fact, when I asked, out of curiosity, how many days they needed in order to do it, they only said a whole day. ^ __ ^
No kidding? All this for only one day? For me it’s OK. When do we take the appointment? I will make myself available …
The appointment was never taken with me.
I asked what he was suggesting then, having no idea and expecting nothing more in reality. Mr T offered me 2 solutions:
– continue as before
Rule number 1: You stay more than a month? Do not pay the entire stay at once. In case of moving out, you can change easily the rent agency.
– move to another apartment.
I chose to move.
Rule number 2: if you see a window cracked or broken … I advise you to avoid renting the apartment under penalty of infernal sound of sirens all night, smells of tobacco and food and invasion of insects. So inspect carefully all windows.
A misconception I had before was that insects only come to an apartment when it’s dirty or smelly. This belief was destroyed when I moved into my new apartment in France in 2017: some types of insects only like cleanliness. And these insects also exist in Japan.
So it’s not because we clean thoroughly that insects leave us alone.
The new apartment is not bad. In any case it is cleaner than the previous one. Except the bathroom. I do not know what is going on, but even at the hotels the bathroom is not fully cleaned. Yet If I take a sponge and Japanese products, I only have to scrub a little and everything comes off…
I really thank Mr. L, the second French commercial, for his help with the move. Really this man is a pearl in this agency. Even today I’m grateful for everything he did.
The sheets are new … with filthy and unidentifiable traces … no comment. When I started the laundry, I went out to buy food. When I came back here is what I found.
I contacted Mr L and he agreed to clean everything and check everything by himself before I came in. He did a great job. Thank you, really thank you very much.
Honestly, I didn’t have the energy to do all that stuff.
Later that day, when we went back to the agency I heard that Mr S had done something he shouldn’t have done. That didn’t interest me any more. I didn’t listen. I only wanted to rest and sleep.
Sweet sweet dream, that’s all left to me. T____T
The bed… I challenge them to sleep a whole week on it and honestly say that their backs, legs and belly are fine.
The bedroom window is cracked and the latch of the down window of the bathroom is broken. Unfortunately during my visit I couldn’t see those things. People were living there and I didn’t want to disturb them too much. Next time I won’t hesitate.
It’s exhausting to be on my guard 100% of my time, especially in Japan where normally I usually know I can let myself go.
I sent an other mail to the agency, but for the latch of the bathroom it fell into oblivion, for sure.
With Fontana, there is one thing I couldn’t stand. It was to hear Mr. S and another commercial always blame the Japanese staff. it made me really angry. è_é
Hey, if you don’t like to work with them, if you don’t know how to work with them, leave! No one is asking you to do it. No matter what it’s their country and their city and their places.
Let’s go back to the cracked window: it’s as if the window was wide open all the time. I asked Fontana to intervene. The technician just blocked the opening of the window while Fontana told me they were replacing it…
When I asked why it wasn’t replaced, I didn’t receive an answer. When I went to the agency, they told me that they were managing it – How? No idea. – and that they would come back to me very quickly … Very quickly, how many days is it for Fontana?
Out of strength, 2 weeks later, in complete lack of sleep – because I only slept when my body fell down – I ended up sending a rather cold email – goodbye patience and smiles – asking Fontana to leave me alone and do not disturb me during the remaining 2 weeks of my stay. In exchange, I didn’t ask them anything any more.
No response from them, but no invasion as it should have been. I consider that this time, my request has been taken into account.
There had just been Mr S who will recognize himself, who decided to ring at my door one day, a week before my departure. All smiles, he begins to talk banalities. Inwardly, I am disgusted. And in fact, it’s his nonchalant behaviour that disgusted me the most. When we know that one of our customers is not feeling well – it was clearly written in my emails – one should have the decency to not behave as if everything was fine for the client. Shouldn’t he?
I didn’t smile, but I remained polite and probably very cold. At the same time, in my state of exhaustion – 3 weeks without sleep, I was more focused on controlling my dragon temper. Mr. S was the person I didn’t want to meet any more. Someone else from the agency would have come, he would have received a warmer welcome from me.
It would have been enough for Mr S to apologize. Politeness means that when we disturb someone, we excuse ourselves from the inconvenience we bring upon the other person. But now, apologizing seems overrated. Apologizing doesn’t come into Mr S’s vocabulary anyway, nor for what happened with the first apartment nor for what happened with the second apartment. He never understood that my icy and harsh attitude came from this lack of manners.
Mr J, Mr T, Mr L and other people from the agency apologized to me and they did their best to find solutions. I really enjoyed being in touch with these people. Thanks to them I cannot crush Fontana’s note on google. If there had been only Mr S, I would have put 1 star for his behaviour because zero doesn’t exist. I put 3 stars because there were those people who tried to do their job the best while having the courtesy to feel concerned about the well being of their customers.
By the way,
Is it my fault if the air-conditioner leaks and is unhooked?
Is it my fault if the sink leaks? They were not supposed to check the state of the apartment before renting?
Is it my fault if the apartment is dirty? They were not supposed to check that the cleaning had been done?
Is it my fault if the sheets are dirty? They were not supposed to look and see the hair and stains on it?
Today, I understand better the comments of their previous customers on google.
Let’s go back to this unexpected visit of Mr S.
I cut short to his smiles and banalities by asking him what he wanted. He bothered me without a word of apology for an accounting problem dating from June 2018. The transaction with Mr L didn’t correspond to his calculations. I asked why not contact Mr L. Because he is on holiday, abroad. It’s something that I understand very well.
But, by the way… wasn’t it part of Mr S’s job to check the accounts of June before this day of July? I didn’t ask this question, I didn’t want to know.
In short, as I wanted more than anything to close the door, I asked him to send me an email with his detailed calculations. In addition, he had the nerve to pressure me to answer him before the evening.
I am too nice. It will lose me. I should have made him wait until next decade.
This “brave” man must not understand English language. In his mail there were numbers without any explanation.
I should have insisted on the details to annoy him. How did he find these gaps? Where do they come from? Even doing the calculations myself I’m not near his numbers.
I replied to his email, the same evening to get rid of it. The mail is one of the second hardest I’ve done in my life.
Luckily Mr L had explained me in detail the transfer to the new apartment and the accounting calculations. I was able to remember I think all the informations he had given me. I never knew if I remembered correctly.
Following my email, Mr S seems to be waiting for an apology…
I didn’t reply this time. Seriously, it exhausts me. I have nothing more to say and better things to do. è_é
2 days before my departure, Mr S has the goodness to remind me by mail that I must close the gas and the electricity accounts to recover all of my deposit, by presenting the final invoices. Very important point that I forgot. Thank you Mr S. Finally something good. I was losing hope.
Mr S estimating that I am ungrateful for everything he did for me -what did he do exactly?, refuses to help me. No problem. Managing on my own is one of my best abilities.
I looked on the Fontana website: the information is outdated.
Briefly How to do it:
I get the last TEPCO electricity bill I paid. And the note of the invoice that TEPCO lost thanks to Fontana. I call the number written on it, but everything I hear is in Japanese. T____T
I run to see on the internet. On their English version website I find the number that is displayed on the invoice and a notice explaining that one should wait without pressing any keys on the phone. I call back, wait and I connect immediately with someone … in Japanese language.
Prerequisites before calling: know how to read Japanese addresses. Reading an address in Japanese is very useful especially on the phone. Recognizing the kanjis for the address is better of course, but you can still do it without.
Rent an apartment without speaking Japanese? It’s possible if you do not have to close the accounts by yourself.
Japanese sentences to remember: (pronounce all the letters)
Eigo de onegai shimasu. (In English, please)
If the person continues in Japanese say, embarrassed:
Zenzen wakarimasen (= I don’t understand anything)
you will hear either a shy ‘Please wait’ or a shy ‘call back later’ meaning that they are the ones who will call you back later so remain by the phone because later can be some minutes (5, 10) to several hours; either:
Matte kudasai (= Please wait) in this case, stay connected.
I did the same for Tokyo Gas. Normally, we have to make an appointment several days before departure. Before they told me anything, I apologized for forgetting and still managed to get the appointments 48 hours before I left. Plan to have cash for Tepco bills.
Doing it by myself, I even managed to pay the lost Tepco bill. They found it in less than 24 hours. ^ ___ ^
Fontana says they refund all the deposit in exchange for the 2 proofs of invoices paid and if nothing is broken in the apartment. But, paying tokyo gas is no longer done on the day of the closure. you can only do it afterwards.
And in fact it’s even more difficult to obtain the tokyo gas proof of payment. Neither Fontana nor Tokyo gas said that the bill can only be paid on Japanese soil. So when they contacted me by mail, as I was in France, I didn’t have access to the invoice or a payment method to do it. It’s true, the amount is only 883 yen. (Less than 10 euros). But I don’t like having that kind of debt.
I talked a lot with tokyo gas during the last 2 months before finding this solution with one of my friends:
Fortunately my Japanese friend accepted to pay the bill for me. Paying it back to him is easier than paying Tokyo gas remotely.
The day of departure I didn’t pay anything more to Fontana and I recovered the full amount of the deposit before having the receipt of the invoice of Tokyo gas.
… Mr S even helped me to take down the luggages. I was really surprised because I didn’t expect it at all. Truly I wasn’t waiting anything from him any more.
It took me more than one month to recuperate and restore my health. A lot happened since then. Next time I rent I will do it differently. It was a great experience.
Thank you everyone.
A question many are asking me: where to pay the bills for electricity and gas in Tokyo?
In the konbinis. I will talk about it in my next article. And no need to speak Japanese. Just show the paper that has a barcode. If there is no barcode it is just a notice informing you that you will receive the final bill. i will show them in the konbini article.
Do not hesitate if you have questions, comments, information or if you want to share your experience as well.