Tough question, if you need a guarantor, you need a guarantor.
If you don`t, you don`t.
The real answer is:
You, personally, don`t really need a guarantor, a personal guarantor benefits one party only – the owner of the property you want to rent. They need the assurance of a co-signer. Someone who will fulfil your legal obligations should you disappear, or just decide to stop fulfilling.
Unfortunately for most of our non-Japanese residents, a guarantor is pretty difficult to come up with.Family members living in Japan can be few and far between. Significant others can become ex-significant others. Japanese co-workers and employers usually balk at the idea of entering into a legally binding agreement with someone they don`t know that well. In general, Japanese people will only ask family members.
Who can I ask?
Again, tough question, the real point is who is going to say “OK”?
A guarantor needs to be a Japanese citizen, currently employed, or receiving superannuation, and living in Japan.
Examples from experience:
University Professor – usually only for former students. Some universities have agreements where they will guarantor currently enrolled students, but professors usually are not allowed to. But if you have a good relationship with a professor, and they want to see you do well after graduation, then go ahead and ask.
Sensei – for those who are here in Japan on cultural exchange visas. One of the things about a cultural visa, is the commitment you have to learning a traditional art form, or practice. You sensei should be able to trust you to fulfil a similar commitment.
In-laws – only for those who are both married, and on good terms.
Work-mates – if you are close, and they trust you. Unfortunately, your employer is not a suitable guarantor, unless your employer actually forms a lease on your behalf. Most employers don`t, unless you are being transferred from another country, to a Japanese branch.
Significant others – good way to test boundaries. This is fine if you are close, and DON`T intend to live together, your guarantor cannot be a co-occupant.
So where does that leave all the rest of our un-married, recently employed, un-cultured, non-relationship types?
Trust Japan to come up with an idea for something you never knew you needed.
The guarantor company. Sounds simple, a company that performs the same duties as a personal guarantor, for a fee. Now that sounds like something people will get behind. In most cases, the guarantor company simply covers you for any losses you incur, covers the landlord for any late mortgage repayments, and pays your termination penalty should you skip out and leave the landlord in the lurch.
A good guarantor company will only require an emergency contact, will cost less than one month`s rental payment, cover you for the first year of your lease, and if you are good little tenant, the renewal fee for the next twelve months is just 10,000 yen.
What`s the catch? Well, a bad guarantor company will require you to have a personal guarantor anyway…. the worst will require that personal guarantor to be a family member. Let that sink in, a Japanese, family member.
In theory, a guarantor company simplifies the old process of having a co-signer on your contract. It gives the owner of the property a greater assurance of regular rental income, and it allows non-japanese residents to rent the same property our local counterparts do, in the same way.
In reality, it is an extra months rent paid at the start of the lease, that you never get back. If you are a responsible, regular, law-abiding tenant, it seems a bit unfair. But like a lot of things in life, everyone else has to suffer, so why should you be treated any different? It is a fee, that pays for a service that you need if you want to rent property.
Good agents will be able to help you with finding property with guarantor companies which are more accommodating, and avoid the nasty, strict ones.