This One’s Not About Nails

Hello, everyone out there. Of course I usually post about nails, but this morning I have something else to say. I’m in a tough spot and maybe there is a nail polish color that will cheer me up somehow.

As you may know, I live in Tokyo but I’m American. Sadly, there is still a lot of legal discrimination here, particularly in housing.  It’s hard to find a landlord who will accept foreign tenants and it’s legal to discriminate based on race/citizenship here. My current apartment lease is up on Dec. 21- right after we go home for Christmas. Renewing the contract will cost us 1 month’s rent ($1200). My current apartment is not horrible- about 8 minutes walk from the station, 500 sq. feet (this is considered big in Japan!). But, the rent is high considering the age of the building and the location. Out of 40 apartments, only 12 are occupied. I know this because I can see the taped-up mailboxes with no names on them. If someone was living in those apartments, his or her name would be on the mailboxes, right?

But the big thing is I have a mold problem.  It’s in both closets and starting to spread around the windows. Tons of our clothes, suitcases, cheapo pressed wood furniture etc. have gotten moldy enough to just toss. We bought a dehumidifier, but the mold continues. So, the landlord at my current apartment, “Mold Haven,” told me to pay the $1200 renewal fee. Oh- it gets better. The real estate agent who got me this place is the SON of the apartment owner. So the real estate guy will not negotiate with…his dad on my behalf.

So yesterday, I went to the real estate office in the hope of negotiating the renewal fee with the agent/owner/whoever would listen to me. I figured seeing the mold every day and throwing away moldy stuff regularly after paying him $1200 would really tick me off. Also, I figured, for $1200, they could at least get a mold inspector to come and do something.

The conversation went like this, but in Japanese:

Me: Hello. I’d like to talk about the renewal fee. We have a mold problem, as I mentioned before, and before deciding if we renew, we need it fixed.

Real Estate Agent Horsecrap-san: Oh, really? Well, nobody else has ever complained. Sorry about that, it must be from something you’re doing. Where’s the renewal fee?

Me: No, this is not a regular mold problem and I’ve never had mold before in my other apartments. Can someone at least take a look?

::drag him out to our place, unhappily::

H-san, looking at the mold: Hmmm. Well, we can get a guy to come and spray mold-killer on the wall and ceiling, but not on the closets because it will damage them. It will cost a few hundred bucks.

Me: WHAT?!

H-san: Yeah, and after he sprays, it will change the color of the wall and ceiling. So of course, you’ll have to fix that when you move.

Me: So I have to pay for the guy to spray AND re-wallpaper when we leave?

H-san: Yes, of course. And I’ll be expecting the renewal fee before the 21st. Oh, and if you cancel the lease, it’s one month rent as a penalty. Of course.

Me: Head explodes.

H-san: You know, this building is fully occupied.

Me: Oh, really? Because I see a lot of empty units.

H-san: No, there are NO empty units here. This is a totally blatant lie, unless all the other tenants have a mailbox phobia and won’t write their name on the boxes or take the tape off. And nobody but you has complained about mold!

Me: I see.

H-san: I think if you just move all the clothes and furniture from this room, and keep the window open all the time, the mold won’t be a problem anymore.

Me: Gee, we have electric heat which isn’t included in the rent, so my electric bill will be about a million dollars. So that means I’ll have to buy new wardrobes to hang the clothes because that room has the only clothes closet, right? Can you drop the renewal fee in that case, since a large part of the apartment will be unusable?

H-san: smirks. Oh, no, I’m afraid the owner (oh, don’t you mean your daddy?) will refuse. I’ll be waiting for your decision.

Other than the mold, this place is not so bad. I don’t love it, but the timing to move out couldn’t be worse. I’m going home on Dec. 18, my guy is coming on Dec. 23, and I don’t know if we’ll have time to get it all packed up and ready to go by then.

The new place we picked out (a lot wouldn’t allow foreigners) is nice, but $1300. The location is great- 2 minutes from the station, and is a nice place.  It will cost one month “gift money” to the landlord, one month “agency fee” to the real estate agency, and one month deposit which we will never get back, plus moving costs. So $1300 x 3= $3900, plus about $500 to move, against $12oo for renewing Mold Haven + whatever stuff we have to throw away, which is probably not too much money (plus we wouldn’t have to pack up and get out and do all that troublesome utility set-up and all.)

I honestly don’t know what to do. Should I stay in Mold Haven because it’s the easiest thing? Should I fork over the dough and move? Should I push Mr. Horsecrap down some stairs?

YIKES! I’m seeing my new agent in about 2 hours and she’s really pushing to get me to move into the new place. I need a good polish color for a tough day. Black immediately sprang to mind, but I think I’ll do some butt-kicking burgundy. Or white and gray, in honor of the micro-organism which is going to cost me several thousand dollars.

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About nevertoomuchglitter

Nail artist. Wanderer. I'm a color-holic, in fact, it was my love of color that brought me to the nail art world. Well, that, and the fact I was too cheap to pay crazy Japanese prices for nail polish while living in Tokyo, so I had to start mixing my own. That's how NTMG began.
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4 Responses to This One’s Not About Nails

  1. wixbetty says:

    I know you are going through a transition and this is never easy.

    I am not a doctor, but am concerned about the safety of the mold, even more than the inconvenience it poses you and your belongings.

    Do you have allergies that will be made worse by staying in this place?

    Has the mold progressed much in the time you have lived there, or stayed relatively the same?

    As I understand it, bleach kills most types of mold, so instead of taking everything out and just blowing the heater on it, you could still move everything and try spraying straight or diluted bleach anywhere you see the mold…
    The frustrating thing about mold is the part you see is usually just the tip of the iceberg. There has got to be a leak in the walls, maybe an upstairs neighbor?

    In the meantime, saving up some money for the new place might make the move easier the next time your lease is up and you won’t have to endure the condescending words as you ask for assistance with their mold problem.

  2. nevertoomuchglitter says:

    Thanks so much for your concern, Wixbetty.
    The mold definitely got worse. We live on the top floor, and when I looked on the roof, I saw a giant puddle right above our moldy area. It looks like water is seeping in from the roof, because we have a moldy ceiling and wall right under where the puddle is. The closet is right next to the area.

    I showed the landlord the puddle on the roof and he flatly refused that could be the cause, because the roof was “sealed and had a 10 year guarantee.”

    We can probably control the mold with bleach, but everytime we see a new patch, it’s such a bummer. It started to get in my underwear, and while it’s a funny story, it just felt crummy to see moldy skivvies. We also don’t have clothing dryers in Japan because people prefer to hang clothes to dry. So we had to bring all the clothes to a laundromat about 10 minutes away to wash the clothes and try to totally blast them in the dryer. If they were even slightly damp, well…welcome to Moldville.

    We also have to pay for any mold damage and if it actually causes structural damage, we will be on the hook for that too. They have several months’ rent as deposit, as well as my personal guarantor and company guarantor who they absolutely will go after if I don’t pay all the damage. I can leave Japan but they can’t.

    So, we decided to move. The landlord was very angry and left a note in my mailbox saying I had to be out by Dec. 20, though I must pay rent for one month because I didn’t tell him that I was moving. He’s legally in the wrong, but pursuing that will be more than the rent. Luckily we had enough bucks in our rainy day fund that we can cover the costs. It hurts to pay $5000, but from what I’ve heard, moldy lungs are horrible and living with mold is just not good for anyone.

    So, while a lot of people say America is a sue-crazy country (and I agree!), this is the reverse side of things. An individual is really powerless against legal abuses by landlords or employers.

    Thanks everyone again for listening to my non-nail related rambles, and I will soon be frankening from my new place!

  3. I’m just catching up here on Monday, so I am reading these posts in reverse. Wow! I feel for you! I hate that feeling of knowing that you are in the right and there is nothing you can do about it (at least not with out hurting yourself more). I feel for you! MY advice would have been, MOVE! If you have the money it’s all for the best to just pay it and get out, the problem will only get worse. And I would assume that it is the MOLD the has the rest of the building empty too. You would think that with you being one of the few tenants he has left he would do what it takes to keep you there. I wonder if you could maybe visit a lawyer and pay for them to write a threatening letter to the landlord, sometimes that is all it takes!

    GOOD LUCK, I know you need it! 🙂

    Also, I almost choked when you said your rent was $1200.00 and then I really DID choke when I heard that it is only 500 SQ FT!

  4. nevertoomuchglitter says:

    Thanks so much, Brooke. Yes, it’s hard to believe, but $1200 in Tokyo for 500sq. feet is not expensive. Most apartments are like 200 square feet. I used to live in a 180 sq. feet- with my guy. We had to plug our George Foreman grill next to the toilet. You could grill and take care of business at the same time! The stove was sooo tiny, it was a single burner and never heated up, so the grill had to go in the bathroom. The bed was on top of the clothes bureau. Looking back on it, it was kind of funny, but darn- that “apartment” was smaller than my dorm room in college!

    There are very few enforceable laws here to protect tenants- especially non-Japanese ones. I know I’m in the right on this one, but even if I get a lawyer, what’s the best outcome? Have him fix the mold and then move back again 6 months later, maybe, plus lawyer fees and moving costs whatnot. So I’m happy to move, but unhappy about blowing our savings on it. But, as a lot of people have pointed out, health problems from mold are usually persistent and hard to treat. Ya only get one pair of lungs, you know?

    Thanks to everyone for all the support. I felt good about moving, not so good about blowing $5000 in this economy, but I’m sure my lungs will thank me.

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