Compensation Claims for Tenant Suicides

By: Madalena Penny

Landlords in the UK receive very little positive publicity.  Through historical renditions of Dickensian property owners that throw starving families out into the streets with Machiavellian pleasure, the UK’s private rented sector is in need of the business investment model delivering a new image to bring it in line with a more empathetic ethos that landlords generally apply to tenants.

The Japanese, however appear to have a far more clinical approach to buy-to-let with much less compassion than their British counterparts.  Under their stringent suicide laws enabled in 2006 to tackle the soaring suicide rate, landlords are suing the families of tenants for loss of revenue and compensation if a tenant takes their own life in a rented property.

In the last 12 years, over 30,000 Japanese people kill themselves per annum, that’s one every 16 minutes.  71% of last year’s victims were men, mainly suffering from financial pressures.

As Japan’s railway operators sought compensation from families of suicides who threw themselves under trains causing service delays, landlords followed similar suit.  Under Japanese law, landlords must disclose to potential tenants if the apartment was the scene of an unnatural death or event.  Understandably rents are reduced in such cases and a ritual cleansing is performed on the property.

Organizations opposed to the financial demands made on families of suicide victims have been established in response to the compensation claims.  One instance reported a letting agent who had actually approached a family while the cremation of a suicide victim was in progress demanding the family pay 6-million Yen (£45,616).  Another family was asked for 5-million Yen (£38,434) for an estimated future rental loss after a 30-year-old man committed suicide in his rented apartment, with a further 2-million Yen (£15,375) for repairs and maintenance.