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Gov't eyes stripping ownership rights to unattended land

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“In the event that landowners are stripped of their rights or relinquish ownership, the state and municipalities are likely to receive the land in question.”

Just change the wealth sapping inheritance tax laws so that beneficiaries can be allowed to keep wealth passed down ie property without going into massive debt!

21 ( +24 / -3 )

Ownership is absolute.

Revoking ownership is basically stealing.

If the owner of a Ferrari is remiss on oil changes does that mean another person can take possession?

-16 ( +9 / -25 )

Burning BushToday  07:07 am JST

Ownership is absolute.

Revoking ownership is basically stealing.

If the owner of a Ferrari is remiss on oil changes does that mean another person can take possession?

Such an inaccurate analogy can only be an intentional attempt to misrepresent what's happening here. This is more akin to abandoning a Ferrari for decades and then crying theft when the government finally tows it.

25 ( +28 / -3 )

In the event that landowners are stripped of their rights or relinquish ownership, the state and municipalities are likely to receive the land in question.

How convenient, the same entity that decides whether an owner gets "stripped of his ownership rights" gets to take possession of the property in question.

So basically, if the government wants a piece of land they can just send some inspector by who'll say the grass hasn't been cut and viola, the government can take over the land.

-14 ( +5 / -19 )

this is really interesting. What if the owner died without any relative or offspring? There are a lot of single people in Japan. And most young people are moving to the city.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

So basically, if the government wants a piece of land they can just send some inspector by who'll say the grass hasn't been cut and viola, the government can take over the land.

If the grass hasn't been cut in years and nobody cares enough to acknowledge that they own it, then why wouldn't they? The owner could have died with no relatives to leave it to, who knows. What then? Just leave a structure or piece of land unattended and falling apart for eternity?

17 ( +18 / -1 )

Change the archaic inheritance tax, seize abandoned properties. Offer that land at an Osaka like discount to neighbors. And larger houses could be built, even gardens! Undoing the layers of government laws is the going to be the hurdle, then the creation of layers of new contradictory laws that will be invariably be made. At the end the government will maintain these vacant plots?, once a year? Wildlife parks in every street?

12 ( +13 / -1 )

I think this is a good idea. I live in an area with a few uninhabitabal houses that no one knows who owns. Pieces of the roof occasionally fall on the road and tanuki have taken up residence inside. If the government can take the land and demolish the house, it would help our community have less pest and fire hazards.

17 ( +18 / -1 )

Fantastic idea..... they should strip ownership rights to any property with a house or building on it that has fallen into disrepair. They then should tear down the structure and put the property up for sale at a discount to encourage investment. Initially put the property up for sale for 2 years with a clause that a certain structure must be built on it within 2 years. If the property does not sell in 2 years, start discounting the property further without the build structure clause.

9 ( +12 / -3 )

I agree that it's actually a problem and something needs to be done about it, but I don't really trust the government to implement such a law well.

Revising the inheritance tax would be a godsend. We're set to inherit a bunch of land surrounding our house that my wife's relatives (who have no children) own. We'd love to take ownership of it, but we're questioning if there's any way we can even afford to take it on because of the current rules.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

In my experience in the countryside, everyone knows who owns what, but they are happy to keep it in Meiji era names to avoid paying tax. If the local government wants to build a forest road or dam up on the mountain though with compensation to pay, a big crowd of owners will turn up to the meeting.

As others have said, a lot of people have to live with eyesores in their neighbourhoods due to these ownership problems. As with the bosozoku, for a supposedly authoritarian society, the authorities are toothless.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

I understand a lot of people's apprehension to the government having the ability to take over someones land, but I see the necessity for this at the same time. Yes, Japan has a punitive inheritance tax rate of 55% which should be lowered(but won't), but this abandoned land and these decrepit buildings are choking new investment, new roads, new life into many places. Why not allow the government after doing its due diligence, as in trying to find the rightful owner, take the land, sell it or develop it, but if someone comes forward, pay them something, or have a plaque or sign saying this person donated the land to the city.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Ownership is absolute. Revoking ownership is basically stealing.

I don't trust the government either, and see many potential conflicts of interest in the way this is worded. But ownership of land is not absolute anywhere that I know of. Property taxes see to that. This is one of the problems with buying land to hedge against inflation, as taxes could simply be raised to eliminate any gains.

Governments steal from the people on a daily basis, so we are not crossing any line in the sand here.

There are many ways to handle this, and there is a difference between abandoned property in a city and ignored property on a mountainside somewhere. For sure, it shouldn't be that hard to find the owner of a property, especially in a country that keeps a record of every family member.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

In most cases this is land that has passed to a multiple number of relatives, some living, some barely conscious, some willing to cooperate, some totally uncooperative. The land usually has a wreck of a building on it and has been abandoned for many years, and is an eyesore and potential source of vermin. The government's approach is the only workable one.

10 ( +10 / -0 )

Most of rightful owner that inherit land in rural area unless they have way to monetize that land they'll abandon since it will difficult for them to sale. So it will cost for them to claim that land and ruin them financially.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Why not make it compulsory to notify/register with the local city office your property at least once every 10 years? That way they can track down the owner if they need to.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Just change the wealth sapping inheritance tax laws so that beneficiaries can be allowed to keep wealth passed down ie property without going into massive debt!

Exactly! Excellent post!

But there is also another question: What are they going to do with the land? If the land is going to be sold to beaurcrats and other politicians' sweethearts for dirt cheap like Moritomo then no thank you.

On the other hand, I would loudly applaud the gov if they in fact confiscated land and built or reformed big houses with gardens and gave them away for free to young couples who have 2 or more children to encourage people to have more children.

But first, before all that happens, like kuripitsu said, change the tax laws.

7 ( +8 / -1 )

Goverment has some chances to do good here, especially given the daily reports of the aging society, dirth of babies being born, and so on. They should be allowed to RECEIVE the land if the people who have inherited don't mind giving it up -- for free (they should be exempt from any and all inheritance taxes or tearing down of houses, etc). If the land has gone untouched for 50 years and no one lays claim and no ownership can be found, they should be able to take it. But it's got to be in order to develop for small families or people forced to move (like Fukushima) so that they can relocate cheaply. Do it in rural areas, first, where depopulation is hitting hardest, and allow even immigrants the chance to rent the land cheap (since they can't own it) if no locals can or want to, and encourage farming through no-interest loans and/or subsidies to get started.

There's lots they can do. But unfortunately I see them doing it for money grabs, first. Confiscating the land and giving themselves first dibs at buying it tax free.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

In many cases people do not even realize they have property rights. In my area, some land has been vacant for 20 years or more because the person living there did not have any direct decedents of their own, so it would have gone to some other relatives, sometimes distant, and if their is more than one person, it gets divided up into percentages, and after a few generations it can be 50 people who have a percentage of a small piece of land. Also, when you need to have work done on a shared sidewalk or stairs it can be a pain to track down everyone to get the OK, we have had to deal with that in my neighborhood many times.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

There is a big problem with land ownership in Japan. Someone dies and the property is divided equally between their family. When descendants die, that share of ownership is divided between their offspring. A piece of land may therefore have many, tens of, owners. It cannot be sold without the agreement of all owners. Imagine trying to get twenty or thirty people all to agree to sell at the same time.

To make matters worse often the address of the owners remains unknown. It costs to register land in another name, so often land in not even registered in the name of the true owners. Even if it is, the address may be incorrect. It seems there is no penalty for not registering the address correctly.

There is a simple solution. Tax all land not just resident's land. If the tax is not paid, send a demand to the registered owner's address as in the land registry. If the tax remains unpaid, it should be possible then to get a court order to sell the land.

I had a problem caused by a neighbour's land. A tree fell in a typhoon causing fortunately only minor damage, but it was about one metre from causing major damage. The address of the owner registered in the land office was incorrect. The city office could not help. Were there any unpaid taxes? No, it was forest land and therefore untaxed. I assumed that land tax must have been paid, and if not, the city could claim the land, but I was wrong.

Adding to the problem there is no compulsory purchase in Japan, which is why some of you may have noticed a farm in Narita Airport.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

Burning BushToday  07:17 am JST

How convenient, the same entity that decides whether an owner gets "stripped of his ownership rights" gets to take possession of the property in question.

Convenient? Hardly. It's not as if the local or national government can do a whole lot themselves with the average residential property. Maybe if they seized a whole cluster of derelict houses standing next to each other, but how likely is that to happen?

So basically, if the government wants a piece of land they can just send some inspector by who'll say the grass hasn't been cut and viola, the government can take over the land.

So basically that's gross hyperbole and a total misrepresentation of the facts. The government only stands to gain anything if they can sell the seized land. Any legislation would be aimed at getting owners of unattended property to either do something with it or sell it.

11 ( +11 / -0 )

"It is an extremely serious challenge for communities and requires a quick solution."

It's a problem that has been growing for over a century, but now it requires a quick solution?

3 ( +6 / -3 )

Just amazes me that an advanced country like Japan can have their land registration system so fundamentally stuffed up. I haven't heard of this problem anywhere else in the world to be honest. Not know who owns what on such a large scale.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

Japans land doesnt gain value.

I do not want my grandfathers house for example, it would be awful if he gave it to me and didn’t dispose of it himself.

Rarely can even decent property be sold at a profit and costs are high, so if you haven’t got cashflow to begin with, I think you end up with a lot of old folks, or kidz of old folks with boarded up houses like this.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

burning bush

Not sure what a viola has to do with anything!

4 ( +4 / -0 )

This is a step in the right direction. Here in snow country there are lots of structures that have for various reasons been basically abandoned and now pose a real danger to neighbors and passerby. That danger grows with each passing winter as the building gets more derelict and likely to collapse from the weight of snow.

“allow even immigrants the chance to rent the land cheap (since they can't own it)”

You seem to be confused. I know numerous foreigners who own land here.

Disillusioned, “It's a problem that has been growing for over a century, but now it requires a quick solution?”

Even shoddy houses built in the midst of a desperate need for housing after WWII were not in so much danger of colkapse say in 1970. And they were probably still occupied by families. The current age of structures plus the declining population, etc have combined to make this problem more urgent now.

And for those in deep paranoia about the “government” taking our land, remember it’s not such a great deal for the government either. Funds will have to be used to tear down structures, etc with no guarantee that a buyer will be found or that there is any real public need for some government use of the land. Meanwhile depending on location money will be needed for weed cutting etc on a regular basis.

7 ( +7 / -0 )

If the land owner comes forward then pay the fair value of the land that was taken over, if not then let the building proceed, after all you don't know if the person is dead or not.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Yep, this is a MASSIVE problem that needs addressing ASAP!!

One thing I would like to see however is land(with or without buildings) being offered up CHEAP to the PEOPLE first, NOT direct to govt.

There are tons of good ideas that could result in betterment of cities & the countryside, here's Japan starts to get this RIGHT!

8 ( +9 / -1 )

Im pretty sure there will be safe guards, most of the land in question is abandoned, if you continue to pay the land tax on that land then thats is probably more than enough proof that the owner hasn't abandoned it. If you dont pay your bills whether it be a house , car , land then dont be surprised when its repossessed.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

These problems are very easy to solve, but you would never think so judging from the uselessness of the government response.

First, levy a nominal annual tax on all land. If the tax is not paid for more than five years the land ownership automatically passes to the local government. Problem solved.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Might need a year or two of expert panels to sort this one out!

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Fight The Blight. With all the issues of space in Japan, it's an odd story for a foreigner to hear. My question would be, if there is no structure on the land, and the government takes it, should the government have a specific goal for the property before it can absorb it? Otherwise, what's the purpose of taking it?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Simple solution:

Are the landowners paying taxes on the land? If so, then buzz off.

If they aren't paying taxes, seize the land.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Yep, this is a MASSIVE problem that needs addressing ASAP!!

One thing I would like to see however is land(with or without buildings) being offered up CHEAP to the PEOPLE first, NOT direct to govt.

There are tons of good ideas that could result in betterment of cities & the countryside, here's Japan starts to get this RIGHT!

If I was a young Japanese guy and could buy a plot in a rural area for a song, I would be all over it. Even just to put a shack on it and grow vegetables. Its enough for a subsistence living if life in the city gets too much or you can't work for some reason. I guess that's coming from a Western perspective though. I know in Aus, the idea of a little hobby farm appeals to many young guys. That's why even small plots of rural land here is expensive unless its well removed from civilization.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Land registration system is the issue, with no one knows the real owner stuff. People are treated like peasants with no real capacity to exploit land and succed investment. It is pay to see first situation.

Government so centralized and politicians focused to keep control that taxes won't be ever be that reduced anyway.

I have wished to invest in Japan but my wife and all her family were aware of the impossible issues to solve, and I won't ever consider it. Or not before a generation.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

There are no compulsory purchase laws. If a house is left empty then local taxes are not paid but they are if the house is demolished. Even a collapsed house still constitutes a house.

The land records are usually fairly accurate and over the past year we have visited the city land office many times to obtain copies of land documents in our search for a new house. If you know the location of a house you can easily find the land records and obtain a copy for about ¥600 per document. The document gives the full history of the house, size, when it was build, names of ownership.

Sometimes when the owners dies there may not be any surviving family members or the family just abandons a property because the value of the land is a lot less than the cost of demolition which can be in excess of ¥1 million.

less than 10% of the document we obtained have no known owner. You still pay the fee to discover that.

Jonathan Prin

It's very easy to invest in property and land in Japan, look at there numbers of Chinese doing it. All the land documents are controlled from the local governments and not the centralized one.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

It’s a land grab pure and simple and will be abused. The land departments here have a history of murky deals involving government officials...current case involving a school and a current PM spring to mind. This law will be completely abused by those in power to simply enrich themselves and their connections . No other reason for this but an excuse to steal the land. They should offer relatives of unattended land owned by deceased relatives a one time exemption to come forward and claim the land for free and either sell it off or develop it or start paying taxes on it or hand it over to the state. Job done and everyone’s happy except of course the crooked politicians touting the current proposal. They are the very ones who could give the exemption but simply want to steal it and benefit themselves...so that ain’t going happen. When are people going to wake up? Why can’t the government here give its own people a break to get the land mobilised again which is what they are saying they want. They send trillions of those very tax dollars overseas in supposed aid but we can’t do anything for our own people back at home. Shameful!

-2 ( +2 / -4 )

At the end the government will maintain these vacant plots?

They will, and they will proceed to then build lots of useless constructions on them, with taxpayer funds.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Ownership is absolute.

Revoking ownership is basically stealing.

Ownership is very much a man made concept and it changes from country to country and culture to culture. There is no fixed concept of ownership or absolute one.

In most countries if you have a mortgage or other loan secured on a property it can seized to pay unpaid debts - in other words, the ownership is not absolute.

I think that the American concept of ownership came out of the writings of John Locke who had the view that those who put labour into transforming land and maintaining it could claim ownership. This obviously helped when the USA was being settled back in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Japan only recently moved from a concept of feudalism whereby land rights were transferred to you by the person above. It was replaced by a legal system designed by bureaucrats that does not meet anyone's needs.

Ifor you are not using or maintaining land, you should lose rights to it. This is how it works in the animal Kingdom and is a fair extension of the Lockian concept of ownership.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

No other reason for this but an excuse to steal the land

Plenty of reasons not to see land wasted. It can be dangerous, it's wasteful and when they get overgrown it has negative externalities.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

less than 10% of the document we obtained have no known owner.

What's to stop you just building a house on such land? Or just registering it in your own name,

I'm sure these are stupid questions but I know very little about this roc.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I think that this is a really good idea. I consider it immoral in any society, that there are homeless people (many through no fault of their own) and empty properties falling into dis-repair.

As well as that, empty abondoned properties can have a negetive impact to the moral of a neigbourhood.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I have never seen so many shacks in my life before moving here. Even in 'modern' Tokyo. I wonder what percent of those are abandoned or if it is just someone too old and destitute to keep it up. I'm not talking about those cool old buildings with tiles past their prime that you know someone is just itching to turn into cookie cutter homes. No, the ones I'm talking about are not much more than a bundle of boards and often right next to a nice new home or right along a bustling thoroughfare in a prime location for the next 7-Eleven.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Given all the bureaucracy here, you'd have thought that the J Govt would have jumped for joy at the thought of sorting out the Landownership mess with a centralized registry.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I wonder if anyone checked the house in that picture for dead bodies/owners ?

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I see no mention of a centralized register. From my time visiting the legal land office of Kobe I would say that would be very difficult. Most of the documentation is still in book form and not some computer system. If the maps and addresses need to be changed from the new current ones to a previous system in order to locate the correct documents. Also there would be very little gained from a centralized system since the information is needed on a local level including lawyers who are working on the buying and selling of property.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

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