Threatened With Eviction? Know Your Rights

Do you live in accommodation provided by the language school you work for? Having an apartment ready and waiting for you on your arrival in Japan is certainly convenient, but when the people who pay your wages also provide the roof over your head, you could be in a very vulnerable position unless you know your rights.

That's what a young teacher from New Zealand found in January this year. After a disagreement with her employer, one of Japan's major English school chains, about when she could take vacation, the company, exemplifying the generous and humane attitude we have come to expect from the conversation school industry, gave the teacher a "choice". She could "agree" to quit with one month's notice, or be fired without notice and have 48 hours to get out of her company apartment.

Believing that she would find herself not only jobless but also homeless if she didn't "consent" to resign, she signed on the dotted line and let the company off the hook. With her signature on a letter of resignation, the employer need have no fear of being sued for unfair dismissal.

Knowledge, as they say, is power. The company exploited the teacher's ignorance to make her resign under duress.

What she didn't know at the time was that when a property owner wants a tenant to vacate a property, by law the owner must give the tenant reasonable notice to do so. "Reasonable notice" is at least six months. Even if tenants violate the terms of their lease by not paying the rent, they can't be forced out of their home without a court order.

That's right: whatever your employer says, nobody can legally evict you without a court order, and getting one of these is likely to take at least three months. If you're threatened with eviction from your company apartment, stay calm, refuse to sign anything, and contact the union for advice.

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