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Condition of rental housing cause for worry

By: Victoria L. Moore

Date Posted: 1998-03-28

The condition of rental housing available for members of the U.S. military community in Okinawa has come under scrutiny after a recent potentially life threatening incident.

Tony Italiano, a civilian contractor employee on Kadena Air Base, says he frequently complained his landlord, Tokuzato Housing Agency, of the noises heard from fragments of the roof falling onto the drop ceiling in his rental house. "The agency kept telling me that the drop ceiling would catch any of the debris and there was no reason for concern," Italiano said. However the fragments kept falling until the entire ceiling in his small child's room completely collapsed.

"Luckily my son wasn't in the room when the incident occurred," he stated. "The roof structure made of a mixture of sea sand and concrete had eroded over the years because of weather conditions in Okinawa. Some of these homes were built in the 1950's and very few renovations have been made since that time," he also commented. "Many of the housing units rented by this operation are in similar or worse condition," he stated. "We were very fortunate that the agency paid our move to another house and compensated me for two days missed work. Although I am afraid that my Okinawan counterparts are not as fortunate as Americans that rent property," he said.

An employee of the Tokuzato Agency, who identified her as Sally, stated, "We asked Italiano to move close to four years ago because the owner wanted to use the house." However, she admitted that the agency failed to inform Italiano that the reason for the request was that that the owner wanted to renovate the building. She also told Japan Update that "Italiano refused to move because we didn't have another house to move him into at the time."

Calls to other housing agencies revealed that none of them conducts regular inspections, other than mandated by the military, on the houses and apartments they rent

Kadena Housing officials declined to comment on the inspection policies currently in effect for the rental properties on Okinawa. However local housing agencies told Japan Update that inspections for houses included checking the cleanliness of the entire facility, gas leaks, and smoke detectors but do not include a specific safety inspection of the roofs or any other structural parts of the building.

Maybe the best policy for house hunters is to rely on themselves to ensure that the houses they are planning to rent are structurally safe. The word for a wise here seems to be when in doubt, pass on to the next choice.

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