By Takashi Umekawa and Yuki Nitta
TOKYO (Reuters) - When Tokyo won the right to host the Olympic Games, enthusiastic buyers flocked to purchase luxury condominiums planned for the sprawling development that will house athletes during the event.
But with the Olympics delayed for a year because of the global pandemic, and with uncertainty still clouding the Games, buyers' excitement has turned into frustration. Even as move-in dates have been pushed back by a year, they say they have heard little from the property companies.
Two dozen buyers of units in Harumi Flag, the 5,600-condominium complex on the Tokyo waterfront, are seeking compensation for the delay from developers.
"Any change in the move-in day is an extremely important factor in a real-estate sales contract," said Hironobu Todoroki, a lawyer representing the buyers in civil mediation, which aims to resolve disputes through discussion.
The property companies should have met with the buyers to explain the situation, he said, adding that he would consider a lawsuit if mediation failed.
A spokeswoman for Mitsui Fudosan Residential, the lead developer among the 10 property companies involved, said it has responded to inquiries and would continue to do so.
She said the company would continue to set up opportunities to explain the situation to buyers and respond as needed to civil mediation or other legal action.
Buyers have been told they can back out of contracts because of the delay. Mitsui Fudosan Residential declined to say whether any contracts had been cancelled.
One 45-year-old woman is among those seeking compensation. She and her husband have had to push back the sale of their home because of the delay.
They bought a 95-square-metre (1,020 square feet) condominium in Harumi Flag for 85 million yen ($784,000). But she was "shocked" that the only contact about the delay was a brief letter from the developers. That was in sharp contrast to the many in-person meetings required when buying, she said.
"After all that, I thought, 'What? That's it?'," said the woman. She and other buyers spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation.
Built on reclaimed land, Harumi Flag is designed to house about 12,000 people in 23 buildings. It includes shops, a park and a school. Tenants were supposed to move in starting in 2023. Mitsui Fudosan Residential declined to say how many units have been sold.
A 37-year-old medical researcher said he bought a spacious 110-square-metre condominium because he plans to live with his fiancee and parents. But the unexpected delay means they are sharing his two-bedroom current home until the new condominium is ready.
At 65 square metres, his current home is too cramped for four adults, he said.
The project cost the Tokyo government 54 billion yen ($500 million), including road work and infrastructure. On top of that, the government paid 4.2 billion yen to the developers to lease the complex for a year, using it as the Olympic village for about 10,000 athletes.
Because of the delay, the lease was extended for another year, for 4.2 billion yen.
Todoroki, the lawyer, said he would raise the legitimacy of the lease extension in the civil mediation, given that the condominiums were already sold.
The Tokyo government and Mitsui Fudosan Residential both said they saw no issue with extending the lease.
Another buyer, a man in his 30s, said developers should use some of the 4.2 billion from the lease extension to pay compensation.
Mitsui Fudosan Residential declined to comment on his situation.
The delay had disrupted his plan to move a year before his daughter starts elementary school in 2024, he said.
She will attend school in Harumi, he said. Now, he worries, she won't be able to make friends and get settled before starting school.
($1 = 108.4700 yen)
(Reporting by Takashi Umekawa and Yuki Nitta; Editing by David Dolan and Gerry Doyle)