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Shabbat Parashat R'ei 5776

P'ninat Mishpat: Payments Due from Exiting a Rental

(based on ruling 74020 of the Eretz Hemdah-Gazit Rabbinical Courts)

Case: The plaintiff (=pl) rented an apartment to the defendants (=def) for a year and renewed it for another year, until June 30, 2014. Several of def’s rental checks bounced, and in Sept. 2013, pl informed def that he was ending the rental unilaterally and setting def’s exit date as the end of Dec. 2013. On Dec. 3, def informed pl that he had vacated the apartment. Pl made it to the apartment on Dec. 18 and found that it was not left in proper order. It was dirty and there was mold on the ceiling, which was caused by a neighbor’s leak. Since def had not reported it, it was too late to make the neighbor pay, and the necessary paint job was more expensive (3,000 shekels) than it would have needed to be (2,500 shekels). Def also had a debt to the va’ad bayit, which he attributed to a rightful refusal to pay due to unfair treatment by the neighbors. Pl had receipts that he paid the va’ad bayit instead of def. For most of the time until the end of the contract, pl was unable to find renters, and so they are also demanding payment of lost rent, which became necessary due to def’s lack of payment. Pl is also demanding 1,000 shekels for work he missed plus 300 shekels for the roundtrip to travel the great distance from his home to the apartment for each of four days to deal with damages and the turnaround to a new renter.   


Ruling: Beit din accepts pl’s claim for rental payment until Dec. 31, not Dec 3. Lack of payment is a basic breach of contract, which justifies termination of the rental, and pl had the right to set the date for the end of the rental. Once it was set, if def wanted to leave earlier, they were required to give thirty days’ notice, no less that a renter who is living without a contract that states a specific time (based on Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 312:7).  

Payment for lost revenues after Dec. 31 can only be based on claims of damage, not of agreement, as the rental agreement was over. Beit din rejects this claim, as pl had every opportunity to prepare to find another renter, and the fact that he did not succeed is too indirect to obligate def.

There is no evidence that pl will not be able to demand money from his neighbor because of the delay in reporting the leak. The only circumstance, a more expensive paint job, is not considered a direct enough damage to obligate def. In general, and according to their contract, def should paint after leaving, and they are to pay 2,500 shekels, as the normal cost of painting.

Regarding va’ad bayit payments, def’s unsubstantiated claims about problems with the neighbors are insufficient to make it necessary for pl to pay them instead of def. Since pl presented receipts of his payment, def has to reimburse pl for the 2,000 shekels he paid.

Regarding paying for the days pl took off to take care of the transition and damages, it is wrong to obligate def for most of it because it is natural when one leaves a rental that this will take time for the landlord. However, due to the special circumstances, beit din awards pl 1,000 shekel for this element, based on its authority to rule based on compromise. 

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