Shabbat Parashat Tazria-Metsora| 5767
Damages From Va’ad Bayit’s Removal of Resident’s Property- part I - Based on Halacha P’suka - vol. VI - Condensation of a Ruling of Beit Hadin Neve Nof
Case: A va’ad bayit (residents’ council of an apartment building) put up a notice asking residents to remove property found in joint areas of the building and warning that what is not removed will be discarded. After the sign was conspicuously displayed for a long time, removal began. Some residents asked for a delay in discarding their property, which was granted. However, the property of those who did not request was thrown into the garbage, prompting one resident to sue for damages.
Ruling: The Shulchan Aruch (Choshen Mishpat 161:5) rules that one of the joint owners of a courtyard can prevent another from storing animals or a millstone in the courtyard if it is not standard practice for people to put such items there. In applying this rule, it is clear that most buildings do not allow residents to leave objects in areas such as staircases, which are made for people to pass through. However, in the area outside storage rooms, which our case involves, there are varied practices; thus, neither side can cite local custom as support. Therefore, a decision by a majority of the residents is required. Since a va’ad bayit is selected to run joint matters of the residents, their decision is equivalent to that of the majority as long as it does exceed its authority. Certainly, when the va’ad bayit publicized its decision and there was not significant opposition to it, all of the residents were bound by the decision.
The question is whether ability to have the objects removed enables the va’ad bayit to throw one’s property in the garbage. The Shulchan Aruch (CM 319:1) says that if one puts his fruit in another’s house without permission, the homeowner can sell some of the fruit and use the necessary proceeds to pay workers to remove the rest. He adds in that it is laudable to inform beit din who may be able to rent a place to put the produce until the owner will claim it, as a means of hashavat aveida. The Rama (ad loc.) cites those who require that the owner be apprised of the intention to take these steps, and if something happens after informing him, those who remove the fruit are exempt from paying. Therefore, we see that, at least with notification, the va’ad bayit can discard property which was left improperly.
However, the Rambam (Chovel U’mazik 6:1) rules that if one puts barrels in a place which impedes the landowner’s movement, he can go in and out as he pleases even if this causes some barrels to break, but if he purposely breaks the barrels, he has to pay for them. One would think that putting property in the garbage is the same as breaking it, and so the va’ad bayit would be responsible to pay. However, the Chavot Yair (165) says one is allowed to throw improperly placed objects outside even in a situation where they will certainly be damaged in the process, and throwing in the garbage is the equivalent of that case.
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