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Shabbat Parashat Rosh Hashana 5781

P'ninat Mishpat: Was the Renter Normal?

(based on ruling 71093 of the Eretz Hemdah-Gazit Rabbinical Courts)

Case: The plaintiff (=pl) bought an apartment for investment from defendant #3 (=def3), with the help of a lawyer (=def1) and a real estate agent (=def2). In order to complete the deal, def3 was supposed to give pl the keys to an empty apartment. A renter (=ren) lived in the apartment at the time, but pl agreed to become her landlord in exchange for the checks ren gave, on condition that ren is “normal.” These conditions were written in a new agreement, which def1 and def2 supported. Since that time, ren has not paid any rent for five months, and it required legal intervention at Hotza’ah Lapoal to get her out, for which pl demands compensation. 5,000 NIS for the purchase remains in escrow, originally because def3 owed pl certain documents and now because pl claims breach of contract due to ren’s lack of pay. The defendants respond that ren always paid properly, and there were no signs of problems, so they are not guilty of misrepresentation. Pl is also suing for the 1,000 NIS he needed to fix water damage in a wall. Def3 responds that pl had seen the water marks and signed a contract that states he accepts the apartment “as is.”


Ruling: There were certain sociological signs that ren might have difficulty paying, and def1 and def2 should have experience checking things such as ren’s bank statements to determine this. Their recommendation to pl to agree without further investigation was damaging bad advice. Since the damage is only in lost revenues, pl has monetary claims on def1 and def2 only for the period in which it is relatively easy to find renters, which according to two dayanim was only for three months. The dayanim disagreed whether def3 is also responsible for this loss because he did not fulfill the contractual obligation of giving an empty apartment.

The ruling is that ren is not a normal renter as promised. We reject def’s claims that pl should have acted more quickly and did not need a lawyer to go to Hotza’ah Lapoal, as acting with some patience toward a renter and being afraid to go to Hotza’ah Lapoal unrepresented are normal decisions.

Def3 also claimed that pl did not deserve rent because he did not finish paying. This claim is to be rejected out of hand. Every feasible element of giving over control of the apartment was completed (especially, giving ren’s rental checks to pl; a key was not given because def3 claimed that all of their keys were by ren), and the fact that 5,000 NIS was in escrow was originally because pl was waiting for def to get around to giving routine paper work. Thus, the rights of the apartment are pl’s.

Regarding the water repairs, the fact that they accepted the apartment with its apparent problem is a sign of mechila of those issues. Pl admitted, in fact, that he decided to sue for the water issues only after the matter of the rent came up. At that late point, one cannot undo the mechila.   

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