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Shabbat Parashat Ki Teitzei 5777

P'ninat Mishpat: End of a Rental

(based on ruling 75002 of the Eretz Hemdah-Gazit Rabbinical Courts)

Case: Pl has been renting an apartment to def; the rental was set to end on 30/9/2014. Def claimed that the two agreed orally that he would continue to rent until after the Tishrei holidays. The first hearing dealt only with vacating the apartment. It was decided that if def would pay pl 6,000 shekels by 10/12/2014, he could stay until 31/12/2014, and he did pay. The contract states that rent is 6,000 shekels if def pays by the first of the month for the coming month, and after that point, the rent is 7,200 shekels. Due to financial problems, def paid only until the end of July, and pl let him stay at least until the end of Sept., but, according to pl, he was supposed to leave at that time. Pl demands 400 shekel a day from that point on due to a contract provision that sets this as rent for unauthorized occupancy. Also, def’s checks for arnona (municipal tax), whose account is still in pl’s name, bounced. Def made counter-claims due to flaws in the apartment, to which pl responded that it was a brand new apartment, which def got at a good price, and certain flaws that need to be fixed are to be expected.


Ruling: Def does not have to pay 400 shekel a day for late vacating because such payments are penalties intended only for cases where there is a clear, final order for the tenant to vacate, not when the landlord simply states a preference that he finish. During the first two months after the end of the contract, the original conditions stand unless changed, and since def did not pay on time, according to the strict law, he must pay 7,200 shekels a month for three out of the last four months.

However, there is room for compromise in this case due to the nature of the provision of different rental rates. This unusual provision is clearly to encourage def not to be late with payment. Usually the provision includes interest and penalties for late payment. The system pl employs has advantages regarding the law of ribbit. However, the 1,200 shekel difference for a small late payment does not seem like one that corresponds to the financial gain/loss of the two sides. Therefore, beit din will employ compromise in setting the correct price for the months in which def paid late. The reduction based on compromise is on condition that, with all the difficulty, def will pay the 30,276 shekels that beit din is ruling that he owes, within the time allotted. If he does not vacate by 31/12/2014, he will indeed have to pay 400 shekels a day after that point.

Def will not receive a discount on the rent due to the apartment’s flaws. The flaws were not significant. They did not affect the experience of living in the apartment. They were also not unusual, certainly for a new apartment, and they were fixed within a reasonable amount of time. The fact that def paid regular rent after the problems were uncovered also shows that even if there could have been grounds for a reduction on rent, def was mochel them.  

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