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Shabbat Parashat Bamidbar 5778

P'ninat Mishpat: Obligation to Enable Registering a Purchase part III

(based on ruling 76084 of the Eretz Hemdah-Gazit Rabbinical Courts)

Case: The plaintiffs (=pl) bought an apartment from the defendants (=def) in a project that is handled by a chevra meshakenet (= cm; developers who bought rights to buildings from the government and are responsible for registering changes in ownership). Pl paid and moved in a few years ago, but def have been unwilling to sign a form requested by cm, which states that the sellers have no further claims against cm regarding the apartment. Due to this, cm has refused to register the apartment in pl’s name. In the first hearing, def said they want to sue pl for the damages of delaying payment and informing the authorities of the sale too early. They implied that if pl paid for damages, they would sign the form. In the second hearing, def claimed that signing the form will damage them, but they failed to coherently explain the nature and source of the damage. Pl claim that def are required, according to their contract, to sign any document needed for transferring ownership. The form in question is a standard one, def have never explained their refusal to sign, and it does not make sense that they should have claims regarding an apartment they sold years ago. Def say that there is no legal obligation to sign documents that cm presents without justification and now claim that they are part of litigation against cm that has not been resolved. Pl point out that the contract states that there are no outstanding legal matters with the apartment. Def did not follow up after the hearing with documentation about the litigation, as requested. Pl demands 3,000 shekels per day that def refuse to sign the form.    


Ruling: We determined that the sale is final and that agreements to sign sales contracts are enforceable.

Def contended that the demand to sign the form is illegitimate extortion by cm, and it therefore does not bind them. Rather, pl should sue cm to transfer ownership without it. Pl presented agreements by other cms of a similar nature, and therefore it is difficult to contend that it is extortion. If def had demonstrated how it will hurt them, we would have considered a compromise, but as an unsubstantiated claim, their refusal is unacceptable.

This is especially so since one of the contract’s introductory paragraphs states there are no legal issues with the apartment; according to the present claim, this was a lie. Beit din rejects def’s claim that pl must have known there was litigation between project homeowners and cm. Not every young couple who buys an apartment is aware of legal struggles; def was responsible to tell them and certainly not sign a contract that denies them.

Regarding def’s claim that they do not have to sign until pl pays for alleged damages, the rule that we deal with a plaintiff’s claim first applies. If it would not cause damage, we would deal with the two together, but since def has not even formally sued for these damages, we will not wait.

Beit din will not deal with pl’s last-minute demand of 3,000 shekels for every day that def will not sign the contract. This was a claim that was not in the original claim sheet or raised in the hearings. If def does not sign the contract within 35 days, pl may make another claim, which will also be governed by their contract’s arbitration clause.

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