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Shabbat Parashat Eikev 5780

P'ninat Mishpat: Payment for Not Clearing Warehouse On Time part I

(based on ruling 75076 of the Eretz Hemdah-Gazit Rabbinical Courts)

Case: The plaintiff (=pl) owns warehouses; the subject of the dispute was rented to the previous renter (=pr) for years, was split into two, and then the defendant (=def) rented half of it for 3,300 NIS a month. Def negotiated with pl that he would vacate the warehouse on Feb. 28, 2015. Def stayed longer and paid rent for Feb. and March, despite the fact that pl demanded that he empty the warehouse so it could be rented to someone else. In May, def brought workers to take his possessions, and pl stopped him with the claim that def was going to leave garbage behind. When def later took his belongings, much of pr’s belongings, which def allowed him to put there, remained and they were removed only on Aug. 10. Subsequently, pl did work costing 16,800 NIS to enable the warehouse to be rented out – starting from Sept. 1. Pl claims that he deserves to be paid rent for Apr. to Aug., and that it should be at the rate of 4,130 NIS a month, which is what he receives for the other half of the warehouse, as the prices have gone up since pl’s and def’s contract. He also demands to be reimbursed for fixing the warehouse after unauthorized changes def made to it. Def responds that after March, all that was left belonged to pr, so def wasn’t using it. In any case, the rate should continue according to their contract. Finally, pr, not def, made the changes.    


Ruling: Regarding def’s status after he took out (almost all of) his property, the Maharam MiRutenberg (IV:833) says that even when someone rented a home to live in and moved out but left some belongings there, he is considered to be continuing the rental. This is even clearer in a case like this in which the main use of the warehouse was for storage. Regarding the idea that it was pr’s property, pl held def responsible because he claimed that def and pr were some type of partners, so that def is responsible for pr. Such a connection was denied and not proven or substantiated by pl.

However, def admits that he gave permission to pr to leave his belongings there and did not force him to remove them. The halacha is that when Reuven gives permission to Shimon to have him leave his animals in Reuven’s care, Reuven is responsible for damages they cause (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 396:8). If we combine this with the Maharam above it comes out that def is responsible for the fact that pr’s possessions are still there and are preventing pl from renting out the warehouse. It also does not matter that pl obstructed def, for a time, from moving his things because the rental went on in regard to pr’s wares.

Since pr’s items were removed only on Aug. 10 and this was done without prior arrangement and pl did not rent it out until Sept. 1, def has to pay until Sept. 1. This is because one needs advanced warning to know when he can make a new rental arrangement. Therefore, def has to pay for 5 months rent.

We will continue with other elements next time.

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