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Shabbat Parashat R'ei 5780

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

(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 contract with def. 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 the retroactive raise in rental rates, the Shach (Choshen Mishpat 312:10) does rule, based on the Rashba (II:294), that if one continues to stay in a rental after the time is up without a new agreement, he pays according to the old rate even if the prices had gone up. However, it is clear from the Rashba that this is only when the landlord allows him to stay without protest. The Shulchan Aruch (CM 363:6) states that even in a case in which one who squats in another’s house does not need to pay rent, if the owner told him to leave and he did not, he has to pay the full rental rate. Since pl has substantiated the change in price and he asked def to leave, from the point of that request, def is required to pay 4,130 NIS a month.

Regarding changes done to the warehouse, pl has not proven that it was done by def rather than pr. For whatever reason, pl decided not to sue pr, who refused to come to beit din as a witness. Had he done so, we might have been able to get to the truth about when the changes were made. So in this case, we will follow the rule that the burden of proof is on pl, who wants to extract money, and we will not obligate def for this. However, pl spent 2,000 NIS on removing garbage of all sorts left behind. Since the assumption is that one who rents a warehouse checks that it is clean of major debris before taking it, the contractual obligation to leave it in the manner he received it requires that def pay this expense.

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