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Shabbat Parashat Noach 5781

P'ninat Mishpat: Adjoining Properties but Unclear Neighbors

(based on ruling 80035 of the Eretz Hemdah-Gazit Rabbinical Courts)

Case: The plaintiff (=pl) and the defendant (=def) bought adjacent plots in a yishuv; Pl built first, and because of a difference in height between the properties, needed to build a retaining wall (to prevent the collapse of pl’s ground into def’s property). Both sides agreed that def should pay half of the cost of the wall (app. 10,000 NIS), since it is needed for the safety of each property, and def believes that pl went about building the wall responsibly. Def says he does not have the wherewithal to pay. After pl turned to beit din, def agreed to pay in monthly installments; eventually pl agreed, but by then def preferred to argue in beit din that he should be exempted. Def spelled out his financial difficulties. He continued that he has now checked his situation and discovered that his purchase of the plot was never legally completed, as he did not pay the Israel Land Authority for the land. The Authority has claimed that since a lot of time has gone by, he has to start the process of acquisition from the beginning, including being accepted again by the yishuv. If they do not succeed in one of the steps, they will have to back out of the purchase and get their money back from the Housing Ministry. In that case, it will turn out that they are not owners of the property, do not benefit from the wall, and should be exempt from paying despite their previous agreement.  


Outcome: [We changed the usual title of the second part of our presentation from “Ruling” to “Outcome” because this is one of the times that the best outcome was to avoid needing to rule. While we do not usually highlight such cases in this forum, as there is not much to “discuss,” from time to time it is worthwhile to take a look at such situations.]

Beit din analyzed the situation with def and convinced him that even if he decides not to build a home on the plot, he would benefit from selling the plot, which would show profit since the value of the land in the yishuv has gone up. (If he “gets his money back,” he will not be compensated for many fees that are levied on land purchasers.) Def should pay pl, and if he sells the plot, beit din suggested that he can, in addition to the fee for the land, charge the buyers separately for their part in the retaining wall. Pl promised to send potential buyers about whom he knows to def. The sides agreed that def will pay 1500 NIS immediately and make the rest of the payment in monthly installments over the course of a year.


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