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Shabbat Parashat Pinchas 5781

P'ninat Mishpat: Payments for Leaving Apartment in Disrepair

(based on ruling 79025 of the Eretz Hemdah-Gazit Rabbinical Courts)

Case: The plaintiff (=pl) rented out his apartment to the defendant (=def) for two years. At the end of the rental, pl had the following claims against def for damaging the apartment and leaving it in disrepair: 1) Replacement of 4 doors damaged by def and family – 6,400 NIS; def – his family caused damage, but the doors do not need replacement. 2) 4 doors missing knobs – 400 NIS; def – responsible for the knobs. 3) Tiles – were stained badly by def – 11,200 NIS to replace; def – not sure if they were not stained when received. 4) Painting/plaster – 5,499 NIS with receipt from painter; def – needed painting but too expensive. 5) Various damages – 1,100 NIS; def – agree to some, not all. 6) Mezuza was found on counter, soaked with water and unusable; def – does not know, perhaps it was knocked down when moving out, as pl did not allow proper attachment to the wall. 6) Cleaning up garbage in apartment – 2,000 NIS; def – necessary but 1,200 NIS should suffice. 7) Creating a bad reputation that caused lack of rental for 4 months – 11,600 NIS; def – not responsible for such a long time.  


Ruling: By element – 1) Doors - Def already paid for pl’s worker to fix the doors. Upon inspection, there is no need to change the doors; one door still looks damaged, and def is responsible to pay 400 NIS for depreciation.

2. Door knobs – After the worker returned knobs, there is minimal damage, estimated based on compromise at 100 NIS.

3. Tiles – this is a case where def who was responsible to guard the home should have to swear that he was not responsible for the damage and is unable to do so because he does not know what happened, which should make him obligated to pay (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 298:1). Although since the question has to do with real estate, there should be no oath, par. 13 of the contract states that def will be obligated regarding the apartment as one is obligated for movable items. However, by the time beit din inspected the apartment, most of the stains had already been rubbed off and there was only a lost shine to the tiles. The situation is not one in which a homeowner would switch the tiles; therefore, beit din is obligating only 1,000 NIS for depreciation.

4. Painting – The cost, which includes work on damages def admits to is reasonable, and since he has receipts, we do not have sufficient grounds to doubt their legitimacy; def must pay in full.

5. Various damages – since def admits some, based on compromise we obligate 520 NIS.

6. Mezuza – even if knocked off accidentally, it should not have been left in a place which gets wet. Def is obligated to pay.

7. Pl did the cleaning himself and claimed to have lost work time for it. The rate at which he is charging is slightly higher than his salary, which is legitimate given that it is less pleasant work. We obligate most of the claim – 1,800 NIS.

8. We can understand that the apartment was not ready to attract tenants right away. But after a while, since pl was working on it and is being paid for that, it did not need more than a month to make it ready. Therefore, a month’s rent and municipal taxes is sufficient – 2,917 NIS.

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