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Shabbat Parashat Vayeira 5783

P'ninat Mishpat: End of Rental Disputes part I

(based on ruling 81121 of the Eretz Hemdah-Gazit Rabbinical Courts)

Case: The defendant (=def) rented an apartment from the plaintiff (=pl), with several year-long contracts, during which time he raised the rent from 4,300 to 4,600 NIS monthly. During the last year, def did not make all of the rental payments (how much is owed is disputed). Def justified some of the lack of payment by his claim that pl had promised not to raise the rent. Pl is asking to recover the overdue payments and the money owed to the va’ad bayit. He is also demanding that def move out all of his belongings, as when beit din instructed him to leave the apartment, he moved into a storage room to live in but left some belongings. Subsequently def moved everything out but did not paint the apartment.

 

Ruling: Since def admits to owing some money and denies some of the amount demanded, halacha requires that def take a Torah-level oath on the remaining amount. For hundreds of years we do not administer oaths but make a compromise based on the dayanim’s better judgment of partial payment in place of the oath. We decide that in this matter, def pay two thirds of the amount in dispute, a sum of 12,633 NIS.

Regarding the propriety of raising the rent, even if pl had promised not to, it would not be enforceable. That is because pl was not required to renew the rental for additional years. Therefore, if he made a raise in rent a condition of renewed rental and def accepted, that raise becomes binding. Beit din rejects def’s claim that under his circumstances, def had no choice but to agree to the raise because of the need to continue the rental. This is considered self-coercion (see Bava Batra 47b), as pl did not force def to agree to continue and if his own circumstances made it necessary, that is considered something coming from himself.

Def claimed that pl agreed with def that in exchange for def leaving the apartment, he would be exempt from paying for August. However, this is irrelevant because def did not in fact leave the apartment as promised. Pl’s claim of 200 NIS a day for leaving late is based on a clause in the contract. While we do not believe in exaggerated penalties for lateness (see Mishpetei Eretz IV, p. 132), 200 NIS for a day-by-day rental is not exaggerated. However, during the period during which def was no longer living in the apartment but only in the storage area, def should not pay the full amount but only 65 NIS a day. Therefore, for all of the lateness in pay, def owes another 6,575 NIS.

The contract required def to paint the apartment before returning it. Based on an inspection, beit din rejects def’s claim that he had painted close enough to the return of the apartment. However, 1,200 NIS is sufficient to pay, plus 300 NIS to remove the objects that def left behind.

We continue with other elements of the dispute next time.

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