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Shabbat Parashat Chayei Sarah 5783

P'ninat Mishpat: End of Rental Disputes part II

(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 also demanded 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: Last time we saw discussion of the general amount due and the ability to raise the rent.

Payments to Va’ad Bayit (building residents’ council): Def refuses to pay some of the monthly payments because they demanded the same from him as from larger apartments and says that in any case, pl cannot intervene. Def is also suing for return of 9,000 NIS for overpaying in the past. The law is that payment is the obligation of the property owner, in which case, def’s obligation to pay is based on contractual obligation, so that pl has a claim. On the other hand, the law is also that it is supposed to be according to apartment size, in which case def overpaid and does not have to pay anymore. However, that which pl “paid” by means of the money def gave is not refundable, so that pl is not required to pay back.

Counter suit for defects in the apartment: A landlord is not required to fix everything that is broken in an apartment but just to ensure that the apartment can be used as expected. He is also only required to repair things that require an expert to do (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 314:1). The obligation kicks in when the renter asks him to fix the problem, and if the landlord is repeatedly asked and does not take care of it, the renter can take care of it and charge the landlord, and at times take it off from the rent. Based on these considerations, beit din rejected almost all of def’s claims in this regard, as he did not make demands of pl at the time.

Rights of bar metzra (a neighbor’s right to first chance to buy property): There is a machloket between the Shulchan Aruch and Rama (CM 175:57) whether a renter has bar metzra rights on the property he is renting. However, that does not apply here because def does not presently have permission to be in the apartment. Additionally, we accept pl’s refusal to do business with def because of the manner in which he has acted.

Division of obligation: Def rented the apartment with his wife, and they became separated during the course of the rental. The contract states explicitly that each spouse accepts half of the obligations. Therefore, def is only obligated in half of the contractual obligations, and pl is to make claims against def’s wife on the rest. Those obligations that stem from the actions of def (e.g., not moving out in time), not from the basic agreement, are def’s personal obligation.

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