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Shabbat Parashat Vayeitzei 5783

P'ninat Mishpat: Did the Realtor Help? part II

(based on ruling 82097 of the Eretz Hemdah-Gazit Rabbinical Courts)

Case: A real-estate agent (=pl) publicized in a WhatsApp group an apartment for rent, with a video of the interior and basic details (with name of street but not building #). The defendants (=def) set up an appointment to see the apartment. While waiting for pl to finish with a previous client, def figured out that the apartment was owned by friends and that they had considered renting it months ago, but it had been too expensive (7,500 NIS a month). Def promptly called the owner, who said that it was not on the market but looked into it and found out that the present renter wanted to leave early and had asked pl to put it on the market. Def then told pl they knew the apartment and refused to sign the agent’s contract and ended up renting it directly from the owners for 7,000 NIS. Pl demands a full realtor’s fee because he gave def the information through which they were able to rent it. Def argue that they are exempt because they did not sign the contract and because the owners had promised to tell them if the price went down, which they would have done when they found out the renter was looking for a replacement.



Ruling: [We saw last time that we accept Israeli law, requiring a realtor’s license, a signed contract, and being the effective factor, and that it is unclear if pl was the effective factor.]

Pl understands the requirement of a signed contract just as a proof that the agent was the effective factor and therefore claims that since here it is clear (which we disputed previously) that he was such, he deserves the fee. However, it is clear from the law and subsequent court decisions that these are two separate requirements.

Pl argued that if def knew the apartment, they should have recognized if from the video in the WhatsApp advertisement. This acknowledges that if def had recognized it and used the information that it was now on the market to contact the owners, pl would not deserve his fee. In other words, he admits that this information is not enough. Rather, the agent has to perform a sufficient act of “showing an apartment,” which, according to the law, must begin with signing a contract that lists pertinent details, including the address. Here, the law did its job, as before that point, def figured out that they did not need the agent.

Admittedly, had def done what pl suspected them of – coming to the meeting place to determine the apartment’s location and then refuse to sign – this would be an act of trickery. Then, def would not deserve the law’s protection, which was intended for honest clients. However, during the hearing, def demonstrated to pl that they really did know the apartment. Therefore, there is no trickery, and pl did not get far enough into the process of agency to deserve their fee.

On the other hand, it is likely that pl's efforts assisted def. Therefore it is noble as a voluntary compromise (pl had asked beit din not to rule based on compromise) for def to give pl a modest sum of money to reward him for the help and lessen pl's resentment.

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