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Shabbat Parashat Ki Tavo 5783

P'ninat Mishpat: Disagreement on Length of Rental Commitment part II

(based on ruling 83043 of the Eretz Hemdah-Gazit Rabbinical Courts)

Case: The defendant (=def), which provides communal medical services, has been renting part of the building of the plaintiff (=pl), an educational institution, for over 20 years. There have been various rental contracts (=rc) for different lengths of time; the last one, written in 2012, includes a clause enabling pl to remove def with one month’s notice. Since then, some draft contracts were exchanged (including one, in 2016, rejected by def), and the sides continued the rental based on general oral agreements, with some rent increases. In May 2022, pl told def to vacate their rental area by October because pl expanded their operations and needs the space themselves; def refuses to leave. One solution raised was for the two sides to use the area at different hours, but def claimed it was illegal to do so. Def requested a restraining order to prevent pl from moving in. Def argues that only one agreement includes the clause of early removal of def, and it is unfeasible for a medical provider to relocate in a month. Rather, that contract was a formalistic piece of paper that did not represent the parties’ essential agreement (the sides ignored many of its provisions).  


Ruling: [We saw that the “removal clause” is binding.]

Even if there were a doubt whether the clause was intact, chazaka is in def’s favor because pl is the owner and a doubt whether def can extend renter’s rights over the property for additional time is a doubt for changing the basic status (Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 312:16).

What if the clause were not intact? At the end of a set rental period, a landlord can remove a tenant with no warning (ibid. 8), as a tenant can leave with no warning (S’ma ad loc. 13). The Shach (ad loc. 10) implies that this is even if the landlord had continued living there thereafter. In the latter case, some say (see Chochmat Shlomo ad loc. 1) that if a long time passed, the tenant cannot be removed suddenly, because at that point, he had no reason to suspect the need for sudden relocation. However, Chochmat Shlomo says that 30 days is sufficient warning. The Aruch Hashulchan (ad loc. 24) says that the warning period could be no longer than the contract’s duration. In this case, the sides had yearly agreements, and at the “anniversary” of renewal (in this case, June 2022) pl could have stopped it then; thus, pl’s warning in May sufficed.

Israeli law (Law of Renting, par. 19a) requires “reasonable” warning. Pl says that three months is plenty, and def says a year is needed. Although it is not clear that the law is halachically binding, in any case, when the agreements were on a yearly basis, a full year of warning could not be needed. Therefore, three months definitely suffices.

At this point, when many months have passed since the warning, but the ruling is being given only now, we might apply the ruling that generally 30 days are given to implement a ruling (see Netivot Hamishpat 100:1). The Chikrei Lev (CM I:62) says that this is not so regarding continuing rentals because the landlord is muchzak. However, we decide that without 30 days to move out, def would be caused hardship.

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