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Shabbat Parashat Kedoshim 5784

P'ninat Mishpat: Claims on the Return of a Rental Apartment

(based on ruling 83012 of the Eretz Hemdah-Gazit Rabbinical Courts)

Case: The plaintiffs (=pl) rented out their apartment to the defendants (=def) with two one-year contracts. Pl sued def due to their dissatisfaction with the way def left the apartment. Based on the contract, pl demands 800 NIS for each of the eight days that def vacated the apartment late. Def responds that they were going to vacate four days late, after pl’s representative said that there was a grace period of three days without charge, but that because pl’s representative (=drep) changed the lock of the apartment, they had to cancel the movers. Pl is also suing for def not painting the apartment. While the contract did not mention the need, it required returning the apartment in the condition it was received (i.e., freshly painted), and common practice is also to paint. Pl also complained about the lack of cleanliness, which the contract required. Def provided a video going through much of the apartment and showing basic cleanliness and claimed that it was cleaner than when they received it, but pl claimed that there were dirty walls and dusty shelves, etc. Def countersued for the problem of water leakage that made a sizable portion of the apartment unusable during much of the year. Def documented complaining, and nothing was done about it.

 

Ruling: Late vacating: Pl claims that the three-day grace period does not exempt for the first three days if def stayed longer than three days. Either way of understanding the grace period is plausible. Since there was a definite contractual obligation and only a possible exemption, pl deserves payment for all the late days. Beit din is not convinced that the changing of the locks prevented def from arranging for movers to come in coordination with drep. However, we will not levy the full 800 NIS daily payment at a time when def was unable to use the apartment for living; we will suffice with the prorated price of rent.

Painting and cleanliness: Def is exempt from painting. There is not a strong enough practice of painting at the end of a rental to obligate in cases in which the landlord does not bother to put it in the contract. As far as returning it in the same condition, since it mentions that this excludes normal wear and tear, the need for painting is included in that category of exemption. The contract also does not mention a need for an immaculate professional cleaning, and therefore there is no charge for that either, based on the sides’ claims and the video.

Counterclaim about water leakage: Def did (as documented) complain about the water problems, especially in between the contracts. However, when the contract was made for the second year without including compensation for lack of usage for the first year, there is an implicit waiving of any claims for that year. The communications related to the negotiations show that these complaints were used as grounds not to raise the rent for the second year, in which case, def cannot now retroactively use it to further reduce the rent under what was agreed upon.

 

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