Bobby rented a four-bedroom summer home, with a pool, on the Jersey Shore, at a cost of $55,000. Four families resided at the summer home, with a total of twenty-seven people. The three families other than Bobby’s included his son’s family, his son-in-law’s family, and his nephew’s family. Alan, the landlord, was informed by the neighbor across the street of the number of people residing in his home. Alan sent a friend to converse with Bobby’s son-in-law and he discovered that the three extra families were each contributing $13,750 towards the $55,000 cost of rent. Thereafter, Alan contacted our Bet Din claiming that by contract Bobby was restricted from subletting all or part of his home. Alan is therefore claiming that all money collected from the three tenants is to be forwarded to him in addition to Bobby’s $55,000 contractual obligation. Bobby rejected Alan’s claim and responded that on the Jersey Shore it is customary to bring other family members to share the rented home. Bobby continued that the premium price of $55,000 clearly includes as many residents as possible who could fit in the property. Alan countered that Bobby is abusive and irrational in his one-sided position, since there are inflatable beds all over the living room, dining room, and hallways of his home.
Is Alan entitled to his monetary claim? Does Bobby have to pay anything more for the additional families? Or, is Bobby entitled to bring in three other families into a four bedroom house? How should the Bet Din rule and why?
According to the ruling of the Shulhan Aruch, a tenant that sublets a property in violation of the terms of his lease is required to forward all additional earnings above the cost of his rent to his landlord. If, however, the tenant is authorized by the landlord to sublet the property, the tenant is entitled to collect all earnings generated from the sublease.
The above ruling is applicable in instances in which the tenant vacates the property and sublets it to another party. Thus, when the tenant is in violation, the additional rent is forwarded to the landlord.
If, however, the tenant does not vacate, but rather illegally sublets part of the property to offset his cost of rent, the ruling differs. Since the original tenant is still occupying the premises, the landlord is as well restricted from bringing another tenant to his property. Without the ability to rent to a new tenant, the landlord is not entitled to the additional earnings when the property is illegally shared.
Hence, the landlord is not entitled to back rent paid by the shared tenant. Rather, it belongs to the original tenant who already collected the funds to offset his own rent. After all, in hindsight, the additional tenants did not come at an expense to the landlord, but rather it was the tenant who was inconvenienced by the additional people residing at the property.
Nevertheless, since the tenant is in breach of contract by illegally subletting part of the property to another, the landlord has the right to evict him. If the tenant refuses to leave and continues to illegally share the rental with another party, the landlord has the right to increase the rent, going forward. Although the additional unwarranted tenants do not come at an expense to the landlord and he is therefore not entitled to back rent, the landlord is nevertheless entitled to stipulate the new price of rent going forward.
A Bet Din will analyze and review the claim of a tenant who asserts that bringing additional family tenants to a rental property is customarily practiced in his circles. Upon inquiry and review, although bringing one’s married children to a summer rental home is sometimes common, bringing a nephew and his entire family is not.
Furthermore, one who brings immediate family members to a rental home most likely does so with the prior consent of the landlord. Hence, the custom is likely premised on the fact that the tenant is from the onset completely transparent with the landlord concerning the number of families staying in the home. In the absence of the said transparency, as aforementioned, the landlord seemingly has the right to evict the tenant.
VERDICT: No Deal
Our Bet Din ruled that Bobby was required to immediately evict his nephew and his family from the home he rented from Alan. As mentioned in Torah law, even according to Bobby’s claim, it is not common practice to invite one’s nephew and his entire family to a rented home for the summer. Additionally, the custom to include the immediate families of one’s children at a summer rental, is likely only after notifying the landlord from the onset of how many families will be residing at the home. Nevertheless, Bobby is not required to forward to Alan the back rent he collected from his family. Since Bobby was physically living on the premises he rented, he is entitled to withhold the money he collected from the unwarranted tenants. As explained in Torah law, only in the instance in which a tenant moves out of the property and illegally sublets to a third party, is he required to forward all proceeds to the landlord. While Bobby is entitled to withhold back rent, halachically, Alan is entitled to stipulate the price and terms of the rental going forward for the duration of the summer. Thus, our Bet Din warned Bobby that if his nephew stays for the duration of the summer, he will be liable for a substantial increase in rent. As per Bobby’s son and son-in law residing at the property, our Bet Din indicated to the parties that since Bobby was not transparent from the onset, a minimal increase in rent is appropriate. Our Bet Din instructed Alan and Bobby to resolve the amount between themselves. The two agreed to evict the nephew for the balance of the summer and they successfully finalized on a small increase in rent without further involvement of our Bet Din.
In Loving Memory of Vera Bat Carol, A”H
YOU BE THE JUDGE
Back to School
Mrs. Goldenberg is a math teacher in a community school. She is known to be a stern disciplinarian, and she has acquired the respect and admiration of her high school students. David, a student in her classroom and definitely a challenging personality, consistently interrupts the class. On the third day of school, Mrs. Goldenberg confiscated David’s iPad air due to the disturbance it was causing the classroom. Although David initially resisted, Mrs. Goldenberg assured him that she was confiscating the iPad temporarily and he reluctantly handed it over. The iPad was stored by Mrs. Goldenberg in the teacher’s closet. Before the holiday break, David asked for his property to be returned. However, the iPad was missing from the closet. David placed a phone call to our Bet Din demanding that Mrs. Goldenberg reimburse him for the loss he sustained. Mrs. Goldenberg responded to our call explaining that she felt that she was not responsible for the loss, since David was in violation of using the device during class. She explained that David must take responsibility for such a violation, and frankly, he is the ultimate cause of his own loss. She felt it was a perfect opportunity for David to learn the consequences of breaking the rules.
Is David or Mrs. Goldenberg responsible for the lost iPad?
How should the Bet Din rule and why?