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Business Weekly Hotline: Tenant Tension


A Project of the Business Halacha Institute
Under the auspices of Rav Chaim Kohn

I have been renting a house for some time while doing renovations on the home I own. Due to various circumstances, the construction has been proceeding significantly slower than originally planned. While my landlord has been accommodating, recently he casually mentioned that he needs us to vacate the rental as he wishes to renovate and subsequently occupy this home.  I have been doing everything in my power to enable my family to move into our own house as soon as possible. In March, my landlord gave us a deadline of May 1 to vacate – this being the first clearly delineated time frame he has ever expressed to us.  I have explained that our house will simply not be ready at this time and have assured him that we will be out by June 30.  He is not satisfied, as he asserts that if he waits until after June 30 to begin work on the house, the work will be held up by the nine days and the Yomim Noraim. He claims this will cause him a monetary loss, since he is paying rent for the apartment that he currently lives in until he can renovate this home. He wants to take me to a Rav to get me to compensate him for the losses that he will be incurring as a result of my leaving after May 1.

Q: We do not currently have a written lease. What are my halachic rights and/or obligations?

A: In general, when two people enter a landlord/tenant relationship their respective rights and obligations are spelled out in the lease.  If the lease expires and a new lease is not signed, it is assumed that the relationship continues under the same terms and conditions of the original lease on a month-by-month basis.  (It is possible that in different places, real estate law has different parameters for the continuation of the original lease without signing a new lease. Halacha would follow those regulations.)  As such, once your lease has expired, the landlord has the right to demand that you vacate the property.  How much notice he must give you may change from state to state, but once that notice is given, the tenant must vacate the property.  If the landlord is willing to allow you to stay beyond that time, it is within his right to demand additional payment for the loss and inconvenience he will suffer as a result of your extended stay.

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(YWN Desk – NYC)

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