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Business Weekly: No Intruding

The following is from the “Business Weekly”

A Project of the Business Halacha Institute

Under the auspices of HaRav Chaim Kohn

by Rabbi Meir Orlian, Yerushalayim

“I’ve had it!” said Mrs. Rosen to her husband. They had been looking at houses for sale all day. “Our friends, the Jacobs, invited us for a drink before we head home.”

Mrs. Jacob welcomed them in and asked, “How was your day?”

“Exhausting,” answered Mrs. Rosen. “Each house has its plusses and minuses, not to mention negotiating with the seller.”

“Do you have any realistic options?” asked Mr. Jacob.

“Yes,” answered Mr. Rosen. “It’s just a question of which one to go with.”

“Our neighbors are also selling their house,” said Mrs. Jacob, “but I think they just found a buyer.”

“It’s actually a decent house and fairly priced,” said Mr. Jacob. “I don’t know whether it’s still possible to make an offer.”

“Have they signed a contract yet?” asked Mr. Rosen.

“I believe not,” said Mr. Jacob.

The Jacobs took the Rosens to the neighbor’s home.

“The house was for sale,” neighbor told them. “We haven’t signed anything official yet, but we’ve accepted an offer.”

“Would you show us the house?” asked Mr. Rosen.

“I guess so,” said the neighbor. He took them on a tour.

“This is really what we’re looking for,” said Mr. Rosen. “How much are you asking for?”

“We agreed on $470,000,” said the neighbor. “We expect to sign next week.”

Mr. and Mrs. Rosen quietly exchanged glances with each other and then short nods of approval.

“I understand that you haven’t finalized yet,” said Mr. Rosen. “This house seems good for us and we are willing to pay $500,000.”

“I don’t know,” said the neighbor hesitantly. “We already agreed to someone else’s offer in principle. In any case, I wouldn’t sell to you without offering our buyer to match your price. Leave me your name and number, and we’ll talk later this week.”

The next day, however, Mr. Rosen received an irate phone call from the prospective buyer. “I understand that you just made an offer for the house next to the Jacobs.”

“Yes,” acknowledged Mr. Rosen. “We understand that the seller agreed to your offer but hasn’t signed anything, and we are willing to give him a better price.”

“What you’re doing is wicked!” shouted the buyer. “It’s against halacha!” He slammed the phone down.

“We’d better check with Rabbi Dayan,” said Mr. Rosen to his wife. They called Rabbi Dayan right away and asked whether this was true.

“The buyer is correct,” said Rabbi Dayan. “You have no right to intrude and take the house for yourself after the parties have agreed to the sale.”

“Why not?” asked Mr. Rosen

“It is because of the concept of ani hamehapech bacharara,” explained Rabbi Dayan. “If a poor person is scavenging after a loaf of bread and someone comes and snatches it from him – he is called wicked.”

“What does that have to do with us?” asked Mr. Rosen.

“The Gemara (Kiddushin 59a) applies this concept also to your situation, in which someone is actively involved in acquiring a field and another person intrudes and preempts him,” answered Rabbi Dayan. “This halacha is cited in Shulchan Aruch (C.M. 237:1) regarding both buying and renting.”

“How, then, can anyone ever compete for a house or apartment?” asked Mr. Rosen, “It doesn’t make sense that once someone makes an offer, no one else is entitled to offer more. It’s not fair to the seller or landlord!”

“Correct,” responded Rabbi Dayan. “For this reason, the Rama (ibid.) limits the law to situations in which the buyer and seller have already agreed to a price, even if they haven’t yet signed or made a formal kinyan. Some commentators note a custom not to intrude also if the parties are actively negotiating and about to settle (Pischei Teshuva 237:3).”

“Wow,” said Mr. Rosen. “There must be a lot of discussion about this!”

“The poskim debate whether the law applies when there aren’t comparable houses available,” continued Rabbi Dayan, “what the seller’s responsibility is, and whether there is legal recourse if the second buyer already completed the transaction. You have alternatives, though, so you clearly have no right to intrude upon the first buyer’s agreement with the seller.”

Mr. Rosen thanked Rabbi Dayan. He then called the Jacobs’ neighbor and withdrew his offer.

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Please be advised: These articles are for learning purposes only and cannot be used for final halachic decision.

(YWN Desk – NYC)

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