Lesson # 266 (part two) •Renting of Houses
In the last lesson we discussed how real estate is rented, In this lesson we discuss what happens when the term of the lease is up.
The owner may evict the lessee at the termination of the term of the lease without giving the lessee any notice to vacate. It does not matter what the season, whether winter or summer. Conversely, the lessee may vacate the real estate at the termination of the lease without any prior notice to the owner. Each party is presumed to know the termination date of the lease.
In towns and villages, rental of real estate that has no specific term of time duration follows the practice of the community. If the practice is for such leases, whether in writing or oral, to be for a year, then it will be held that such rental is for a year, or for a month, or for any other period reflecting the community practice. Very often the laws of the land specify the duration of a lease that does not state any duration, and they are to be followed.
If there is no community practice or law governing, the halacha states that a lease without a specific duration is for thirty days.
When the lease does not provide for any term, the rent must still be paid. Every lessee for a non specified period of time must be given at least thirty days' notice to vacate the real estate. This applies if the termination day specified in the notice falls on a day between Pesach and Sukkot. This is the non-rainy season, and the lessee will find it easier to find a new dwelling and to move. But if the date specified in the thirty-day notice falls after the beginning of Sukkot until the next Pesach, the rainy season, he does not have to vacate until the day following the next Pesach. The lessee must be served with another 30-day notice telling him to vacate after Pesach.
The notices required by the owner to the lessee, must also be given by the lessee to the owner if he is going to vacate the real estate. Thus, in the non-rainy season, the lessee must give the owner thirty days' notice that he will vacate the real estate, and during the rainy season he may not vacate the premises and must give notice that he will vacate the premises after the coming Pesach.
What has been said above applies to towns and villages. However, in large urban areas, a lease for an unspecified duration cannot be terminated by less than twelve months' notice of termination, whether by the owner or the lessee. Should either the owner or the lessee anticipate that he may want to terminate the renting in less than a year, he should insist that the term of the lease be fixed for that shorter period (in the first place).
In commercial leases as well as in residential leases, if the parties stipulate a definite time for the duration of the lease, it governs. In all locations, whether in a city, town, or village, a commercial lease without a definite duration is for a year. The reason is that it may take the merchant in the store that much time to collect all of the debts due to him from the community customers. Although the halacha allows a longer time for bakeries and dyers of cloth - a period of three years, the same consideration should be given to all similar types of merchants who extend long periods of time for their customers to pay the debts due to the merchants.
There are sometimes changes in circumstances in cases of indefinite duration leases. If the lease is for an indefinite period and the level of rents in the community for comparable real estate rises or diminishes, the lessee must pay such higher rent or the owner must accept such lower rent (as the case may be). Such change in the rent to be paid is not effective until the party in whose favor the change is to be made gives written notice to the other party of such change in rent. If either refuses to comply with the foregoing, the other party may terminate the lease.
Assume the dwelling of the owner collapses and he has no place to live. He can give the lessee of a lease for an indefinite period reasonable notice to vacate, and the notice need not be the thirty days' notice required in the non-rainy season, and the notice can terminate during the rainy season. This does not apply to leases of definite duration since the term is fixed and the owner cannot terminate prior to the termination provided for in the lease.
In a case where the owner's commercial real estate is destroyed, the preferred view is that he may not evict the indefinite-term commercial lessee.
What if there is destruction of the leased real estate? The real estate that is rented may be for a specific location, such as a house located at 100 King George Street, or for suite 110 at 100 King George Street. If the real estate is destroyed by fire, flood, earthquake, storm, or any other reason, the owner is not required to rebuild the real estate, since he rented out specific real estate that is no longer in existence. The lessee does not have the option to state that he will rebuild at his own expense.
In such case the rent is to be apportioned between the time that the lessee occupied the real estate and the time left in the lease. If the If rent was prepaid, the lessee will be given a refund, and if the rental has not yet been paid, the lessee will pay amount used, to the owner.
If there was only partial destruction, the owner must make repairs to the part that remains to bring the rented real estate to as close a condition that it was before the partial destruction. There is an opinion that the owner need make repairs only if the total repair does not exceed the total rental under the lease.
If the lease is for the upper floor of a two-story building and the upper floor is destroyed, the law is the same, and the owner is not obligated to repair the upper floor. If there is partial destruction of the upper story, the owner must make repairs.
If the rented real estate is not specific, such as the owner rents to the lessee a house, or a house such as this, and the house is destroyed, the laws are different. The owner is obligated to either rebuild this real estate or to furnish the lessee with comparable real estate.
What if the lessee remains in possession after the term ends? If the lease is for a specific term and the lessee remains on in the premises, without being immediately evicted, he is treated as a lessee who is in possession of real estate for an indefinite period of time and whatever notices are required to be given for indefinite period rentals apply such as thirty days' notice or twelve months' notice.
Assume there is a lease of fixed duration by community practice, such as every lease without a definite term terminates on September 30 of the next year, and the lessee remains in possession of the real estate after the termination of the term without any agreement of the parties. The lessee after some time has passed after September 30, but before the next September 30, wishes to vacate the real estate and to pay for that time that he remained on the real estate. The owner demands that he pay until September 30 next. Since the practice is for all leases without a definite period to terminate on e following September 30, the lessee must pay until September 30.
The subject matter of this lesson is more fully discussed in volume IX chapter 312 of A Restatement of Rabbinic Civil Law by E. Quint. Copies of all volumes can be purchased via email: firstname.lastname@example.org and via website: www.israelbooks.com and at local Judaica bookstores. Questions to email@example.com