I rent office space from another Yid. He uses his office on certain days and I on differnt days. We each have our own telephone lines.
On a day I was using the office, my phone line was not working and used his phone line for an urgent long distance call. I probably incurred him a small expense, perhaps 2-3 dollars, a small amount which however I do NOT want to owe him. I was thinking of adding this to the next rent check and since I do not know the exact amount, I thougt of just rounding it to $10 which is not a big deal at all. The issue is if I would be incurring the issur of ribis by paying him more than the amount that I owe him. I do not want to ask him to check the bill because I do not want him to inconvenience him for a such small amount. My question is if its ok to add the $10 to the rent. Thank you


It is permitted for you to pay him the extra ten dollars without his knowledge, provided this certainly covers the cost of the call.


The question begins with the definition of using the telephone line.

If we assume the permission of the owner (which is natural for the case in the question), then using the phone line is a gift (if the assumption is agreement for free) or a sale (if the assumption is agreement in exchange for payment). This depends on the relationship between the partners involved. Either way, there is no “loan,” and therefore there would not be an issue of ribis. Note that even if permission can be assumed, authorities dispute (Tosafos, Bava Metzia 22a; Shach, Choshen Mishpat 358:1) whether it is permitted to make use of the other’s property.

Note that even if we assume no permission on the part of the owner to use his phone line, in which case using it would be a case of gezel, the case would be gezel without the knowledge of the owner. Under such circumstances, it is permitted to return the expense without the owner’s knowledge (see Bava Kama 112).

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