Question:

A frum female college student is renting a basement apartment in the house of a frum landlord and his extended family. While the tenant was asleep, the landlord’s 3 year old grandson flooded her apartment while playing with a water hose and the tenant’s Apple Macbook Pro was submerged under water.

The landlord accepted responsibility for the flood and determined that the computer was damaged beyond repair. The landlord researched on the internet and determined that the current value of the computer is $800 and has offered a lump sum of $1000 for the computer and any other items in the apartment that may have been damaged (he did not ask what else was damaged). The landlord has let the tenant use his desktop PC and his wife’s laptop when possible.

The tenant’s father has determined that it would cost about $2000 to buy a new Apple Macbook Pro. He believes that $800 might be a fair price if his daughter wanted to voluntarily sell her computer after choosing to get a new one and then transferring all of her software and documents to the new computer.

The tenant is attending summer school at her college and enrolled in 2 condensed summer terms of 4 weeks each, and students can take 1 class in each term. Each term is equivalent to a full semester, and each day of class is equivalent to a week in a regular semester. At the time of the flood, the tenant was taking a writing intensive class in the first term with 4 papers due each week. Papers in progress were lost when her computer was water damaged. In addition because the entire apartment had over an inch of water, she missed class and lost significant time that would have been spent on her studies and assignments, in order to clean and salvage as much as possible. As a result that term is now over but she has not yet completed all of the assignments. However, her second term has started which assigns the reading of 1 to 2 books each week, with concomitant assignments, so she now needs to do the work of both classes at the same time until she can finish all of the papers from the first class.

The landlord believes that his obligation is to pay the lesser of the cost to repair the computer or fair market value. He also believes that neither replacement cost nor reimbursement of sales tax is appropriate and paying $200 more than fair market value is more than fair. He is not aware of any Halacha that would require him to do more.

The tenant’s father does not believe there should be any equivalence to the price received from a voluntary sale of a computer and the compensation for damage caused by admitted negligence, while his daughter was asleep. He also believes that there is Halacha that states that taking a man’s time is the same as taking a man’s money.

The father concedes that the new computer would be better than his daughter’s older computer. However, he believes that there should be consideration of the time lost to clean up from the flood, the time lost from her schoolwork, the time to restore all of the software that she had on the old computer to the new computer, and the time lost from the documents on her computer that were lost and needed to be rewritten.

All 3 would appreciate the opportunity to learn from this and have a fair outcome according to Halacha.

Answer:

I am extremely sorry to inform you that according to Jewish Halachah the landlord is not responsible for what his 3 year old grandson did. A minor (under bar or bat mitzvah) who damages is exempt from any payment and also his parents are not held responsible.

Sources:

Gemarah Bava Kama 87a, Rambam Chovel Umazik 4:20, CH:M 424:8

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