Question:

Dear Rabbi,

I live in a wonderful building. My neighbors are always doing favors to one another and there are never any fights. If we don’t see eye-to-eye on something, we hurry to ask a rav, or consult with the beis din, and after we do what was paskened, we can forget the issue ever came up. I love my building – a true Binyan of Shalom. Now, a question has arisen after doing some building extensions and renovations:

My apartment is on the fourth floor. The three apartments below mine have all built out, according to the building plans, adding rooms to their apartments. I added another story to my apartment by building on the roof and then I used the floor of their rooms as a large porch. Am I obligated to pay the other stories for using their roofs? Am I also obligated to pay part of the cost of the foundation and land development? And in that case, what percentage of it? The owner of the apartment below mine thinks that I have to forever be responsible for any leaking from my porch to his rooms. Is this true? What am I obligated to pay according to Din Torah?

Answer:

It is very admirable that you and your neighbors always go for a Torah solution to problems. This certainly assists in preserving the precious Shalom in your building.

Halachically, you are obligated to pay for more than half of the cost of the roof and supporting beams of the floor below your porch, more than a third of the cost of the floor below that, and more than a third of the cost of the first floor and foundations. You are not obligated to pay for waterproofing but you will be obligated to fix any damages that may occur in the future.

In addition, your neighbors are permitted to demand that you pay them a “Balancing Payment” to balance out the fact that your apartment is now larger than theirs and you have a greater percentage in the land. Practically, I would suggest that you all agree on a compromise, since in going to Beis Din you will probably find yourself paying much more than that.

Sources:

Nimukei Yosef on Bave Basre 3:1 opines that the reason to obligate one who benefits from previous building is because he has become a partner in the building venture. See “Alon Hmishpat” 27, p.4

Nesivos Hamishpat 158: If one builds a partition between two neighbors they split the cost evenly, although one may benefit from it more than the other. See Choshen Mishpat 163 where the cost of building a city wall is divided between the residents according to each one’s benefit from it.  Apparently the difference between the two cases is that when they build on shared land they split the cost evenly, whereas if the building takes place on different land, each pays according to the benefit he derives from it.

Therefore, in proper

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