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Ratty Rental

Question:

 

Dear Rabbi,

Four months ago I found a new job. The work is refreshing — just what I wanted to be doing and the staff is excellent. On top of it all, is the pay – far above and beyond what I ever dreamed of. A real dream job. The only problem was that I lived very far from the office and I desperately needed to find an apartment closer by. After a quick search I found an apartment just one street over that had enough room for my family and was close enough to schools and kindergartens. I signed a lease.

A month after I moved in I found out that the apartment had plumbing problems. The sinks leaked, the pipes were all cracked and leaking. I could not start looking for another place since I had already started my new job, and I didn’t have the heart to uproot my family once again. I decided to just stay put and suffer with the leaking problems.

The owner of the apartment does not live in the country. He comes once a year and then expects me to pay the whole year’s rent at once. Now, the year is almost up. Can I deduct money from the rent due to the leaking plumbing?

Answer:

If you pointed out the problem to the owner of the apartment and he shirked his responsibilities and did not fix it, you can deduct from the rent the difference between an apartment with a plumbing problem and one without.

If you failed to point it out and request the owner to fix it, or it is impossible to fix, and you went on living there for a month or more after finding the problem, you are obligated to pay the rent in full.

Sources:

See Shut Maharam Padowa 39: One who rents and finds a problem is permitted to cancel the agreement and not deduct from the rent. Continuing living there for a short time due to various constraints allows for a right to deduct from the rent. This is also apparent from the words of the Pischei Teshuva Choshen Mishpat 232:103 indicating that use under duress does not prove of passing over the problem. More than a month is not considered under constraints.

If the owner was supposed to fix the problem and failed to do so, Rav Naftali Nussboim opines that he needs to compensate the renter for the level of use that he was supposed to provide and did not.

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