Ethics

For the week ending 21 December 2002 / 16 Tevet 5763

Switching Rented Homes for the Summer

The Color of HeavenArtscroll

Question: A family that is renting a home makes arrangements to go away for a vacation by switching homes with another family for this period. The landlord is away and cannot be reached in time to gain his consent. Does the tenant have a right to go ahead with the switch?

Answer: This question, which is obviously relevant only in cases where there is no specific clause in the rental contract forbidding subleasing, is dealt with in Shulchan Aruch Chosen Mishpat 216:1. The ruling there is that the tenant may sublease his rented premises till the end of his lease so long as the family to which he is subleasing does not have more members than his own.

It has been suggested that this stipulation does not apply when it is customary for the tenant to bear responsibility for making any repairs necessary in order to return the home in the condition that he received it, since the damage caused by a larger household would anyway be covered by the tenant. Nevertheless, it must be assumed in the case of modern housing a larger family causes greater wear and tear in the rooms and the plumbing, leaving the home in worse condition even after repairs are made by the tenant.

An even stricter view is mentioned by the Aruch Hashulchan who cites an opinion that even when the family subleasing the home is not larger, one it is forbidden to sublease to it. The reasoning for this is that there are people who tend to severely damage the homes they live in. Even the more lenient opinion which is the one cited above from Shulchan Aruch will concede that if the tenant is aware that the one to whom he wishes to sublease his home is a rough or quarrelsome person or one who does not maintain a decent standard of cleanliness it will be improper to rent to him.

In conclusion, if there is no explicit permission or prohibition coming from the landlord a switch of apartments which is really a form of subleasing can be done only if the other family is not a larger one and does not have a reputation of being potential home wreckers.

(Based on the response of Rabbi Yitzchok Zilberstein, Rabbi of the Ramat Elchanan Community in Bnei Brak)

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