Editor’s note: Parties to a dispute are almost always supposed to seek compromise (peshara) rather than strict din. In fact, the Gemara (Bava Metzia 30b) states that Yerushalayim was destroyed because cases were settled based on din (rather than lifnim meshuras hadin). We encourage readers, therefore, to read this column – which often addresses human disputes – as a source of Torah knowledge, not a guide for ideal Torah behavior.
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Mr. Landman owned a rental apartment in the second floor above his house. Mr. Sorscher signed a one-year lease with him. Towards the end of the year, Mr. Landman asked: “Would you like to renew the lease?”
“It’s been nice living here,” answered Mr. Sorscher. “My company is planning to relocate soon, though, so I can’t renew.
“That’s fine,” said Mr. Landman. “It seems that I’ll need the apartment for one of my kids in the coming months, anyway.”
“I’m not sure exactly when we’re relocating,” said Mr. Sorscher. “Do you know when your children will need the apartment?”
“It’s not clear yet,” said Mr. Landman. “It depends on multiple factors.”
“Do you mind, then, if I stay on after the year?” said Mr. Sorscher.
“No, you can stay until I need it,” replied Mr. Landman.
When the year finished, Mr. Sorscher continued living in the apartment.
Two months later, Mr. Landman called him. “I’ll need the apartment at the end of this week,” he said.
“What?!” said Mr. Sorscher. “I can’t pack up and get out so fast! You need to give me 30-day notice!”
“The lease was up two months ago, and we didn’t renew it,” argued Mr. Landman. “You don’t need any notice! Say thank you that I let you stay until now!”
“But some consideration I need!” pleaded Mr. Sorscher. “At least a week or two! To pick up and leave is just not reasonable.”
“Reasonable or not, you knew that time was up,” replied Mr. Lander. “You knew that you were living on borrowed time and that I needed the apartment for my children.”
Mr. Sorscher approached Rabbi Dayan. “Does Mr. Landman have to give me notice? How much time?”
“In these circumstances, there isn’t an absolute need for a 30-day notice,” answered Rabbi Dayan. “Nonetheless, it is proper to give some minimal time.”
“Could you please elaborate?” asked Mr. Landman.
“The Mishna [Bava Metzia 101b] teaches that termination of tenancy requires at least 30-day notice,” explained Rabbi Dayan. “This requirement is mutual – so that the landlord can find a new tenant and the tenant a new apartment.”
“Rashi indicates that even a fixed-term lease (sechirus l’zman) requires notice,” continued Rabbi Dayan. “However, almost all Rishonim, and the Shulchan Aruch, rule that either party can terminate a fixed-term tenancy at the fixed time without further notice; both parties are expected to plan accordingly or renew the lease. Notice is required only for a month-to-month or year-to-year rental (sechirus stam).” [Choshen Mishpat 312:5, 8]
“What if one party gave notice in a month-to-month lease, but the tenant continued on regardless?” asked Mr. Sorscher.
“The landlord can demand that he leave at any point, since the tenant was clearly notified to prepare himself,” replied Rabbi Dayan. [Pischei Choshen, Sechirus 5:17; Emek Hamishpat, Sechirus Batim #21]
“Would the same apply for a fixed-term rental, when the tenant continued living on without any clear agreement, as in our case?” asked Mr. Landman.
“The Aruch Hashulchan [Choshen Misphat 312:24) rules that when the tenant continued on, it becomes like a month-by-month rental, and now requires notice,” replied Rabbi Dayan.
“However, many authorities maintain that there isn’t an absolute requirement to give notice. Chazal instituted 30-day notice for a renter, who has formal rights, but not for one who lives informally in his friend’s property, even if paying monthly. In our case, when the time expired and no formal arrangement was made, the tenant is no longer a renter and continues on without official status. Nonetheless, when possible, it is proper to give him minimal, reasonable time to pack up and find an alternate place.” [Emek Hamishpat, Sechirus Batim #20]
“What about local laws?” asked Mr. Shorscher.
“Most locales have laws governing termination of tenancy,” answered Rabbi Dayan. “Usually, such rules are binding as minhag hamedina. Many provide specific time frames for termination notice; some simply require ‘reasonable’ notice.”