Q: Last summer, I rented a vacation apartment in Netanya. The owners stipulated that cleanliness was of paramount importance to them and that I take care to return it in perfect order. I promised to care for it as if it were my own, and to leave it clean and neat. Indeed, the night before we left, I stayed up until 3:00 a.m. to clean the apartment to perfection. When we left on Friday morning, we gave the key to friends of the owner who were spending Shabbos in the apartment.
A couple of days later, I received an angry call from the owner, who accused me of neglecting the apartment. I tried to convince him that, as agreed, we left the apartment in tip-top condition, and that they should check it out with their friends who were there for Shabbos.
I must emphasize that it was important for me to remove the accusation, not only in order to prove that I kept my word, but also so that the owner would be willing to rent the apartment to us in the future, or to recommend me to their neighbors.
Is it permissible for me to remove the accusation from myself, thus shifting the blame to the family who used the apartment for Shabbos?
A: It is permissible to say that you stayed up late to make sure that the apartment was clean and neat, even if in doing so you would make it obvious that their friends neglected to clean up after themselves. This is so because it is wrong to leave an apartment dirty, especially if the owners stressed how important cleanliness is to them. You must, however, take caution not to directly point your finger at their friends, because it isn’t clear if it is permissible to remove the accusation from yourself by saying “I didn’t do it,” or to be explicit about who did do it.
It seems that even according to middas hachassidus, you wouldn’t have to remain silent in the face of this accusation. That is because it would cause you damage as they would no longer be willing to rent the apartment to you. In addition, there is a constructive purpose in the owner knowing not to rely on his friends’ cleanliness.
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