Mishmeres HaSholom: Ask the Rav

Q: We live in a rented apartment. Recently, the owner decided to put the apartment up for sale. The apartment has an ongoing problem of a leaky pipe, which causes dampness in the apartment beneath us, and the owner is not willing to invest in correcting the problem. Should I mention this to people who show interest in buying the apartment?

A: If the situation is indeed as the questioner presents it, that the apartment has a chronic leakage problem causing ongoing damage to the apartment below (which is hard to understand in itself; how is it that the people living in the apartment downstairs do not insist on the repair?), then the questioner certainly is obligated to mention this to anyone interested in purchasing the apartment. This is a serious flaw in the apartment and will cause the buyer monetary expenses, trouble and aggravation. In addition, this kind of repair generally requires picking up the flooring in the upper apartment, and consequently, some of the replacement flooring may be of a different color or design.

True, lawyers writing apartment purchase contracts usually make sure to include in the contract clauses obligating the seller to cover costs of repairing concealed flaws in the apartment, or alternately, stating that the transaction will be nullified if such flaws are discovered. Nevertheless, people are not interested in such aggravation and headaches that involve loss of money and time and more. And besides, some conversely include an explicit clause in the contract stating that the apartment is being purchased “as is,” and then the buyer loses out. Therefore, one must mention this to anyone interested in buying.

Moreover, it would seem that even if the buyer intends to renovate the apartment and change the flooring, still, this constitutes damage, trouble and aggravation, as above, especially since it is impossible to know the extent of the leakage in advance, and at times, the buyer will be compelled to replace all the old, rusty pipes, etc. Therefore, one must inform him.

It is advisable, in such a case, to tell the seller that, halachically, he (the renter) is obligated to report this flaw in the apartment to people showing interest in buying, and that is what he intends to do. This declaration will help avert resentment and anger on the part of the seller towards the renter for revealing the problem to potential buyers.

The questions and answers above were taken from the Mishmeres Hasholom pamphlet in Israel. For details and inquiries please e-mail us at office@hasholom.org or call 972-2 5379160.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Hamodia.