Eviction of an Uncooperative Tenant
Navigating the Israeli court system is challenging for anyone – even natives. Advocate Yaakov Cimerring steers the Anglo landlord through the accepted practices and measures they may have to take with recalcitrant tenants.
As those who rent out property in Israel are well aware, the myth of the all-powerful landlord (lessor) and the poor, defenseless renter is more fiction than fact. In some ways, the typical renter is better protected than the typical lessor. If the landlord tries to raise the rent without prior warning, consistently refuses to perform routine maintenance, and/or denies necessary emergency repairs to the infrastructure, the renter can direct effective complaints to a number of addresses. But what happens if the renter proves uncooperative i.e. consistently refuses to pay the rent or intentionally damages the property? There are, of course, many types of tenants who (as the most common type of non-compliance) refuse to pay the rent. There are tenants who purposely plan to stop paying rent after a certain time period, relying on the inefficiency of the eviction and debt-collection process to aid them. There are renters who encounter unexpected financial difficulties and are too embarrassed to have a productive discussion with the landlord in order to negotiate their rental payments. Instead they avoid their landlord and only make the problem worse. There are minor clashes of culture, personality and language that end up escalating into a spiteful refusal to comply with the terms of the lease. Landlord Attempts to Deal with Non-Cooperative Tenants The common denominator in all the above cases is that once the tenant refuses to cooperate, it’s practically impossible for the landlord to remedy the situation on his own. And very few, aside from attorneys specializing in real estate law, are willing and qualified to help. Without the aid of a lawyer, the lessor’s recourse is fairly limited. He is forced to negotiate from the position of an underdog, because even the most intransigent of tenants is protected from eviction until the end of the rental contract. As far as the police are concerned, the property belongs to the renter for the duration. A lessor who attempts to evict a tenant by force in order to reclaim his property and recoup his losses is likely to face legal consequences. A typical eviction process may drag on for months on end, with the lessor losing money in the interim. Both attempts to negotiate with the tenant and to contact the relevant authorities are more difficult for those whose knowledge of Hebrew is limited or who do not permanently reside in Israel. Furthermore, difficulties in communication increase the likelihood of uncooperative behavior on the part of the tenant. In this case, the uncooperative tenant is on ͞home turf͟ in more ways than one, and can draw out the eviction process interminably. All while the landlord suffers the multiple problems of missing rent, being held responsible for the various bills the apartment accrues (water, electricity, gas, vaad bayit, arnona), as well as any damage to the apartment caused by the tenant. The Eviction Process The remedy is a relatively little-known procedure called, ͞a claim for the eviction of an unprotected tenant.͟ This process may take as little as 30 to 60 days. In English-speaking countries, this is sometimes referred to as a suit of ͞unlawful detainer.͟ Once a lawyer submits all relevant documents to the proper court, the tenant has 30 days to file a defense. Whether a defense is submitted or the suit is ignored, the court will set a date for a hearing within the next 30 days (which is very quick, by Israeli court standards). In all likelihood, once the lawyer shows evidence that the tenant is not complying with the contract, an eviction ruling will be obtained within a single hearing. This suit is limited to requesting the eviction of the non-cooperative tenant – it cannot include a claim for monetary compensation for loss of rent, utility bills or other damages. However, filing the suit does not prevent the lessor from pursuing compensation in another jurisdiction. Furthermore, the (obligatory) warning letter before the suit is filed may, on occasion, provide the impetus needed to drive the non-cooperative renter to negotiate with the landlord in order to avoid a speedy eviction. In other words, even if you are reluctant to evict a tenant due to personal sympathies, a warning that the eviction process is underway may help resolve your issues. Please note: drafting a properly considered rental contract with the help of a real estate attorney, may prevent future complications, including lack of cooperation by the tenant. Attorney Yaakov Cimerring currently manages the Corporate & Commercial Department at Cohen, Decker, Pex & Brosh law offices. He prepares commercial contracts along with investments and cooperation agreements. Additionally, he provides legal counsel on various commercial issues and assists our clients with their real estate transactions. Since its establishment in 2012, Cohen, Decker, Pex & Brosh Law Office has grown exponentially in reputation, staff and clientele. They practice in all civil law areas, including litigation, commercial law, contracts, labor law and legal consultation, with a specialization in Israeli real estate and immigration law. They can be reached at 02-990-3180 or through their website www.lawoffice.org.il.