Mr. Landman owned a rental apartment on the second floor of his house. Mr. Sorscher signed a one-year lease with him. Toward the end of the year, Mr. Landman asked: “Would you like to renew the lease?”
“It’s been nice living here,” answered Mr. Sorscher, “but my company is planning to relocate soon, so I can’t renew.”
“That’s fine,” said Mr. Landman. “I’ll need the apartment for one of my kids soon.”
“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?” asked Mr. Sorscher.
“OK, but just until I need it,” he replied.
When the year ended, Mr. Sorscher continued living in the apartment.
Two months later, Mr. Landman told him, “I’ll need the apartment at the end of this week.”
“What!” said Mr. Sorscher. “I can’t pack up and get out so fast! You need to give me 30 days’ notice!”
“The lease was up two months ago, and we didn’t renew it,” argued Mr. Landman. “You don’t need any notice. Thank me that I let you stay until now!”
“But that’s inconsiderate,” pleaded Mr. Sorscher. “To make me pack up and leave immediately is just not reasonable.”
“Reasonable or not, you knew that you were here 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? And how much?”
“In these circumstances, there isn’t an absolute need for 30 days’ notice,” answered Rabbi Dayan. “Nonetheless, it is proper to give minimal time.”
“Could you elaborate?” asked Mr. Landman.
“The Mishnah (B.M. 101b) teaches that termination of tenancy requires at least 30 days’ 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)” (C.M. 312:5, 8).
“What if one party gave notice in a month-to-month lease, but the tenant continued on regardless?” asked Mr. Sorscher.
“When notice was given but the tenant remained,” replied Rabbi Dayan, “the landlord can demand that the tenant leave at any point, since he was clearly notified to prepare himself” (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?”
“Aruch HaShulchan (C.M. 312:24) rules that when the tenant continues on, it becomes like a month-by-month rental, and now requires notice,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “But many authorities maintain that there is no absolute requirement for giving notice. Chazal instituted 30 days’ 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 your 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?”
“Most locales have laws governing termination of tenancy,” answered Rabbi Dayan. “Usually, such rules are binding as minhag ha’medinah. Many provide specific timeframes for termination notice; some simply require ‘reasonable’ notice.”
This article is intended for learning purposes and not to be relied upon halacha l’maaseh. There are also issues of dina d’malchusa to consider in actual cases.
Rabbi Meir Orlian is a faculty member of the Business Halacha Institute, which is headed by HaRav Chaim Kohn, shlita, a noted dayan. For questions regarding business halacha issues, or to bring a BHI lecturer to your business or shul, please call the confidential hotline at 877-845-8455 or e‑mail firstname.lastname@example.org. To receive BHI’s free newsletter, Business Weekly, send an email to email@example.com.