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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review July 23, 2007 / 9 Menachem-Av, 5767

Hidden Defects

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir


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My realtor misled me. What do I do now?


http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q: After I bought a house, I discovered that the agent failed to disclose a number of defects which significantly affect the value. What recourse do I have?


A: According to Jewish law, the seller has a responsibility to disclose any significant defects in the sale item. Furthermore, the disclosure must be effective, not evasive. The Talmud relates:

One who sells a cow and states: This cow butts, she bites, she kicks, she's stubborn — if the cow has only one of these defects and he made it inconspicuous among the others, the sale is void. (1)

The passage takes for granted that the seller has a responsibility to reveal any defects. However, in this case the defect is technically revealed, yet this is done in a deceitful way. The buyer sees that most of the defects mentioned are spurious, and thinks that the seller is only trying to reduce his responsibility. In the end, the actual known defect comes as a surprise, and the sale is void because there is a lack of informed consent or "meeting of the minds".

There is nothing inherently wrong for a seller to try to limit his liability or responsibility, as long as this is done in good faith. A seller can state: "To the best of my knowledge this item is in good condition, but I will not be liable if a previously unknown defect becomes evident." The biggest problem with the situation described in the Talmud is that the deception is in bad faith. The seller knows the defect exists at the time of the sale; in this case merely rattling off the "exemptions" is a deceptive tactic and is of no help.

What happens if the seller does not provide full disclosure? One consequence can be that described in the above passage: the sale is void. In Jewish law, every item is sold with an implied guarantee that it is free of material defects; in Maimonides' words, "Any ordinary purchaser intends to buy only an item free of defects." (2) If the item is defective, the presumption is the buyer never intended to acquire it and thus it may be returned for a full refund.

In some cases, the extent of the defect is not great enough to justify cancelling the sale. Here are a few examples:

  1. A defect that is minor and can be easily repaired. If a person buys a house and discovers a broken window, that is not a reason to nullify the entire deal. In this case it is enough for the seller to fix the window or make a partial refund.

  2. A defect that wouldn't have deterred the buyer in the first place. Very often a person is willing to overlook a few minor defects. Even so it is forbidden for the seller to hide these defects, because a seller gets good will for selling quality merchandise, even if he could get away selling merchandise of lower quality. Jewish law forbids the seller to benefit from undeserved goodwill. (3)

So according to Jewish law, the seller certainly owes you an apology for misleading you. If the defects can be repaired, the seller is obligated to either make the repairs or make a price adjustment reflecting the reduction in value they cause. If the defects are substantive and can't be repaired in a routine fashion, you would have the right to cancel the sale and get your money back.

SOURCES: (1) Babylonian Talmud, Bava Metzia 80a. (2) Maimonides' Code, Laws of Sale 15:6 (3) Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 228

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JWR contributor Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir, formerly of the Council of Economic Advisers in the Reagan administration, is Research Director of the Business Ethics Center of Jerusalem, Jerusalem College of Technology. To comment or pose a question, please click here.

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