In this issue

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 Sept. 8, 2008 / 8 Elul 5768

How far must one go to help somebody out of a contract?

By Rabbi Dr. Asher Meir

Printer Friendly Version

Email this article

http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Q: I rented out an apartment. A prospective tenant gave me a deposit, but then cancelled. He gets the deposit back if I find a new tenant. Do I have to look for a new tenant, or can I just pocket the deposit?

A: Your question deals with a concept known in secular law as "mitigation". When one party is liable for loss caused to another, typically the person suffering the loss has an obligation to mitigate the damage before holding the other responsible. When someone cancels a rental agreement on short notice, he causes you a loss because if he hadn't grabbed the apartment you would have found someone else. The question is if now you have the obligation to make an effort to find someone else.

I am sure that different jurisdictions have differing laws on this topic; my column is not meant to give legal guidance but rather ethical guidance based on the principles of Jewish law and tradition.

We find in many cases that Jewish law obligates a measure of mitigation. Here are some examples:

If an employer has to suddenly cancel a hire, and the employee is stuck without work for that day (or week, or month) then the employee is entitled to compensation. However, the employee is obligated to make an effort to find alternative work; only if he is unable is he entitled to compensation. Likewise, if the worker suddenly leaves the employer in the lurch, the employer can make the employee liable for a loss, but only if he cannot find alternative workers for comparable pay. (1)

Here is a parallel situation:

The rabbis taught: if someone hires a ship but unloads in the middle of the way, he has to pay half the rental and the owner has [no monetary claim but] only resentment against him. What is the case? If the owner is able to find someone else, then why is he resentful? And if he is unable to find someone else, he is liable for the entire amount! Even if he is able to find someone else, he is resentful because of the extra strain on the ship [from loading and unloading]. (2)

Once we acknowledge the need for mitigation, we still need to ask who has the responsibility, and the right, of mitigation. We could imagine in the above cases that the worker doesn't have to seek alternative employment, but that the employer is empowered to look on his behalf. Or that the employer doesn't have to look for replacement workers, but the quitting workers are empowered to give him some. In the case of the ship, we could imagine that the reneging passenger would be enabled and required to find a new passenger to take his place.

In fact, this is what we find by house rentals. The lessor is not required to look for a new tenant, but the lessee is empowered to find another tenant to take his place. The Shulchan Aruch (authoritative Code of Jewish law) writes:

Just as the lessor has to give notice, so the lessee has to give thirty days notice in the city, or twelve months in the country, in order to give [the lessor] the ability to find a new tenant and not leave the house vacant. And if he didn't notify, he can't leave, rather he has to pay the rental. Or he can put in someone else in his place. But if he wants to give someone unsuitable, the lesser does not have to accept him. (3)

There are various explanations as to why the damaged party is responsible for mitigation in one instance, and the responsible party in others. The simplest is that it is fairest to impose the duty on the reneging party, who is after all at fault, but that in the case of a worker or passenger, there is more of a problem of some candidates being unsuitable; some workers may do poor work and some passengers may have problematic merchandise or conduct. But most tenants are pretty much alike.

So within the framework of Jewish law, you don't have to look for a tenant, but you have to allow your canceling tenant to do this. It would be fairest for you to also make an effort to find a replacement, and this would also be wisest since it would enable you to find a tenant you like.

SOURCES: (1) Babylonian Talmud, Bava Metzia 76b and Tosafos commentary. (2) Babylonian Talmud, Bava Metzia 79b (3) Shulchan Aruch, Choshen Mishpat 312:7 and glosses of Rema


Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes inspiring articles. Sign up for our daily update. It's free. Just click here.

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.


You've enjoyed his columns on JWR for years. Now the Jewish Ethicist has culled his most intriguing — and controversial — offerings in book form.
Sales help fund JWR.

© 2008, The Jewish Ethicist is produced by the JCT Center for Business Ethics