Tenants, beware! These are the crazy clauses you might find in rental contracts

If you thought that rent is expensive in Israel – and the Tel Aviv area in particular – just wait until you see some of the insane clauses some apartment owners sneak into their contracts.

 View of office and apartment highrise buildings in central Tel Aviv, on November 27, 2017 (photo credit: YOSSI ZAMIR/FLASH90)
View of office and apartment highrise buildings in central Tel Aviv, on November 27, 2017
(photo credit: YOSSI ZAMIR/FLASH90)

"It is declared and agreed upon that the tenant takes on the responsibility of cleaning the apartment by means of hiring a professional cleaner at least twice a week. This, in addition to the permission the landlord maintains to enter the apartment space at any given time with prior coordination in order to make sure that the apartment is thoroughly cleaned."

The above clause was taken from a contract given to a potential tenant of an apartment on Kalisher Street in Tel Aviv this past week. It's certainly not a one-time thing; it's one of many examples of the ridiculous clauses which apartment renters encounter in Tel Aviv in recent months.

Is this just an exploitation of their distress by the landlord, or is it also evidence of a major mental disorder?

One thing is certain: The escalation within the apartment rental market in Tel Aviv is breaking crazy records. In order to understand how serious the situation is, we reviewed dozens of contracts and quite a few queries that appeared on the Din website and extracted the most problematic clauses for your perusal.

The question is where the line is drawn between a crazy but legal request and one that would not stand the test of a courtroom.

Efrat Rahamim, a lawyer and partner in the real estate department of Solomon, Lifshitz & Co., will therefore join throughout the listing to analyze the legality of the clauses. She, in her work, is engaged in giving guidance and advice in the field of real estate, among other things. Her comments will appear under "The expert's opinion."

Apartment on Yarkon St., Tel Aviv. Two bedrooms. Rent: NIS 18,500/month

The problematic clause

"A predetermined sum of NIS 30,000 will be given for mental anguish caused to the landlord due to the conduct of the renter in relation to the rental of the apartment."

The expert's opinion

In 2017, the Rent and Lending Law of 1971 in Israel was amended. The amendment, known as the "Fair Rent Law 2017," addressed, among other things, the disparity in power held by the landlord and the tenants.

In this case, the demand is indeed one to include an unacceptable clause. Compensation for mental anguish is not something that can be estimated or determined in advance and so, this kind of compensation is determined by the court and can only be given according to the circumstances of each individual case.

It is important to note that even if it is not stipulated in the agreement that one of the parties is entitled to compensation for emotional distress, in the event of a breach of the agreement, the party which is harmed by the breach of contract can petition the relevant court and demand compensation as stated.

What the renter thinks

"This brat demands that I compensate him for any heartache related to my conduct," said Orna, the renter interested in the property. "For example, if my kids make noise that bothers his mother, who lives above me, he can demand that I pay. So I told the landlord that I will never sign this contract. I asked him to remove the clause, but he refused, so I told him, 'good luck finding the next sucker.' I'm sure he found one."

 Bicycles for rent by newly renovated residential buildings in Tel Aviv, on August 19, 2015 (credit: NATI SHOHAT/FLASH90) Bicycles for rent by newly renovated residential buildings in Tel Aviv, on August 19, 2015 (credit: NATI SHOHAT/FLASH90)

Apartment on Shenkin St., Tel Aviv. Three bedrooms. Rent: NIS 14,000/month

The problematic clause

"Any damage caused during the rental period to the property, whether due to the negligence of the landlord or that of the renter, will be fully covered by the renter and they will not have any grounds for a claim against the landlord."

The expert's opinion

This is a clause that every tenant should negotiate and argue about. 

It is unacceptable for a tenant to be responsible for damages caused by the landlord. It is important to note that the new amendment to the Rent and Lending Law also includes an expansion of the obligation to repair the property. According to the law, the tenant is responsible for any defect in the rented apartment, or defect, caused by unreasonable use, when the lessor will repair any other defect in the apartment at his own expense.

The law also states that these clauses cannot be conditioned except in favor of the tenant. The words "any damage" are also unacceptable. If the lessor did not correct a long-term problem and as a result damage was caused - the lessee is not responsible for it. 

What the renter thinks

"I really didn't understand where the problem was until it was brought to my attention," said Doron, the potential tenant of the property.

 A man walks past a closed shop displaying a sign ''for rent'' in Jerusalem on January 11, 2021 (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90) A man walks past a closed shop displaying a sign ''for rent'' in Jerusalem on January 11, 2021 (credit: OLIVIER FITOUSSI/FLASH90)

Apartment on Ibn Gabirol St., Tel Aviv. Three-and-a-half rooms. Rent: NIS 16,000/month

The problematic clause

"The landlord has the option to evict the tenant within one week's notice in advance for causing any damage to the apartment structure and/or to the landlord's property within it."

The expert's opinion

The tenant is obligated to take care of the rented property and use it in a reasonable and careful manner, and if the tenant does not do so, this violates their obligations and the landlord may therein contact them with a request to correct the violation.

If the tenant does not act to correct the violation, the lessor may announce the cancellation of the agreement and demand the eviction of the lessee from the rented property and to even use the security deposits given to the landlord in accordance with what is stipulated in the lease agreement between the parties. 

Of course, a demand to vacate an apartment due to damage such as a scratch to the hardwood floors, especially if it was done in good faith and due to reasonable use of the property by the tenant, is disproportionate. In any case, it is necessary to check what kind of damage it is and whether it is the tenant's responsibility.

What the renter thinks

"I have already seen 20 apartments, I'm not exaggerating," said Olga, the potential tenant of the property. "There's no contract that I didn't find a problem with. And here, this clown comes and tells me that I will vacate the apartment within a week because I scratched his hardwood floors."

Apartment on Zeitlin St., Tel Aviv. Two-and-a-half rooms. Rent: NIS 11,600/month

The problematic clause

"The rent will be linked to the US Dollar Index, provided that it increases."

The expert's opinion

There is no legal impediment to establishing this mechanism. There are quite a few cases where the linkage is only in the case of an increase in an index or the dollar exchange rate, which is reasonable and acceptable.

What the renter thinks

"I have rented apartments in many places in the world," said Hanoch, the potential tenant of the property. "Nowhere have I come across a clause like this. Only in Israel: The country of the greedy."

Apartment on Rothschild St., Tel Aviv. Two bedrooms. Rent: NIS 15,900/month

The problematic clause

"It is declared and agreed that the renter is not allowed to get pregnant, and they are not allowed to host more than four people in the property."

The expert's opinion

The clause prohibiting pregnancy is a problematic, outrageous and discriminatory clause. In this clause, the landlord wants to say that it is not possible to add tenants to the rented apartment. The rent paid by the tenant reflects the value of the use of the apartment, and the more people there are in the apartment, then the respect for the apartment's facilities increases - and therefore the landlord wants to prohibit this.

Of course, instead of prohibiting pregnancy, it can be established that as more people are added to the rented residence, the rent will increase or the rent can be limited to a number of people.

What the renter thinks

"I have lived for 36 years with the feeling that my uterus is private, and here, there are always surprises in life," said Rona, the potential tenant of the property. "Maybe the landlord wants me to give him an annual Pap smear, or a photograph of my cervix?"

Apartment on Hashomer St., Tel Aviv. Five rooms. Rent: NIS 15,200/month

The problematic clause

"It is declared and agreed that hosting more than five people in the apartment is prohibited, as is the use of a barbeque or grill on the balcony."

The expert's opinion

It seems that the landlord's main goal is to maintain the apartment and prevent disturbance to the neighbors. This is actually a conflict between the rights of the tenant to do as he wishes and the right of the other tenants to enjoy their apartments without the disturbance that may be caused to them.

In my opinion, limiting the number of people staying in the apartment is problematic, but banning "fires" on the balcony is a proportionate and reasonable requirement.

What the renter thinks

"Chutzpah, it seems, is a relative concept," said Natan, the potential tenant of the property. "The landlord prevents me from hosting the entire extended family on Passover, for example. Where does he get the insolence from? It's not clear to me."

 Israelis protest against the soaring housing prices in Tel Aviv and cost of living, on July 2, 2022. (credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90) Israelis protest against the soaring housing prices in Tel Aviv and cost of living, on July 2, 2022. (credit: TOMER NEUBERG/FLASH90)

Apartment on Namir Boulevard, Tel Aviv. One-and-a-half rooms. Rent: NIS 6,700/month

The problematic clause

"There is an absolute ban on smoking in the premises of the apartment."

The expert's opinion

The landlord has full right to demand this. The lessor may demand that the conditions listed above apply in the lease agreement, given the demands and/or agreements of the neighbors, the building's surroundings, the nature of the building, etc.

In fact, as long as the restrictions in the apartment are meant to prevent harm to the neighbors or a nuisance, then they are acceptable.

What the renter thinks

"What a mistake I didn't buy an apartment ten years ago," said Eleanor, the potential tenant of the property. "I would be in a position today in which I wouldn't have to bend to the will of landlords. I really don't understand - what, will the walls get cancer?"

An ongoing conversation

In conclusion, Rahamim says that it is important to remember the founding principle according to which contracts must be completed in good faith and in an acceptable manner. 

This principle is a fundamental principle of our legal system, when in the Leasing and Borrowing Law the legislator chose to anchor the principle explicitly by stating in section 4 that "an obligation arising from a rental contract must be fulfilled in an accepted way and in good faith; the same is true for the use of the right arising from the contract."

"Therefore, our main recommendation is to act in good faith and in an accepted way," said Rahamim. "When a lawsuit from a landlord or tenant comes before the court, the court may intervene and determine whether or not the instructions are reasonable, and whether the actions amount to a violation of the lease agreement.

On the Din website, which presents legal forums in the field and hundreds of lawyers from all regions and in all fields, they state in conclusion that "the examples given above are only a drop in the ocean of questions that have been addressed to us over the past few months.

"The tenants' awareness of the legal implications of the contract they are signing has increased, and there is an ongoing lively conversation in our forums as a result. Every day, dozens, if not, hundreds, of queries arise about such issues."