The supervisor of land registration in the Ministry of Justice, Yael Antebi-Sharon, has accepted a claim filed by the representative body of an apartment block in Tel Aviv against one of the apartment owners in the building who let his apartment via Airbnb for short periods. It was found that this constituted use of the apartment contrary to the rules of the building. The decision will come into force on January 1, 2019. The supervisor has powers equivalent to those of a magistrates court, and the ruling has broad consequences for those who let their apartments for short periods in buildings that have rules stipulating that the apartments will be used for residential purposes only.
The claimant is the representative body of the apartment building at 12 Hevron Street in Tel Aviv. The building has six floors and nineteen apartments, constructed to a high standard with communally owned amenities such as a parking apparatus, a gas room, a generator room, an electricity room, water pressure apparatus, and expensive equipment such as a security camera system. The respondent, a resident of France, bought an apartment in the building a year ago but does not live in it permanently. While abroad, he lets his apartment for short periods through the Airbnb and Booking.com websites. The building was listed in the multi-occupancy building register shortly before the apartment, and its rules state that "the residential apartments will be used as residences only, and will not be mixed-use."
In December 2017, the representative body of the multi-occupancy building filed a claim with the supervisor of land registration in Tel Aviv, stating that the apartment was let for short periods on a daily basis contrary to the rules and causing damage to joint property. The representative body argued that letting an apartment for short periods amounted to use of it as a vacation apartment rather than as a residential apartment, and to all intents and purposes as a business, including provision of fresh bed linen and towels, and that this contravened the rule forbidding mixed use, and was also contrary to a decision of the general meeting of the residents in February 2015 that apartments in the building would not be let for periods of less than three months. It claimed that in the time that the apartment in question was being let for short periods damage had been caused to joint property, that it had become necessary to employ a guard at the building, and that the practice was liable to lower the value of apartments in the building.
The apartment owner claimed that since those renting the apartment used it for residential purposes and not as a store or an office, he was not in breach of the rules against mixed use, and that the decision to forbid short-term rentals was made without his agreement, and that it infringed his property rights and should therefore be annulled. He also stated that no evidence had been brought of damage to joint property, nor any professional opinion cited that the value of apartments in the building had been impaired.
The supervisor of land registration accepted the representative body's claim and ordered the apartment owner to cease letting his apartment for short periods from January 1. She also awarded NIS 8,500 costs against him. Antebi-Sharon ruled that "residential purposes" meant permanent residence, or at least rental for extended periods of time and not just for a few days. She also accepted the claim concerning the costly equipment in the building and the need to be trained in its use, and ruled that the decision to forbid short-term rentals was not arbitrary but was meant to protect the communal property and equipment and to ensure that the building's high standard of finish would be preserved.
Adv. Israel Librovsky, a land law expert at the law firm Viyur Librovsky (which was not involved in the case) explains that every apartment building has rules, whether the rules are registered along with registration of the building as a multi-occupancy building, or whether the standard rules of a multi-occupancy building set out in the law are applied to it, even though it is not registered. The rules constitute a contract between the apartment owners and are decisive in any dispute, hence their formulation is important. "This is indeed a precedent-setting ruling, and as a consequence of it anyone considering letting an apartment for a short period should read the rules of the building carefully," Librovsky said.
Published by Globes, Israel business news - en.globes.co.il - on October 22, 2018
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