The Herzliya building that houses the Amidar public housing apartment.
The Herzliya building that houses the Amidar public housing apartment. Amidar has valued the modest home at NIS 1.18 million. Photo by Ofer Vaknin
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Holocaust survivor asks court to call out public housing company on unreasonable appraisal

The early summer sun beats down on the old housing project in Herzliya's Weizman neighborhood, but the sunlight hardly penetrates the tiny window of the second-story, two-room tenement apartment. The cracks and water stains on the bedroom ceiling shows the flat has seen better days in its more than 50 years, but the spotless surroundings show that the current tenant keeps it clean and tidy.

A Holocaust survivor, Sarah (not her real name ) has been waging a battle to buy the Amidar public housing apartment she has lived in for 22 years, a battle in which many younger than her would have already thrown in the towel.

Amidar had the property assessed on its behalf by a pair of appraisers, following Sarah's initial request to purchase it a year and a half ago during the company's campaign to sell its apartments to their tenants.

The flat covers just 34.7 square meters of floor space. Besides its two rooms, it includes a modest kitchen, dining area, and bathroom but no additional amenities such as a storeroom or parking space. Making matters worse, one of the neighbors put up a series of apparently illicit building additions, encroaching on the space shared by Sarah's apartment, yet without any objection by Amidar.

Just under a year ago, she discovered that the tiny old apartment she lived in is worth its dimensions in gold, at least according to the Amidar appraisers, who estimated the property's value at no less than NIS 1,028,511. The appraisal mentioned that the unit itself is worth just NIS 598,000, but that its unrealized building rights are worth an additional NIS 430,000. According to conditions of Amidar's sell-off campaign, Sarah is eligible for a discount of about NIS 200,000 so the company offered her the flat for NIS 838,000.

Well beyond market price

Seeing that the value put on the home was much higher than its market price, and well beyond her means, Sarah appealed the assessment. Amidar duly ordered another valuation in December, this time by a third appraiser. The astonishing result was a NIS 150,000 increase over the previous assessment: NIS 1.18 million.

Two weeks ago Sarah filed a petition against Amidar in Tel Aviv District Court. "Nobody ever paid such a price for such an asset," she told TheMarker. "Amidar simply isn't interested in selling the property." She asked the court to determine that the valuations performed by Amidar are unreasonable, and to render them null and void. She also asked that the court order the appointment of a neutral, unaffiliated appraiser to prepare an independent assessment.

Represented by attorney Oren Aharoni, Sarah submitted to the court a list of property sales in the neighborhood over the past two years. The list shows homes of 90-100 square meters sold for between NIS 850,000 and NIS 1.2 million, most of them newer homes possessing storage space and parking areas.

"Considering the figures detailed here, it follows that the valuation of the petitioner's apartment exceeds market prices for similar units by hundreds of thousands of shekels," the petition says.

Much of her claim disputes the value attributed by the appraisers to the building rights, adding hundreds of thousands of shekels to the price. But even the appraisers on Amidar's behalf said these aren't currently relevant due to the illegal construction in the building that Amidar never bothered to remedy.

"Amidar needs to find a suitable solution to the violations so that (Sarah ) can utilize the rights," one of the valuation opinions said. Amidar's price proposal - based on the very same valuation - doesn't mention anything about "finding a suitable solution" as the appraiser recommended.

"This construction will make it burdensome to actualize the building rights and could lead the petitioner into a legal conflict, with all that implies, without the assistance of Amidar, which will no longer have any rights with regards to the apartment after the purchase," the petition stated.

Sarah says she's already endured several clashes with the same neighbor, claiming he and his family has used physical violence against her. Despite several calls to the municipality and police on the matter, nothing has been done, and several storage sheds built by the neighbor in the yard still remain standing.

Besides complaining about the inflated valuations, the petition also paints a picture of Amidar's apparent callous behavior towards Sarah. One example is her repeated attempts to schedule an appointment with the manager of the organization's Sharon district, Moti Ben Simon. No less than four scheduled meetings were canceled, it states, with Sarah even wasting a trip to the company's offices in Netanya after not being informed that the meeting had been called off.

"Amidar acted in accordance with Housing and Construction Ministry procedures on this subject and is bound by the assessment provided by the arbitrating appraiser," Amidar responded. "The tenant chose to submit an administrative appeal on the matter, and Amidar will act in accordance with any decision given by the court. Any building violations, if such exist, fall under municipal jurisdiction."

The Herzliya Municipality responded: "On checking, we found that no complaints were received about illegal construction at the site in the last several years, and we aren't aware of any such new construction. The woman is welcome to submit a complaint on the matter. The regional inspector will also pay a visit to the site."