The court slammed public housing company Amidar for filing a suit in an attempt to evict a couple from their home, without informing the court that it had previously lost an identical suit filed in another court.
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Amidar engaged in “faulty legal action and did not act in good faith,” ruled the judge last week, explaining his decision to cancel a second court ruling made five years ago against the couple. The couple lost that suit because they failed to show up in court since they hadn’t realized they were being sued again.
The affair began in 2004, when Amidar submitted two suits against a couple from the north, alleging that they were squatting in an Amidar apartment that they were not eligible to live in and that they were not paying rent. The company demanded that the couple pay the full value of the rent, and not the subsidized rent that public housing recipients pay.
However, the husband had been living in that apartment since he was born. The apartment had been rented out to his father in 1973, and the husband was legally entitled to be considered a second generation tenant, and thus was entitled to continue the lease.
The Magistrate’s Court in the Haifa suburbs ruled in the couple’s favor in 2007, rejecting both suits. Judge Ayelet Dagan determined that the couple had been paying rent, and were not squatting, and ordered Amidar to pay them 3,000 shekels in court costs.
But then the couple started receiving warnings from the state bailiff’s office, demanding they pay Amidar. The couple did not have the means to fight, so they paid, hoping that Amidar would stop pursuing them, the husband told Haaretz.
In 2009, the couple was shocked to learn that Amidar had filed another two suits against them, in a different court – this time in Haifa – that were identical to the previous two suits. Amidar did not let the court know that it had already lost identical suits in a different court. The tenants did not realize that they were being subjected to a second legal process, so they did not show up in court.
The suit was decided in Amidar’s favor in 2011 because the couple never presented a defense. The couple was handed an order to vacate the apartment and to pay Amidar hundreds of thousands of shekels in rent.
It was only at that point that the couple realized that Amidar had sued them again. Lacking the money for a lawyer, they asked a social worker to intervene. The social worker asked the court to cancel the ruling, but the court declined.
The couple continued paying the fees demanded by the bailiff on Amidar’s behalf, in the hope that this would enable them to stay in their home. After five years, they ran out of money to pay the bailiff and turned to a lawyer, who petitioned the court to cancel the ruling.
“It’s very unusual for a court to vacate a ruling after so much time has passed, and after a previous request to vacate the ruling was rejected,” said attorney Ben Harush, who represented them. “This was a case where people of low socioeconomic standing, who lack the means to fight a company like Amidar, being taken advantage of, so that the company could profit at their expense.”
Amidar stated in response that the couple had been deemed ineligible for public housing and that the company obeys the law.