Tel Aviv Court Supports Public Housing Tenants in Eligibility Fight

Despite the numerous contradictions in its reports, Amidar decided to evict the couple without conducting further examination.

Amidar housing in Beit She'an.
Yuval Tebol

The Tel Aviv Magistrate’s Court on Wednesday refused to order the eviction of a man from the apartment he has lived in for over 50 years and took the Amidar Public Housing Authority to task for its sloppy investigative methods. Amidar was also ordered to pay the man and his wife 10,000 shekels ($2,580) in court costs.

The man’s mother, an Amidar tenant, died about seven years ago and the agency had recognized her son’s succession right to the apartment. About a year after his mother’s death, Amidar assigned the lease to him.

But when the man inquired about buying the apartment, under the agency’s tenant-purchase scheme, Amidar told him that he and his wife, who had been living with him since his mother died, were illegal squatters. The agency revoked his lease and moved to have the couple evicted. The agency also demanded the retroactive payment of rent for the years they had lived in the apartment.

In its lawsuit, Amidar argued that the defendant could not claim succession rights because he had not lived with his mother for three years before she was hospitalized, prior to her death, as required by law.

Amidar based its claims on the reports of its field inspectors, who pay annual visits to the agency’s apartments in order to check on the number of tenants in each apartment.

The inspectors had reported that the defendant had not lived with his mother for a full three years before she was hospitalized.

The court ruled that at least three of the reports on whose basis the agency determined that the man was not entitled to live in the apartment contained numerous errors and contradictions.

For example, one of the reports was ostensibly on a home visit that had not yet taken place — the report was postdated — and it got the wife’s last name wrong.

A different report said that only one person was living in the apartment, but it gave the name of both the man and his mother. The inspector had written that the man had been “living in the apartment for 20 years with his mother.”

A later report said the man “has been living with his mother since the apartment was inhabited,” but notes that only one person lives there.

Despite the numerous contradictions, Amidar decided to evict the couple, without conducting further examination.

Asked whether he checks the number of beds in each apartment, whether there are a man’s and woman’s clothes in them, how many toothbrushes there are next to the bathroom sink and the like, the Amidar inspector testified: “The truth is I don’t look into those things.”

“The contradictions in the reports make it difficult to accept the plaintiff’s position that the respondent was squatting in the apartment,” Judge Carmela Haft wrote in her verdict.

“Home visits determine the tenants’ fate. The state cannot take an Amidar bureaucratic document and treat it as sole evidence, following which it denies a person’s right [to live in the apartment],” said Becky Keshet-Cohen, a lawyer with the Rabbis for Human Rights advocacy group, which helped the couple.

“Amidar’s field inspectors in fact admitted that they don’t really investigate in a serious way what happens in the home,” she said.