Majority Rule in Rishon

All the tenants, except one, agreed to implement reinforcement of their building as described in National Master Plan 38. He has now been forced to toe the line by the local supervisor of land registration.

What happened to the one tenant in a Rishon Letzion building who refused to accept the decision of the 15 other residents to carry out improvements as mandated by National Master Plan 38? Recently, one of the first legal decisions ever was handed down with respect to implementation under such circumstances of the plan, which encourage the preservation and reinforcement of buildings through financial incentives.

In the ruling, handed down by the supervisor of land registration in neighboring Holon, Deganit Katzir Brin rejected the arguments of the reluctant tenant in Rishon, who wanted to prevent the improvements. She thus paved the way for the other tenants, and the contractor, to carry out the reinforcement and renovation work. Among other things, the supervisor rejected the defendant's arguments regarding his rights to the roof and possible damage to his property.

According to the lawsuit filed by the tenants, which was submitted by attorney Gil Zeva of the firm of Kira Itzhak, Zeva and Co., in 2007 an agreement was signed between the entrepreneur, Adler Properties, and 15 tenants living at 10 Gluskin St. in Rishon Letzion. According to the accord, the entrepreneur was supposed to renovate and reinforce the building, build sun porches, install elevators and carry out additional upgrades - without any payment by the tenants. In return for the work done, as is customary with the NMP 38, which aims particularly to reinforce older buildings against earthquakes, the entrepreneur was supposed to receive rights to build four new apartments on the roof of the building.

The plaintiffs claimed the building suffered from many defects and the work would improve this situation, especially in the event of an earthquake, plus it would also increase the value of their apartments.

However, the defendant, Shraga Rosenstein, refused to sign the agreement reached between the parties. Rosenstein explained that he was not trying to extort money from the contractor - he was refusing the whole project on principle, and was not interested in signing a paper "that transfers ownership of private property: in other words, a certain relative share of the roof in the apartment building." He also claimed that he and his family were not willing to live in a construction site for two years, and that they could not be forced to do so. In Rosenstein's opinion, the renovation would damage the contents and interior of the apartments; he also declared that he would be willing to pay his relative share for reinforcing the structure against earthquakes - on condition that no construction be done on the top of the building.

By law, the supervisor of land registration is authorized to approve the implementation of NMP 38 if a lawsuit in support of such improvements is filed by at least two-thirds of the apartment owners in any given building - as happened in this case.

Supervisor Katzir Brin thus rejected all the defendant's arguments. She contended that an apartment owner's protection of his asset does not supersede efforts to protect a shared asset in a shared property - namely, the roof of the building. In such a case more weight should be given to the interests of the tenants as a group. The public and social interest involved in such cases, wrote Katzir Brin, demands protection of the rights of the other apartment owners. If the defendant really does suffer damages as a result of the reinforcement work, he will be entitled to receive compensation in the future, but that is not enough to prevent the work from being carried out in the first place, she noted.

Necessary reinforcement

The supervisor also rejected the defendant's argument about living for two years in a construction site, as he put it. The entrepreneur said the particularly disturbing phase of work should last for about eight months. Afterward, the reinforcement and other work would be done with equipment that operates outside the building, in a manner that will reduce the disturbance.

Katzir Brin was convinced the reinforcement work on the site should go on after she visited the building and saw its condition. She also received a professional assessment from the Rishon Letzion municipality, which found a large number of defects.

The defendant had agreed that reinforcement work was necessary, since he said he was willing to bear his relative share of that work, the supervisor noted. She agreed that Rosenstein and his family were likely to be inconvenienced, but that would have happened in any case, she said: whether the necessary reinforcement was done in this context or by other means. At the same time, she ruled that the inconvenience would only be temporary and did not justify preventing the work.

The entrepreneur and the apartment owners were willing to offer the defendant an alternative apartment near his present place of residence for the period of the work, but the defendant refused.

"I don't want a penny. I'm not willing to live in an alternative place, and even if the work is approved, I'll stay in the building," Rosenstein asserted.

Furthermore, Katzir Brin rejected his claim that the project should be canceled due to the damage that will be caused to the interior of his apartment as a result of the work. She proposed solving the problem by transferring the contents of his home to storage during the construction period or, alternately, to insure it.

The supervisor stressed that the condition of the building necessitated renovation in any case and that apartment owners would be spared the costs due to NMP 38. It could also be reasonably assumed that the proposed project would indeed increase the value of the apartments, and the defendant would be among the beneficiaries, Katzir Brin noted. The possibility that the value of the defendant's apartment would also increase becomes even more likely in light of the fact that, according to the agreement at the Gluskin Street building, an elevator will be built there, from which the defendant, who lives on the third floor, will also benefit.

Finally, Katzir Brin formally accepted the request of the prosecution and approved the construction plan, despite Rosenstein's opposition, who she ruled would now have to pay legal and other expenses, totaling NIS 4,000.