The Canine Wasn't in the Contract

Can a landlord evict a tenant because of a pet?

Life isn't usually rife with drama, and neither are most housing problems. Here there may be a lawsuit over a leak from the upstairs apartment; there a squabble with neighbors over a porch was built without the blessing of the others in the buiding. These are petty little problems that usually pass under the radar of the local press. They're just part of life.

Exactly that sort of little story is being discussed in the Small Claims Court of Judge Or Adam, who is presiding over the case of a tenant named Marina. She was evicted from her Be'er Sheva apartment last February just 13 days after she had moved in, tossed out on her ear because she brought home a dog.

dog, bed, modern apartment, pillow
Yuval Tebol

Marina is suing the landlord for NIS 18,000.

She had signed a 12-month contract, she told the court, and hadn't been "told anything about pets."

Among other things she claims she had not been given advanced notice of eviction, and was told to leave the apartment on the spot. She had already invested a certain amount of money on the place, for Internet service and cable television connection, and for water service too, she noted.

The landlord countersued, demanding NIS 20,000 compensation on for violating the section of the contract that forbade Marina to keep animals on the premises.

The wife of the landlord who attended the trial, Ruth, claimed all the tenants in the building know that pets are prohibited there.

The landlords let Marina take possession of the premises three days before the contract came into force, without demanding a security check from her, because they trusted her, Ruth told the court: "We told her no animals - and she violated our trust."

Ruth's daughter Orit also testified, claiming there had been other candidates who wanted the apartment. "I was alarmed because she said she wouldn't leave," Orit said of Marina. "I told my mother and we tried to explain [the issue] to her, and she started to shout; she lost control and went out of her mind. She said we couldn't tell her to leave," Orit added, claiming her father had told Marina about the animal ban: "We didn't throw her out. We asked her to get rid of the dog. We have no interest beyond having a tenant in the apartment."

As Judge Adam wrote in the verdict, the case boiled down to one thing: whether Marina been told in advance that she couldn't keep a pet in the place.

"There is no dispute over the fact that when a person leases an apartment, he is usually allowed to bring in a dog, man's most faithful friend, unless the parties agreed in advance that pets are not allowed," he wrote.

Under the circumstances, he added, and given that the contract did not in fact stipulate that pets were banned, and given that there was no solid, direct testimony of any such statement being made to the tenant - the judge found in favor of Marina.

"I rule that the tenant was not told, before signing the contract, that pets are banned," Adam wrote. Therefore, if the landlord ordered her to leave the dwelling, they were the ones that violated the contract, he ruled.

He rejected the landlord's claim of various other breaches of contract she had committed, and all that was left was to deal with the question of compensation to Marina for her eviction. The contract stipulated that a fundamental breach would entitle the damaged party to compensation of $2,000, but the law allows a lesser sum to be awarded, Adam noted. He ruled that both parties had suffered harm and therefore awarded Marina compensation of NIS 2,500 plus court costs of NIS 750.