No Benefit – No Payment?

Question

Bentzion bought a storeroom in a new apartment block from the
construction company. He does not own an apartment in the building. When the
head of the va’ad habayit (house committee) asks him for his share in the
monthly dues, he refuses on the grounds that he has never heard of a storeroom
owner making such payments. He further argues that since the storeroom is not
registered under his name in the Land Registry he is not considered an owner of
property in the building for these purposes. There is another resident of this
building who refuses to participate in the monthly payments. Shimon lives in an
apartment which boasts a private entrance from the street. His grounds for
refusal are that he does not use the lobby and stairways and is therefore exempt
from their upkeep. Is there any basis to these arguments?

Answer

We have previously discussed (see "Non-resident partners" and
"Landlord and tenant" in this series) the reasons for having to pay va’ad
habayit
dues. Briefly, these are (a) the fact that one is a partner in the
jointly-owned areas makes one responsible for maintenance and upkeep and (b)
that one benefits from the services provided, such as lighting and cleaning.

Nowadays, here in Israel, every owner of property in
an apartment block is automatically a partner in all those sections of the
building which have not been designated as a private domain. Even if he has not
acquired an apartment but just a storeroom he also falls into this category. He
is therefore a partner in the land on which the building stands, the outer
walls, etc. and is thus responsible for paying his share in their maintenance
and repair. Furthermore, he passes through the entrance lobby and uses the
stairs to gain access to his storeroom. He is thereby deriving benefit from the
light and cleaning services provided by the va’ad habayit. We can thus
conclude that he fulfils both the above-mentioned conditions for having
to pay the full monthly dues. Nevertheless, says the Emek Hamishpot
(3:47), since his level of benefit is less than that of apartment owners, it
would be fair to charge him a lesser amount, to be decided by negotiation and
agreement.

The argument that since the storeroom is not registered in
the Land Registry he is not really an owner of property in the building is also
invalid. He bought the storeroom from the construction company and has a proper
contract testifying to the fact. The absence of official registration is purely
a technical matter. Under civil law it is only possible to register a storeroom
as an attachment to an apartment, not as a separate unit. There are those who
argue that an apartment sale is not fully completed until registration of the
change in ownership has taken place (Tabu). However, this is based on the
contention that since it is customary to register apartment sales, such
documentation becomes an integral part of the sale (mokom shenohagu lichtov
shtar).
When it comes to selling storerooms as a separate unit, no such
custom exists—since it is impossible to register the transaction!

As regards Shimon’s apartment with a private entrance, it is
clear that he is still a partner in the jointly-owned sections of the building
and is therefore responsible for the cost of maintenance and repair. If he
really does not use the lobby or stairways, he is exempt from paying for charges
arising from their use (lighting, cleaning). However, if he has a storeroom
which is accessed from within the building, he will be liable for these charges
as well. He does make use of the lobby, etc. to gain access to his storeroom.
Furthermore, if he has an additional entrance to his apartment from within the
building, he must also pay for charges arising from use.