Permission Withdrawn?

Question

Chanoch bought an apartment in a new block. The
construction company had added a clause in the purchase contract that they
reserved the right to build an additional apartment in part of the parking
lot at a later date. When work was about to begin on construction of the
additional apartment, Chanoch voiced his objection. “The Shulchan Oruch
rules that it is forbidden to bring in additional residents,” he argued. On
being shown his signature on the contract granting permission for this
building work, he replied that he signed under duress. Is his objection
valid?


Answer

Reuven owned a house in Courtyard A. He purchased a house
in Courtyard B which backed on to his existing property. He then wanted to
open an access door to his new acquisition from Courtyard A. The Shulchan
Oruch
(Choshen Mishpot 154:1) rules that the other residents of
Courtyard A have the right to object to this doorway being opened. Since the
new entrance will bring new residents into their courtyard, they are not
obligated to accept the increase in traffic. This is the ruling of the
Shulchan Oruch
on which Chanoch based his objection.

Our Sages have placed restrictions on activities which
are potentially harmful to others. They may only be performed in a location
which is at a prescribed distance from potential victims. What happens if a
person did not heed these distance regulations and his neighbour did not
make use of his right of objection? The Shulchan Oruch (Ibid. 155:35)
rules that his silence is tantamount to tacit approval. The potentially
harmful activity may now continue in its present (otherwise illegal)
position, since having knowledge yet remaining silent is considered
equivalent to giving permission. The Shulchan Oruch continues (Ibid.
155:36) by mentioning that there are four exceptions to this rule. Since
these activities are extremely disturbing (e.g. a brick-kiln which emits
large quantities of smoke), neighbours’ silence is not interpreted as
approval. Even if many years had elapsed without the neighbours objecting,
they still retain the right to object at any time. The Nesivos
(No.20) discusses what would be the law if the neighbour gave his permission
for the operation of the brick-kiln before it was constructed. He comes to
the conclusion that giving permission for a potentially harmful activity
before it comes into being is the equivalent to saying, “As far as I
am concerned, this activity is not harmful.” As a result, he permanently
loses his rights to objection to this activity. He can only object to
harmful activities. He has hereby declared that this activity is not harmful
to him!

The Emek Hamishpot (3:30) derives from here that
the permission given prior to the construction of the additional apartment
also falls into this category. When buyers of apartments signed on a
contract giving the construction company the right to build an additional
apartment, they were making the following declaration. “Even though those
who live in an apartment block generally have the right to object to the
entry of additional residents since it is harmful, we hereby declare that
the construction company adding an apartment in the parking lot is not
harmful to us.” Once this permission has been given, it can not be
withdrawn.

As regards Chanoch’s claim that he signed under duress, he would have to
substantiate his claim. A further weakness in his argument is the fact that
he did not make it known that he was pressured into signing the contract
immediately after doing so. Objection overruled!