In victory for immigrants, roommates win lawsuit against Tel Aviv landlord
Four foreign-born roommates successfully sued their former landlord for failing to return the security deposit they gave him for an apartment in Tel Aviv.
By Andrew Esensten | Feb.15, 2013 | 11:40 AM | 1
Canadian immigrant Carmel Tanaka and her former roomates won NIS 24.500 in damages. Photo by Daniel Bar-On
In a case that could inspire other immigrants to take legal action against landlords they feel have exploited them, four foreign-born roommates have successfully sued their former landlord for failing to return their security deposit after they vacated the apartment he rented to them in Tel Aviv.
Carmel Tanaka from Canada, Yaffa Serur from Mexico, Alessandra Acherman from Brazil and Nataly Gedallovich from Columbia were awarded their entire deposit of NIS 22,500, along with an additional NIS 2,000 for emotional distress, by Judge Yigal Nimrodi following a trial in Tel Aviv small claims court on Monday.
According to a transcript of the trial, the defendant, Shahar Hazan, said he withheld the deposit because the women damaged the floors and failed to pay “arnona,” or “municipal property tax,” the entire time they lived in the apartment. The women responded that the floors were unfinished when they moved in. They also said they tried to file their contract with the municipality and take responsibility for the arnona but were told they could not do so because Hazan was not the registered property owner. As reported in Haaretz in October, Hazan was in fact subletting the property, in violation of his signed rental contract on file at the municipality, for NIS 2,500 more per month than he was required to pay in rent.
The judge has given Hazan 15 days to file an appeal.
“It’s a shame that I had to sue someone within the second year of making aliyah, but I’m relieved,” said Tanaka after learning of the verdict on Wednesday. “I hope that our victory will inspire other [new immigrants] who are in similar positions.”
Ran Shoval, a legal adviser at the Student Union of Tel Aviv University who helped the women prepare their case pro-bono, along with lawyer Amit Straichman, said landlord-tenant disputes are fairly common in Tel Aviv, but few go to trial.
“I meet lots of students who come from abroad and are exploited by their landlords,” Shoval said. “But they don’t do anything because they don’t know their rights and they’re afraid. This case shows that if they bring a lawsuit, they might win.”