Question: I rented a house for $6,000 a month. It later became clear that I was swindled and comparable rentals in the area are not worth more than $4,000. Can I claim ona’ah and demand a refund or annul the rental? What about a car rental?
Answer: The rules of ona’ah apply not only to sales, but also to rentals, since rentals are considered a kind of “sale” for that day or month. Therefore, you are able to claim ona’ah on a car rental. (C.M. 227:35)
However, the Gemara (B.M. 56a,b) derives from verses that the rules of ona’ah apply only to movable items that have intrinsic value. This excludes: real estate, which is not movable; slaves, which are juxtaposed and equated to real estate; and loan documents, which serve as proof but do not have intrinsic value. Therefore, since the house is real estate, you cannot claim ona’ah on the house rental. (227:29)
If the price differential reaches double – e.g., the house rental was worth not more than $3,000 – the Rama rules that there is an ona’ah claim. (See SM”A 227:49)
Although the Gemara excludes real estate, slaves, and loan documents from claiming ona’ah, many Rishonim maintain that there still exists a prohibition against knowingly swindling the other party who is unaware of the going rate, and one is not allowed to do so. (See SM”A 227:51 and Pischei Teshuva 227:21)
IY”H, next week we will address practical applications of the exclusion of slaves and loan documents.
Authored by Rabbi Meir Orlian
These articles are for learning purposes only and cannot be used for final halachic decision. The Business Halacha email is a project of Business Halacha Institute (www.businesshalacha.com) and is under the auspices of Rav Chaim Kohn.
Send your Business Halacha questions to email@example.com or call the confidential hotline: 877-845-8455.