Renting/selling a home: Cleaning the home before Pesach:

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Renting/selling a home before Pesach:

Whenever a Jew rents or purchases a home from another observant Jew before Pesach, the question is raised as to who retains the cleaning and checking obligation of the home; the seller/landlord, or the buyer/tenant? This question commonly comes up regarding Pesach rentals as to who is responsible for the cleaning and checking. In this Halacha we will explain the cases in which the obligation falls on the seller or landlord, and the cases that it falls on the buyer or tenant.

Renting from an observant Jew:

Rent, Acquisition, & Access done before the 14th:[1] If one rented his home to a Jew for a period of time that begins prior to the start of the night of the 14th, then if the renter made a legal acquisition of the property[2], and was given the keys [i.e. access] to the home[3], prior to the night of the 14th, then the cleaning and checking obligation falls entirely upon him-the renter.[4] This applies even if the renter will not be moving into the house until after Pesach [and even if it is only a temporary rental]. Regarding nullifying the Chametz, both the owner and tenant remain obligated to verbally nullify the Chametz before the 6th hour.[5]

Rent, Acquisition, or access done on the 14th:[6] If one rented his home to a Jew for a period of time that begins after the start of the night of the 14th, then the owner is obligated to clean, check, burn and nullify the Chametz in the home.[7] This applies even if an acquisition was made by the renter, and the keys were provided, prior to the night of the 14th, so long as the renter cannot begin using the home until after the entrance of the night of the 14th.[8] Furthermore, even if the rental period begins prior to the night of the 14th, if the renter did not make a legal acquisition of the property prior the night of the 14th, or did not receive the keys [i.e. access to enter the property] before the night of the 14th, then the cleaning and checking obligation falls upon the owner.[9] This applies even if later that night he will finalize with the renter and have him make an acquisition and give him the keys. Regarding nullifying the Chametz, both the owner and tenant remain obligated to verbally nullify the Chametz before the 6th hour.[10]

Must the renter receive conformation that the owner cleaned/checked the home beforehand? See D!

Renting from a gentile, or non-observant Jew:[11]

If one is renting a home for Pesach from a gentile, or a non-observant Jew who did not clean his home from Chametz, he is obligated to check the home for Chametz on the night of the 14th, even if the rental period only begins after the start of the day of the 14th.

 

Summary:

The owner/landlord of the home is obligated to clean and check for Chametz in the home unless the following criteria is fulfilled, in which case the obligation falls upon the renter:

1.       The rental period begins prior to the night of the 14th.

2.       The renter made a legal acquisition of the rental property prior to the night of the 14th.

3.       The renter was given access [i.e. keys] to enter the property prior to the night of the 14th.

In all cases, both the renter and landlord must nullify the Chametz in the home.

 

Practical application

Pesach rentals-Who has to clean the home?

A person who rents a home or apartment from another observant Jew for the duration of Pesach, then if they arrive to the rental home prior to the night of the 14th, then they are obligated to clean and check the home for Chametz. If, however, they will arrive after the start of the night of the 14th, and do not yet have access to the property as stated above [i.e. rental period, acquisition, and keys] then the landlord is obligated to clean and check the home for Chametz. If the owner of the home is a gentile or non-observant Jew who will not clean his home for Pesach, then in all cases the renter is obligated to clean and search the home upon arrival.

 

Does one who is staying at a hotel for Pesach have to clean and check the room for Chametz?[12]

Received access to room prior to the night of the 14th: If one received the keys for the room prior to nightfall of the 14th, then he is obligated to clean and check the room for Chametz with a blessing on the night of the 14th following all the Bedika laws. This applies even if the renter himself never ate Chametz in the room.[13]

Received access to room after the beginning of the night of the 14th: If one only received the keys to the room after nightfall of the 14th, as is common with those who arrive to the hotel on Erev Pesach, then if the hotel is owned by a Jew, it is the Hotel’s responsibility to clean and check the rooms for Pesach in accordance to all the Bedika laws.[14] [In such a case, if a guest ate Chametz in his room after the hotel search was done, then if one was not careful with the Chametz, the search must be redone.[15]] If, however, the hotel is owned by a gentile, then one must immediately clean and check the hotel room for Chametz upon his arrival, whether one arrived on Erev Pesach or on Chol Hamoed. A blessing is to be said before the Bedika and all the common Bedika laws apply. The same applies if the Jewish owner was negligent and for whatever reason did not clean and check the room for Chametz.

If one is leaving the hotel on the 14th?[16] If one stayed in a hotel prior to Pesach, and will be leaving on Erev Pesach, then he is obligated to check for Chametz on the night of the 14th. Nevertheless [if one is checking out of the hotel room prior to the 6th hour on Erev Pesach] a blessing is not to be recited.[17] [If, however, one will be checking out of the hotel room after the 6th hour of the day, then a blessing is to be said before the search.[18]] The above applies whether the hotel is owned by a Jew or gentile.

May one rent a home or hotel room which was not cleaned for Chametz if he will arrive in middle of Pesach?[19]

It is permitted to rent a home or hotel room in the middle of Pesach even if it was not cleaned from Chametz.[20] However, one is to declare upon making the acquisition of the rental that he does not intend to acquire any Chametz that is there.[21] Immediately upon arrival to the home or hotel room, he must perform Bedikas Chametz to the room.[22] Nevertheless, a blessing is not to be recited.[23] If the room was rented from before Pesach, then if he was already given access to the room from before Pesach, then he must arrange for the room to be cleaned beforehand, as stated here and in Halacha 12C.

 

Selling to another Jew:[24]

Acquisition done before 14th: One who is selling a home/property to a Jew prior to the 14th of Nissan, then if the buyer makes a Halachically valid acquisition on the home prior to the 14th, the buyer is obligated to clean and check the home for Chametz on the night of the 14th. This applies even if the property was locked and the buyer did not receive the keys until after the beginning of the night of the 14th.[25]

Acquisition done on the 14th: If the buyer did not make a Halachically valid acquisition on the house/property prior to the start of the night of the 14th, then the seller is obligated to clean, check, burn and nullify the Chametz in the home. This applies even if later that night he will finalize with the buyer and have him make an acquisition.

Who nullifies the Chametz? In both of the above scenarios, both the seller and the buyer have to nullify the Chametz on Erev Pesach.

Selling/renting to a gentile:

One who sells or rents his home/property to a gentile before Pesach is not required to clean or check the home/property for Chametz so long as the gentile has access to the home prior to the 6th hour of Erev Pesach and knows that he can take the Chametz for himself. See Halacha 12A for the full details of this subject!

 

Must the renter receive conformation that the owner cleaned/checked the home beforehand?[26]

In all cases that the owner/landlord had the Halachic responsibility in cleaning and checking the home, and the renter does not know if this was done, then one must try to verify this matter with the owner, or with his wife and children.[27] This applies even if the owner is a G-d fearing Jew and can be expected to have followed the law and clean the home beforehand.[28]

Unable to verify: If one is unable to verify if the house was checked, such as if the landlord and his household are no longer in the city and cannot be reached, then if the landowner is a G-d fearing Jew one may assume that he checked the home, and it suffices for the renter to nullify all the Chametz that are in the rooms that are rented to him[29], rather than need to check it due to doubt. [If, however, one did not nullify the Chametz, and it is already past the 6th hour of the day, then he must recheck the home due to doubt.[30] Seemingly, however, this only applies if he acquired the rental home prior to the 6th hour on Erev Pesach, otherwise [if he acquired it after the 6th hour on Erev Pesach] one may rely on the above assumption even though he did not nullify it before Pesach.[31]]

 

Practical application:

Pesach rental or hotel room:

One who is renting a room for Pesach starting from the 14th of Nissan [in which case the owner has the obligation to check] must verify that the owner checked the room for Chametz. If he cannot verify this, then if the owner is a G-d fearing Jew, and it is still prior to the 6th hour of the day, he is to nullify the Chametz and is not required to check the room. If, however, it is past the 6th hour of the day and he did not nullify his Chametz, then if he rented the room prior to the 6th hour of the day, he must search the room for Chametz. If, however, he only rented the room after the 6th hour of the day [such as he rented it on Chol Hamoed Pesach] then he is not required to check the room for Chametz.

 

 

If one rented a home from a Jew on condition that it was cleaned/searched and it was not cleaned:[32]

One who rents a home from his friend on the basis that it was checked, such as that he made an explicit condition with the landlord that the house is to be checked, then if he finds out that the house was not checked, the renter is obligated to check the home.[33] He may not retract the sale and say the acquisition was done in falsehood [and thus it is null and void].[34]

___________________________________________________________

[1] Admur 437:2 “If one rented his home to a Jew prior to the beginning of the night of the 14th, and the renter acquired it in one of the methods that renting a house is acquired in [as explained above], then if [the landlord] handed him over the keys before the entrance of the beginning of the night of the 14th, then the renter is obligated to clean and check [the house for Chametz]. “

[2] Each of the following forms of acquisition are valid for rentals of land/rooms/house: 1) Money; 2) Contract; 3) Chazakah; 4) Kinyan Sudar. [Admur 437:1]

[3] The law if the door was left open and the renter does not need keys to enter: If the house which is [being rented was] not locked [after the landlord left it] and thus keys are not needed [for one to get inside], then the renter is obligated to check [the house if he acquired it before the 14th even though there were no keys handed over to him, as since the house is accessible to him, it is as if he received the keys.] [Admur ibid]

The law if the renter returned the keys: This applies even if the renter returned [to the landlord] and gave the keys back to the landlord for him to guard, nevertheless, the renter is obligated to take [back] the keys from the hand of the landlord and check [the house for Chametz]. [Admur 437:2]

Other opinions: Some Poskim rule that if the keys were returned to the landlord, then the landlord is the one obligated to clean and check. [Chok Yaakov 437, brought in Kuntrus Acharon 2]

[4] The reason: As once the renter acquired the house through one of the methods which land rental is acquired in, he has immediately also acquired the Chametz that the landlord left in there. The reason for this is because the landlord has already disowned this Chametz, and [the rule is that] all un-owned items which are placed in a house which is rented to a renter, is acquired to the renter, as explained in Choshen Mishpat Chapter 260. [Admur 437:1 and 436:20 regarding Chametz left in the home of a gentile] Now, since he was given the keys to the home prior to the night of the 14th, and thus has the ability to fulfill his obligation of getting rid of his Chametz, therefore, the obligation falls on him. [See Admur 437:2]

[5] Admur ibid “After the [renter] checks the house he nullifies the Chametz as the sages instituted. As well, the landlord is to also nullify the Chametz explicitly [verbalizing it] even though he has already nullified it in his heart.”

[6] Admur 437:1 “If one rented his home to a Jew prior to the beginning of the night of the 14th and the renter acquired it in one of the methods that renting a house is acquired in, then if the landlord left the house and closed it and did not hand over the keys to the hands of the renter until after the night of the 14th had begun [and certainly if the renter did not yet even make an acquisition until after the night of the 14th  had begun, which is the main time of the search then, even if he had been given the keys beforehand], the owner [of the house] is obligated to search the house that he rented [out to the renter].”

[7] The reason: Although the landlord will not be entering it throughout all the days of Pesach, and he will thus [anyways] not come to eat the Chametz that is in it, and he does not transgress on it Baal Yimatzeh being that he has certainly given up on the Chametz and has disowned it when he left the house and left the Chametz there, nevertheless, the responsibility of cleaning and checking the home falls upon him. The reason for this is because since the actual house belongs to the landlord, [as it] is only acquired to the renter for him to live inside it, and also the Chametz belonged to him, therefore, he must clean the house from his Chametz. [Admur ibid]

[8] Admur 437:3 “Even if one acquired the home prior to the beginning of the night of the 14th [and was given a key] but only rented it for use [starting from] the daytime of the 14th, meaning that he may [only] enter the home and live in it starting from the daytime of the 14th and onwards until the end of the period of time of the rental, then the landlord has the obligation to check the home.”

The reason: The reason for this is because on the night of the 14th which is the main time for the obligation to check, the house was not yet acquired to the renter at all. [Admur ibid]

[9] The reason: As since the house at the beginning of the night of the 14th, which then is the main time for the obligation of searching as explained in chapter 431, was still being held by the landlord, as the renter could not enter it being that the key was still in the hands of the landlord, therefore, at that time which is the beginning of the entrance of the night, the search obligation falls upon the landlord, and it no longer leaves him even after the renter enters into the home. [Admur ibid]

[10] Admur ibid “After the landlord finishes checking he nullifies all the Chametz that he did not find in his search. As well the renter is obligated to nullify all the Chametz in the house, even if he will not be entering to live in the house until after Pesach.”

The reason for why the landlord needs to nullify the Chametz: Even though that he had already disowned the Chametz in his heart when he left the house, he is nevertheless obligated to return and nullify it explicitly after the nullification, as the institution of the Sages which instituted that one is to verbalize the nullification with his mouth. [Admur ibid]

The reason for why the renter needs to also nullify the Chametz: The reason for why the renter must also nullify the Chametz is because once the renter acquired the house through one of the methods which land rental is acquired in, he has immediately also acquired the Chametz that the landlord left in there, being that the landlord has already disowned this Chametz, and [the rule is that] all un-owned items which are placed in a house which is rented to a renter, is acquired to the renter, as explained in Choshen Mishpat Chapter 260. Thus [being that the renter acquired this Chametz when the landlord left, therefore] the nullification that was done by the landlord is worthless [and thus does not] fulfill the institution which the sages instituted to nullify the Chametz after the search, being that the Chametz [which he-the landlord- nullified] was not his [anymore] but belongs to the renter, therefore the renter is obligated to nullify it. [Admur ibid]

[11] Pashut! See P”M 436 M”Z 7 [end]

[12] See Piskeiy Teshuvos 437:1

[13] As the Chametz in the room automatically becomes acquired to the guest upon him making an acquisition of the rental, and receiving the keys. [Admur 437:1]

[14] The hotel rooms may be checked either on the night of the 14th, or on a previous night, so long as no one else will be staying in those rooms until the arrival of the guests on Erev Pesach.

[15] Vetzaruch Iyun if the search must be redone with a blessing.

[16] P”M 436 M”Z 7; Piskeiy Teshuvos 437:1

[17] Implication of P”M ibid; Piskeiy Teshuvos ibid; Vetzaruch Iyun as on the one hand we learn from 437:1-2 that the obligation falls onto whoever owns the place on the night of the 14th. On the other hand, we learn in 437:20-21 that one does not need to check the home of a gentile.

[18] Pashut, as he has a Biblical obligation not to own Chametz once that time arrives! One must conclude that the P”M ibid only referred to a case that the person was leaving the gentile’s home before the 6th hour of the day.

[19] See Piskeiy Teshuvos 437:1; Siddur Pesach Kihilchaso 12:8

[20] See Admur 448:3; 450:21 in parentheses that his property does not acquire him the Chametz that is there if it is against his will; See Chapter 2 Halacha 10 regarding a gentile who brought Chametz into one’s home!

[21] Admur 448:4 that it is proper to be stringent to explicitly tell the gentile that one does not want one’s property to acquire the gentile’s Chametz for him.

[22] Pashut, as although the Chametz is not his we suspect he may come to eat the Chametz. One can choose to flush the Chametz down the toilet, or simply throw it out into a public area without using one’s hands. See Chapter 2 Halacha 10!

A Jewish owned hotel: If the hotel is owned by an observant Jew then one is to verify with the owner if the room was already cleaned from Chametz, and if so then he is not required to clean/check it upon arrival. If he is unable to verify this matter, then if the owner is a G-d fearing Jew, he may rely on the Chazaka that he probably cleaned the room from Chametz, as required. See E!

[23] Pashut, as it is not his Chametz and he does not have a command to destroy it. This is unlike Piskeiy Teshuvos ibid who writes a blessing is to be said.

[24] Admur 437:4 “The above law [that receiving the keys prior to the beginning of the night of the 14th determines who has to check the home] only applies when one is renting the home out, however one who is selling his home to his [Jewish] friend, then even if he left the house and closed it up, and did not hand over the keys to the hands of the buyer until after the beginning of the night of the 14th, nevertheless, if the buyer acquired the house in one of the methods that a house is acquired in, prior to the night of the 14th, then the obligation to check the home does not fall upon the seller, but rather upon the buyer.”

[25] The reason: The reason for this is because by the time the night of the 14th begun, the actual house [and not just the right to live in it] was already acquired to the buyer [and thus since the house no longer belongs to the seller, he has no obligations towards it]. [Admur ibid]

[26] Admur 437:5 “One who rents a house from his friend on the day of the 14th, or during the night of the 14th after that [enough] time has passed to allow the landlord to have checked his house within that time, and the renter does not know if the landlord had checked the house or not, then if the landlord or his wife or his household is in the city, then he needs to ask them if the house was checked.”

[27] If a woman or child says that they personally checked the house, may one rely on their search? If the renter nullified his Chametz prior to the 6th hour on Erev Pesach [or did not acquire the rental until after the 6th hour on Erev Pesach] then they may be relied upon. If, however, he did not nullify the Chametz before Pesach, and acquired the rental before Pesach, then he must check all the Biblical rooms in the home for Chametz. [Admur 437:5-6] See Chapter 4 Halacha 14!

[28] The reason: We require the renter to verify if the house was checked even though it is common for Kosher Jews to check the home at the beginning of the night of the 14th as the sages instituted, and each and every Jew is definitely considered to be Kosher, and seemingly[28] has already checked the home. The reason for this is because throughout the entire year the house definitely contained Chametz in it, and thus we do not initially rely on an assumption [chazakah] that they checked the house, and have that override our definitive knowledge that Chametz was in the house, in a situation that one can verify the facts. [Admur ibid]

[29] Admur 437:6

[30] Vetzaruch Iyun why we don’t assume that the Jew has no intent to acquire the Chametz, and hence there is never a need to do Bittul to begin with, as rules Admur in 448:3! Perhaps, however, one can suggest that the above ruling only refers to a case that one arrived before the 6th hour on Erev Pesach, when it is still permitted to own Chametz and we do not apply the logic brought in 448:3. However, if one only acquired the place after the owning prohibition begun, then we assume he does not want to acquire it and once again it is only a Rabbinical doubt, for which one may rely on the G-d fearing owner.

[31] See previous footnote.

[32] Admur 437:7

[33] This applies even if the house was rented to him on the day of the 14th, and thus the landlord was already [also Halachically] obligated in the search, even so, if the landlord says that he does not want to do the mitzvah [of searching the house] or if he is no longer around, such as he has traveled away, then the renter is obligated to check and may not retract the sale and say the acquisition was done in falsehood [and thus it is null and void]. [Admur ibid]

[34] The reason for why the sale cannot be retracted is because certainly the renter had in mind by the sale that even if the house will not be checked the sale is valid, being that assumingly a person is pleased to do a mitzvah whether with his body or with his money, and thus [even now] when he says that he wants to retract the sale [we say that it is not because of the search that was not done, but] it’s because of something else. [Admur ibid] If, however, one had to hire help to clean the home, see Admur ibid for a dispute in this matter.

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