Hilchos Choshen Mishpat
Volume II : Number 13
A. A group of condominium owners gather monthly to make decisions that
are relevant to the upkeep of their property (Vaad HaBayit). At a recent
meeting, where large expenditures were approved by majority vote, only a
minority of the home owners were actually present. Are all of the owners
bound by the decisions made at such a meeting?
B. What kind of binding decisions is such a community group authorized to
- A. Yes!! As long as the place and time of the meeting was properly
publicized, and no one presented any protest regarding this, all of the
owners are bound by any decisions that this group is authorized to make.
However, if not all of the owners were aware of the meeting, or if some
requested that the meeting be changed to a more convenient venue, and
this request was ignored, any decisions made by this group would be void,
unless a majority of the owners was represented.
- B. A group of condominium or neighborhood home owners is only authorized
to make decisions beneficial to their ownership that are commonly made by
such groups in their area.
However, any decisions not commonly made by such groups in their area, or
any decision to take away an individual owner's property rights without
his consent, whether entirely or partially, are totally invalid, even if
the majority of all residents in the condominium or neighborhood votes
A. The Chassam Sofer in his Teshuvos (Choshen Mishpat Siman 116) writes
regarding a meeting of community representatives which was adequately
publicized in advance, but only a minority of the representatives were
actually present, that any decisions made at such a meeting are binding
on all of the representatives. Anyone who does not show up to the meeting
is essentially saying that he gives power of attorney (Harsha'ah) to
those who are there to decide the issue on his behalf. This is also
discussed in the Igros Moshe (Choshen Mishpat Vol. 2, Siman 20).
However, it is only possible to say this if all representatives were
aware of the time and place of the meeting, and were agreeable to it.
Otherwise, we would not be able to say that by not showing up they are
giving power of attorney to those who are present.
If all representatives were aware of the meeting, but a minority
requested that the venue be changed because they would not be able to
make it to the meeting at that time, if the meeting took place anyway the
decisions made would be binding on them also. The reason for this is,
since when dealing with a group of people, it is often impossible to set
a time for a meeting that will be convenient for all. Therefore, we must
go after what is convenient for the majority, as is stated in the Chassam
Sofer there, and in the Pischei Teshuva (Choshen Mishpat 163:1).
These Halachos apply to any group meeting, whether the board of a
synagogue or school, or choosing representatives for a labor union, etc.
B. The Shulchan Oruch (Choshen Mishpat 161:1) states that members of a
city or community can force one another to contribute to improvements
that are beneficial to all members of the city or community, if it is
customary among communities in that society to involve themselves in
these causes. For example, the members of a community could impose a fee
on all members to pay for landscaping and gardening of joint communal
property, if this is the custom in that area, but not to fund artistic
endeavors, or communal social events, unless all members were aware of
this obligation before they joined the community.
The reason why a community may involuntarily impose on all members by
majority rule is because this is understood to be the case when joining
any community or group and agreed to by all joining members. However,
this obviously only applies to issues that are accepted practice for such
groups to decide on. Any other issues are not binding on all, because it
can not be argued that all members agreed to relinquish their rights to
the majority in such cases. This is discussed at length in the Shulchan
Oruch (Choshen Mishpat 176:10).
Therefore, such a group has no authority at all to take away any rights
of ownership from any individual members, even if it is clearly
beneficial for the majority of the group. In such a case, the community
can only purchase these rights from the individual owner, before doing
any of the improvements they deem necessary for the good of the entire
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This week's class is based on a column by Rabbi Tzvi Shpitz, who is an Av
Bais Din and Rosh Kollel in the Ramot neighborhood of Jerusalem. His
Column originally appears in Hebrew in Toda'ah, a weekly publication in
Jerusalem. It has been translated and reprinted here with his permission
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Please Note: The purpose of this column is to make people aware of Choshen Mishpat
situations that can arise at any time, and the Halachic concepts that may be used to resolve them. Each
individual situation must be resolved by an objective, competent Bais Din (or Rabbinic Arbitrator) in the
presence of all parties involved!