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Mekach Ta’os on a Vacation

Rav Yosef Greenwald, Rav of Khal Dexter Park and Dayan in the Bais HaVaad:

Question: Reuven booked a vacation home after seeing an advertisement that depicted it as a beautiful, state-of-the-art, scenic cottage. When he got there, he discovered that it was nothing but a decrepit hovel. Is he the victim of a mekach ta’os?

Similarly, what if a listing of a vacation home shows some accurate pictures – but only shows the pictures of the nice parts of the home, while leaving out other areas that are in a state of severe disrepair? Would that be a mekach ta’os? 

Answer: If you rent an apartment under the assumption that it’s of a certain level of quality, and then discover that it is not, that would be a mekach ta’os.

When a deal is made, agreements do not always have to be spoken out. Some things are assumed even if they are not explicitly said. If a person rents an apartment that he knows has a beautiful kitchen, it can be assumed that he is not expecting to find mold on the walls or a dysfunctional bathroom. If a person is paying the price of a high-class vacation home, it can be assumed that he is not expecting a broken-down shack. That could certainly be considered a mekach ta’os because it is clear that the understanding between the two sides was not adhered to.

There is another prohibition that may apply that is known as geneivas da’as. This refers to a case where there is no substantial difference in the quality of what the person is receiving, but the landlord photoshopped the home to make it look a little more appealing. Even if the house is of sufficient quality to void a claim of mekach ta’os, it would still be prohibited for the landlord to do this under the prohibition of geneivas da’as.

Yet if the actual quality is clearly lower than what the renter expected and agreed to pay for based on how the home was represented, that is straight-out theft and mekach ta’os. 

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