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Rabbi Daniel Dombroff
Case: Reuven agreed to rent his summer home [efn_note]test footnote information[/efn_note] to Shimon and received a deposit from Shimon for it. Shimon then decided he no longer wanted to use the house, and instead agreed to sublet it to Levi. Levi, in turn, was supposed to give the amount of the deposit to Shimon and then pay the rest of the money to Reuven.
Question: But time went by and Levi still had not yet paid Shimon or Reuven. At some point, Reuven decided that he wanted to retract and hold onto the house for his children to use. Is Reuven allowed to break the deal with Shimon?
Answer: Let us analyze this case from a halachic perspective of whether the agreements effected between the various parties are binding. Shimon gave Reuven a deposit to secure the rental, which many poskim hold is considered to be a valid halachic kinyan. This thereby gives Shimon ownership of the house. However, Levi never effected any kinyan (such as giving money) to consummate his agreement with Shimon to sublet the house. Thus, this agreement between Shimon and Levi remains a verbal one only.