Measuring seems like something that should be simple. But, as observant Jews, we’re quite familiar with the concept that there can be more than one way to determine the size of a thing. Just think of our most recent Yom Tov Pesach: How big must a kezayis of matzah be? What’s the proper shiur for a kos yayin? Which half of the broken middle matzah is bigger? Do you finish by chatzos? Well … it depends on which shita you follow. After all, as the saying goes, ask two Jews a question and get three opinions.
So, perhaps it shouldn’t be so shocking to us that in Israel there is some “confusion” about just how exactly an apartment’s square footage should be properly determined.
Just How Does Size Count?
First thing’s first: what, officially speaking, determines an apartment’s size?
Well … that’s complicated. It could be the actual living space of an apartment. Or maybe it’s the square meterage officially registered in the municipality’s tax department. Perhaps it’s the precise number cited on the apartment’s original building permit? Or maybe it’s something else entirely? And, wait, back up a minute … shouldn’t all those numbers be the same?
There are inconsistencies between official records and registries and, uh, reality. Shocking, I know. The government is aware of it, too. And now an inter-ministerial committee is trying to straighten out all those discrepancies and come up with one hard-and-fast rule for how square meterage should be calculated. There are at least four different governmental bodies involved, just to give you a picture of how convoluted this situation must be! These include the Planning Administration, the Justice Ministry’s Authority for Registration and Settlement of Real Estate Rights, the Housing Ministry, and the Government Appraiser. Whew!
Okay, so there are … variations … in the numbers. But, really, how big could the disparities possibly be? Big. Very big. Like, apartments registered as being 50 square meters actually measure some 90 square meters. (You do the math!) Or similarly — but in reverse — there are situations in which the registered measurements are almost double the size of the actual living space. And the problem affects both old apartments and newly constructed ones. How did this happen?!
Even though contractors are legally required to assess an apartment’s area based on the shell only (i.e., not including the space of uncovered balconies, storage rooms, or parking spaces), there are still inconsistencies — and plenty of them. The area listed on the building permit is calculated according to building and planning regulations, for example. But when the apartment itself is actually registered, different calculations may be used. This results in the “official” number being different from that on the original permit. Or features like balconies, interior stairs, and even thickness of walls can affect the final number. Confused? You’re not the only one!
Measure for Measure
As you can likely imagine, these discrepancies can result in a slew of problems. Picture appraisals not matching advertised sizes, tax registration issues, and more … And, of course, all this leads to frustration, confusion, and even lawsuits.
The new government committee hopes to remedy this situation once and for all by adopting a uniform — and binding — method of calculation. The solution will probably involve advanced calculus, algorithms, algebraic number theory, parabolas, and lots of leftover (kosher l’Pesach) pi. (Just kidding. Wanted to make sure you’re still with us!)
Clarity won’t be the only good news about a uniform solution. It is thought that once a new method is in place, property tax may actually decrease in some municipalities. Licensing and permits may also be issued more quickly once there is a standardized method of calculating apartment area. And that is truly good news indeed!
The new measurement guidelines will take time to hammer out and size up. And we’ll be sure to keep you updated when they’re complete. In the meantime, the Getter Group always recommends hiring a professional to measure your property so you can know exactly what you’re buying, selling, or moving into.
Contact The Getter Group today at 718-473-3950 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.