All the boxes have been packed. The moving trucks are waiting outside, loaded and ready to go. The house is empty. Only the mezuzot remain on the doorposts.
Wait. Before you pull out that screwdriver to remove them, you may need to find out to whom those mezuzot really belong.
The Talmud in Bava Metzia (102a) states: “Our Rabbis taught: If one rents a house to his neighbor, the tenant must provide a mezuzah. But when the tenant leaves the house, the tenant must not take the mezuzah, unless it was leased from a non-Jew, in which case, the mezuzah should be removed when the tenant leaves.”
The most important factor, obviously, is who will be moving into the house. This information is easy to determine if the house that is being sold is yours, because there is usually direct interaction with the buyer. When one is renting an apartment, however, it is often much harder to obtain this information. If the apartment has not yet been leased to new tenants, and there is a chance that the mezuzot will be defaced, then the mezuzot may be removed.
The special challenge, of course, regarding this mitzvah is that kosher mezuzah scrolls (and the law only applies the scrolls, not the boxes/covers in which they are placed) can be quite expensive. One may therefore make arrangements with the incoming tenants/owners that:
a) they ask you to take your mezuzot, since they have their own,
b) you replace the mezuzot with less expensive, but still kosher, scrolls and take the more expensive mezuzot to your new home,
c) they agree to financially reimburse you for the market value of the mezuzot.
If the incoming tenant/owner agrees to none of the above, or any other questions arise, a rabbi should be consulted.
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