If I take out a library book, and they charge me $.10 per each additional day extra.

Or if I owe money on a bill, and they charge me a $10 late fee for being overdue.

Are these a case of Ribbis? Or is there something that differentiates these two cases from the typical: Reuven borrows $10 from Shimon, and pays back $11?

(assuming both a Jewish library, and Jewish company)

  • 1
    I suggest Rabbi Reismans Book the laws of ribbis which is available on google books to view Sep 9, 2011 at 2:50
  • @tom smith, see the last line of my question... yes
    – yydl
    Sep 9, 2011 at 2:58
  • It is curious that what is permitted initially- renting the book for $.10/day - would become forbidden when originally structured as a loan.
    – YDK
    Sep 9, 2011 at 3:57
  • @YDK, renting a book, and renting money are not the same thing. Also, you are allowed to charge $.10/day on late money.. You just can't charge $.10 a day regardless if it is late or not, and that isn't being done with the book either. Though it is allowed.
    – avi
    Sep 9, 2011 at 9:40

2 Answers 2


Definitely the library-book case is okay. (But of course CYLOR!) Ribis applies only to halvaos, loans of fungible things (like money), and not to sh'elos, loans of items where the very item borrowed must be returned (like library books). (I don't have a good citation for this rule, but it's a basic rule of ribis and is discussed by, e.g., Taz 161:1. The application of it to library books is my own.)

  • The library book case is definitely OK but I don't think there's an inherent exemption on non-fungible things. Its just that the charges can be considered to cover the costs of wearing out the item or the like. But I think it could be possible to violate ribbis in certain circumstances. E.g. if the borrower must also pay for any wear-and-tear and and damages.
    – Ariel K
    Sep 9, 2011 at 15:03
  • @Ariel, I don't think so. After all, a borrower is responsible for any damage to the item (unless it was incurred in the course of normal usage).
    – Alex
    Sep 9, 2011 at 17:43
  • Hmm. So if I lend a book and require back two, is that also okay? Are you saying that ribbis only applies to money?
    – yydl
    Sep 9, 2011 at 18:10
  • @yydl, not only money. Only fungibles. So if you lend someone a cup of flour he needs for a cake and demand one back, that's ribis if the price of flour has gone up meanwhile. (There's an exemption for householders' borrowing stuff from neighbors that's often borrowed from neighbors (or something like that): as always, CYLOR!) But assuming books aren't fungible (in which case why would you demand two back?? But anyway...) you're fine. Again, as always, CYLOR: don't trust me.
    – msh210
    Sep 9, 2011 at 18:26
  • Alex, since there could be some way it gets damaged, the rental cost can be considered as coverage for that. But if the terms exclude any possibility of other payments, I think the rental charge may run into issues of ribbis.
    – Ariel K
    Sep 9, 2011 at 20:25

If I remember the Ribbis book correctly, it is permissible. The point of the late fees is not to earn interest, it is to get you to pay your bills on time. There also wasn't a specific loan. It becomes more of an issue if people try to use late fees as a "ha'arama" to charge ribbis. But since that's not the case here, it should be OK.

  • This is the link to the book: books.google.com/…
    – Ariel K
    Sep 12, 2011 at 15:10
  • He mentions how a series of fees may be more of an issue, though it may be slightly different in this case.
    – Ariel K
    Sep 12, 2011 at 15:12

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