Know your Dubai renters' rights

Avoid early evictions, get your deposit back, and how many cheques to sign

Early evictions, deposit issues and how many cheques you should expect to pay with are all hot topics for renters. Dubai-based experts weigh in to answer your questions:

What is the average number of cheques potential tenants should expect to be asked for now?
Dani Farhat, Residential Sales Consultant at Better Homes:
‘The average is two cheques. The market is still correcting to a healthier path, and I predict it will come back down to a more manageable four to six cheques when landlords re-face the hassle of following up bounced cheques.’
Mark Wellman-Riggs, Managing Director at Crompton Partners Estate Agents:
‘In order to keep the market strong for landlords and tenants, a move to 12 cheques would benefit both parties. It would allow landlords to charge a little more, potentially slightly above market rate, and it would allow tenants to budget better across the year and maybe afford that slightly bigger property. If the rest of the world can manage with 12 cheques, Dubai can. It would also bring trust to the market after some recent high-profile cases where both landlords and tenants have suffered at the hands of fraudsters.’

Some agents have started asking for deposits simply to view an apartment. What are the rules on this?
‘No one should pay for a viewing. If I was asked to pay I’d walk away immediately.
Brent Baldwin, partner at Hadef & Partners law firms:
‘There is nothing in law that prevents a real estate agent doing this, so it really depends on the prospective tenant’s willingness to pay. However, as it is usual market practice for the successful tenant to pay the agent a commission, we do not feel this is a reasonable practice, because the commission the successful tenant pays to the agent represents the agent’s payment for the work it has done in showing all of the prospective tenants the property. We doubt RERA (Real Estate Regulatory Agency) would endorse this.’

Are landlords entitled to cash security deposits from the moment tenants hand them over, or must they wait until the end of the lease to use them for repairs?
‘Law 26 of 2007 point 6.1.5 reads that a landlord is at liberty to collect a security deposit from the tenant to guarantee the condition of the premises at the end of the contract. The obligation is to return that deposit within a reasonable time period at the end of the tenancy if no repairs are needed.’

What are you entitled to ask your landlord for in terms of repairs, and at what point is it deducted from your security deposit?
‘The law provides that the landlord is responsible for maintenance works during the term of the lease, and for repairing any defect that affects the use of the property – unless the parties agreed differently in the lease. Leases often state that the tenant is responsible for minor maintenance, and the landlord is only responsible for major maintenance and repairs, but the differences between the two should be defined. For example, repairs in excess of Dhs200 might be major, and those below Dhs200 might be minor. Any maintenance costs for which the landlord is responsible should not be deducted from the security deposit. Therefore, if the lease is silent on maintenance, the landlord is responsible for maintenance at its cost. However, the tenant still remains liable for any damage it causes to the premises, and it is those costs that the landlord is entitled to deduct from the security deposit.’

If your landlord decides he wants to evict you in the middle of your contract, what can you do about it?
‘Seek advice from RERA if necessary, but legally a landlord can only evict you if you haven’t paid your rent or if you have committed a breach of contract. He otherwise has to serve 365 days’ notice after expiry of the contract if he wishes to retrieve the property because:
1 The premises requires renovation, which cannot occur with the tenant still in residence.
2 The landlord wishes to demolish for reconstruction or extend the property with the works again precluding the tenants from being the residents.
3 If the owner wishes to sell the property.
4 If the Landlord wants to move in – in this case, he needs to provide evidence that he has no alternative property he could live in. He then cannot rent it out again within two years of the date of recovery – the tenant has the right to claim compensation if the premises are rented out earlier. The landlord must serve the 365 days’ notice by registered mail or Notary Public.’

What are the rules in the case of a tenant wishing to come out of a one-year contract early?
‘Contracts often have favourable terms for a tenant if they wish to leave – typically 60 to 90 days’ notice to vacate.’
BB: ‘If the lease does not specify an early termination correctly, then the basic contractual requirement is that the tenant is bound for the full term. A party cannot vary the lease unless the other party agrees, so a tenant cannot force a landlord to accept an early termination. Even if the landlord will agree, he might not agree that the tenant can have a full refund. Either that, or he may also require the tenant to find a new person to let the property.’

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