UMM AL QAWAIN // As rental costs drop in Umm Al Qawain this year, so do the number of disputes between tenants, landlords, property owners and estate agents.
The emirate's Real Estate Disputes committee reports a decrease of 31 per cent for the first 10 months of the year, a total of 93 cases, down from 136 disputes last year.
"Rents in labour accommodation have gone down by almost 70 per cent," said Ali Mohammed Khalfan bin Sullam, the head of the committee. "Many tenants would tolerate all other problems with landlords if they believed that their rent was fair."
Residential disputes made up about four in every five cases, with commercial and industrial rents representing the remainder.
Most disputes were about landlords cutting electricity and water to tenants who failed to meet their payment deadlines.
"This is illegal," said Mr bin Sullam. "No landlord is supposed to disconnect power or water from tenants as this is a public service, not his own."
Weekly committee hearings included a new system of having both parties discuss the conflict together, he said, making it easier to reach solutions and reducing the need to refer cases to courts.
The committee also handled a number of cases of bounced cheques, mostly from tenants who lost their sources of income.
"Most of them would tell us that they issued the cheque when they had a job," Mr bin Sullam said. "After some time they lost their jobs and had no alternatives."
Some landlords, however, experienced other serious problems, such as tenants decamping without paying their rent.
"Last year I had a tenant who fled my house without payment," said Abbas al Fauzi, an Emirati who leased three homes.
"It was only luck that he got captured at the airport and returned to deal with all his bills before he could go."
Ossama Mohammed, a Sudanese resident of UAQ, said tenants were not always in the wrong.
"Most landlords are so greedy," he said. "Two times I shifted my houses and landlords wouldn't return my security deposit."
There were also some cases where tenants wanted to terminate their contracts, while others opted to shift their residence to other emirates where rents had also fallen.
A one-bedroom flat can now be rented in the emirate for about Dh8,000 annually, compared with Dh15,000 in Ajman and Dh25,000 in Sharjah, both of which border UAQ.
A studio was renting for about Dh6,000 in UAQ, as opposed to Dh12,000 in Ajman and Dh15,000 in Sharjah.