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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Homefront: Who is responsible for a smashed window - the landlord or the tenant?

The window was damaged by a group of children playing football

Even though the window was damaged by a third party, the landlord insists the tenant is responsible. Photo: Getty Images
Even though the window was damaged by a third party, the landlord insists the tenant is responsible. Photo: Getty Images

I live in a ground floor flat with a communal area outside. Recently some kids were playing football outside (I am not sure whether any of them are from my building) and the ball broke my window. Of course they all scattered and I haven’t seen any of them since. I informed the landlord, requesting that he fix the window but he is saying it’s my fault and that he is not liable for any damage caused by such events. It’s not that I can’t afford to mend the window, it’s just a matter of principle – I do not believe I should have to. What do you say? MO, Sharjah

When it comes to incidents like this, it is difficult to easily place the blame at the door of either the landlord or the tenant. Firstly, find out if the landlord has any form of insurance? If so, although the landlord will not necessarily have to actually pay for the repair directly, it will be his responsibility to rectify the repair via the insurance. If there is no cover, I believe it will be very difficult for any landlord to just accept this responsibility, given that the damage was caused by the actions of a third party. In this case, if you cannot get an agreement with the landlord, it will fall on you to pay for the repair/replacement.

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I live in an apartment in Jumeirah Lake Towers and my water bills seem to have almost doubled recently. I am not using any more than I was and I have asked the landlord to look into it, so far to no avail. I can’t see any signs of leakage in the apartment or the areas nearby but I’m sure there is a problem. I don’t want to have to pay for an inspection but the landlord doesn’t seem to be doing anything to resolve the situation. What should I do next? DH, Dubai

Issues with DEWA do not necessarily fall on the shoulders of the landlord especially when the account is in the name of the tenant. I appreciate that you have informed the owner but I'm not surprised to hear that the landlord has done nothing to date. The account is in your name so unfortunately it falls on your responsibility. I believe that getting an inspection would be money well spent and will determine exactly what the problem is and ultimately who is responsible.

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Tawtheeq is now mandatory in Abu Dhabi, so my understanding is that when I lease a new flat the water and electricity bills will be in the tenant's name. Once the tenant creates their Tawtheeq account, they then need to get a new connection in their name. However, I have noticed many real estate advertisements stating that Tawtheeq is included, such as a one bedroom flat in a villa. When I asked the agent about this, they say the water / electricity bills are in the landlord's name. Is it legal to sub lease flats in villas with the Tawtheeq and utility bills in the landlord's name? RP, Abu Dhabi

If the property is offered for rent directly from the owner and he is solely responsible for the property management as well, then yes it is possible to issue the Tawtheeq with the water and electricity paid by the tenant. In situations when a tenant is a second party, for example a company, they cannot issue the Tawtheeq because the utility bills will be addressed to the company, which is not the owner of the property. The only way possible to issue the Tawtheeq in this instance would be if it is mentioned in the property management agreement that the company will be responsible to pay the property utilities.

Generally speaking, subleasing by a tenant is not allowed unless the owner is aware and has agreed to it. Having said that, there is an option in the municipality property management agreement that does allow subleasing and facilitates individual Tawtheeq. In these cases the utilities will be under the landlord's name.

Mario Volpi is the sales and leasing manager at Engel & Volkers. He has worked in the property sector for over 30 years in London and Dubai. The opinions expressed do not constitute legal advice and are provided for information only. Please send any questions to mario.volpi@engelvoelkers.com