x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

How Dubai tenants can get their rent deposit back

An unscrupulous landlord refuses to return a tenant's deposit - an issue all too common according to property expert Mario Volpi who advises on what to do next.

Mario Volpi advises on the latest property queries from tenants in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National
Mario Volpi advises on the latest property queries from tenants in Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National

I recently moved out of my apartment. I was given the all-clear for the checkout report by the landlord’s son, who undertook the inspection on his father’s behalf (the landlord is based overseas). It has now been almost a month and the landlord refuses to respond to my emails or calls and I am yet to receive my deposit. The landlord claims that he needs to check the Dewa connection for lights and leaks, even though this was already conducted during the checkout inspection. Since there is no other tenant in the apartment, he wants me to wait until a new tenant occupies the apartment and turns on the Dewa before taking action. I have explained that it is not my responsibility to lease out the apartment and that I would even be prepared to turn on (and pay) the Dewa to get this resolved, but he refuses to reply. Is there anything I can do to secure my deposit? And are there any laws to protect the tenant in such situations? RM, Dubai

The first question that came to mind when I read your email was: did the son have authority to actually check you out of the apartment?

I know he is the son, but it could prove to be a problem later if the landlord makes an issue of things, especially if the son did not have a power of attorney to act on behalf of the landlord and therefore the authority to release you from your responsibilities regarding the tenancy. Having said that, I also assume that you received a final bill from Dewa that discharged you from your liability.

If this is the case, the landlord’s excuse not to release your deposit is not a valid one.

The return of a deposit is probably the most problematic issue facing tenants renting and causes the most litigation among parties.

Trying to negotiate your case with the landlord would be my initial recommendation, which you are trying to do. But if he is not responding you need to escalate the issue by filing a case at the rental committee.

You obviously have to weigh up the costs involved (3.5 per cent of the annual rent) with the amount of your deposit to see if it is worth your time, money and effort in getting it back.

What your landlord is doing is not right and I realise that if tenants do nothing, landlords could also use this and other excuses as a way of keeping deposits, but obviously everything has to be carefully considered.

The only way this problem can be addressed is if the government passes a new law that states rental deposits cannot be held by the landlord personally but in a third-party escrow account with access to it only under certain strict criteria, exactly the way it is now done in the United Kingdom, for example.

I own a shop in Motor City that I have rented out for the past three years for Dh140 per square foot. The commercial rent in the area is now around Dh300 per sq ft. So is there any way for me to increase the rent? AS, Dubai

The legal way to increase rent on your commercial unit would be to make sure that certain criteria is met. Firstly, check the Rera rental calculator online, remembering to change the default residential setting to commercial. Input in all the necessary details and then click on to the “calculate rental increase” button. This will tell you if you are entitled to increase the rent or not. If the calculator does allow for an increase, you would need to communicate this in writing at least 90 days before the expiry of the tenancy agreement. If you miss this window of notice you will not be allowed to raise the rent irrespective of what the calculator states.

Mario Volpi is a real estate professional who has worked within the industry for the past 31 years in London and Dubai. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and they do not reflect in any way those of the institutions to which he is affiliated. It does not constitute legal advice and is provided for information only. Please send any questions to mariovolpi64@gmail.com.

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