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Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 17 November 2018

'Can my landlord have me jailed for bouncing a cheque?'

The Dubai resident was paid late and did not have enough money to meet the rental demand

The tenant writes out four cheques every year, which the landlord cashes in every three months. Photo: istockphoto.com
The tenant writes out four cheques every year, which the landlord cashes in every three months. Photo: istockphoto.com

I write cheques to my landlord for my annual rent, which he then holds - paying them in every three months. The latest one was due a few weeks ago but my employer was late paying me at the end of September so there was not enough money in my bank account to cover the cheque. That means the cheque bounced and now I am having problems with my landlord who is making threats. Can my landlord have me arrested and put me in jail for not paying as he claims? It was not my fault and I could pay a few days later? JM, Dubai

The laws regarding bouncing cheques in Dubai changed in December 2017. This means that far fewer people will suffer serious consequences if a cheque bounces than in the past and jail time for this offence is becoming much less common. A number of offences have been recategorised as misdemeanours rather than criminal issues, so in many cases an individual will be fined rather than anything more. The penalties are on a sliding scale and apply to bounced cheques in sums up to Dh200,000. For a bounced cheque of up to Dh50,000, the penalty is Dh2,000; for a bounced cheque of between Dh50,000 and Dh100,000, the fine is Dh5,000; and for cheques that are not honoured from Dh100,000 to Dh200,000, the fine is Dh10,000.

To even get to this point, however, the person owed money would need to register a police case and this is then passed to the Public Prosecutor at the Dubai Courts. This is a hassle for everyone concerned and in a situation such as this it is far better to ask the landlord to tell his bank to represent the cheque in the knowledge that payment will be met. Where a person is aware they have insufficient funds to meet a scheduled payment, it is best to notify the payee so that they are a) pre-warned and don’t get a worrying surprise, and b) can delay paying in a cheque for a few days.

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My company sacked me five months into my six-month probation period. Am I eligible for any compensation or end of service benefit as the company made the decision to terminate and I do not want to leave? They said I must stop working straight away and will only be paid up until my last day. Is that right? RK, Abu Dhabi

Article 37 of UAE Labour Law states: “The worker may be employed for a probation period not exceeding six months where the employer may terminate the services of the worker without notification or end of service gratuity.” This confirms the employer can end employment immediately and does not need to give any notice to employees on probation but they do have to pay them for any days they have worked before they leave. An employee has to have been in employment for 12 months to be entitled to an end of service gratuity payment, so there is no entitlement to this or any compensation in this situation.

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I flew to India because of an emergency but my employment visa will expire this month. Due to various reasons I am unable to go back to Dubai. Will my visa get cancelled automatically or does my employer need to cancel it? PP, India

It appears PP has left the UAE and will not be returning to work, so his employer may have reported him as an absconder. This is particularly the case if he is on a limited contract as it is easier for an employer to reclaim their deposit if they do this. No visas are automatically cancelled on expiry and if they are not cancelled properly a person will have an issue re-entering the UAE and that’s even without the ban for absconding.

The logical step would be to contact the company and ask if they have organised the visa cancellation, as they will want to do this for their own benefit and are able to do so without the individual’s passport. If the employer has not cancelled the visa, PP can contact The General Directorate of Residency and Foreigners Affairs-Dubai (https://www.dnrd.ae/en) as they can assist with cancelling visas for people no longer in the UAE.

When someone has been out of the UAE for fewer than six months, the usual requirements are a cancellation of the residency form with the signature of the sponsor and the original passport and ID card. There are fees of about Dh250 and it should take no more than a day. The form and passport must be taken in person to government departments so PP would need to enlist a friend’s help but it is much better to contact the employer and for them to handle this process in full as it is also in their interest to arrange cancellation.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser and senior partner with Holborn Assets in Dubai, with over 25 years’ experience. Contact her at keren@holbornassets.com. Follow her on Twitter at @FinancialUAE

The advice provided in our columns does not constitute legal advice and is provided for information only