Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 20 August 2019

Homefront: 'Can my Abu Dhabi landlord force me to renew my tenancy?'

The tenant has been locked in a rental dispute for several weeks but time is now up

Abu Dhabi rose up the living cost ranks but remains far cheaper than major global capitals. Silvia Razgova / The National
Abu Dhabi rose up the living cost ranks but remains far cheaper than major global capitals. Silvia Razgova / The National

The tenancy contract on our Abu Dhabi home ends on February 17. On November 19, the landlord asked if we wanted to renew or vacate based on the same rental value. I answered the same day saying we wanted to stay but the Dh70,000 rate was higher than the market. I then shared details of other prices in the area. On December 25, she offered Dh65,000 in one cheque but I replied four days later saying we could only do Dh65,000 in two cheques or Dh62,000 in one cheque.

Now she claims I had to respond 90 days before the contract was due for renewal, therefore I am forced to renew at Dh70,000 or pay her three months' rent. I have now sent her an email and WhatsApp refusing to negotiate anymore. My questions are: can she force me to renew or pay a three-month penalty? How can we ensure we get our deposit back? Since we started the negotiation over 90 days before the contract expired, what are implications of the negotiations failing at 50 days? HH, Abu Dhabi

A landlord cannot force you to renew against your wishes, however you do have to inform your landlord 60 days' prior to the expiration of your existence tenancy agreement should you not wish to renew. It would appear that when you started to communicate with your landlord, there were 92 days until the expiry of your agreement therefore enough time to give her the notice. Now that you have decided not to renew due to non-agreement of terms, the time has indeed run out. Your situation therefore is a tricky one because as I said, no one can force you to stay on but there is not enough time now to give the required 60-day notice of non-renewal. Therefore, the outcome now would depend on the decision of a judge at the rental committee as to what the right decision is.

Having said that, I don’t to see the landlord's demands as being reasonable, so if you were to file a case against her, I’m sure you would be in the right.

With reference to the deposit, this cannot be used other than to bring a property back to its original condition through painting and cleaning or for any repairs needed. It cannot be used as a penalty amount. Although you have said no more negotiating, I advise you to inform the landlord of your intention to potentially file a case against her unreasonable behaviour. It is always better to try and resolve amicably the differences between you before it gets to court.

I am moving out of my property soon. What are my obligations as a tenant with regards to painting and wear and tear? I want to make sure I don’t lose my deposit. JN, Dubai

As a tenant, your main obligation when returning the rental property once you vacate, is to give it back in exactly the same condition as it was given to you at the start of the tenancy agreement. That said, there could be some exceptions to this for which I would recommend reading your contract carefully as this would stipulate any deviations from what I said above.

Generally speaking, a property is freshly painted and cleaned before returning it and the tenant must repair any damaged items during the tenancy. Often the landlord uses the deposit in order to complete this process.

I never recommend having a fair wear and tear clause in the contract because while it may appear to favour the tenant, this clause is too opaque when it comes to either repairs or redecoration. The landlord will always see it with different eyes compared to the tenant and as a result disputes, disagreements and possibly arguments follow. Even using the word 'fair' in conjunction with wear and tear can lead to issues, so it’s just better not to have any ambiguity and remove it from the contract. This way it is very black and white.

The other obligations on the departing Dubai tenant is to arrange the final bills for their utility and AC provider and to cancel the Ejari. All the documentation should be provided to the landlord to confirm a clean departure, this way your deposit ought to be returned in full.

Mario Volpi is the sales and leasing manager at Engel & Volkers. He has worked in the property sector for 34 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

Updated: January 30, 2019 11:15 AM