Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 8 July 2020

Homefront: 'Why am I liable for mouldy walls my landlord never fixed?'

The Abu Dhabi tenant, who has now moved out, says his landlord demands he repair the issue

The UAE resident repeatedly complained about chipped paint and mould but the issues were never resolved. Delores Johnson / The National
The UAE resident repeatedly complained about chipped paint and mould but the issues were never resolved. Delores Johnson / The National

I recently moved out of my home in Abu Dhabi. When I left I had a number of issues with the unit. On the first viewing, I noticed the paint was chipping where the paint had bubbled down the wall. Within a couple of months of moving in, the paint blistered causing the chips to fall off the wall and a mould-like substance started growing. I told the landlord and the building's maintenance man about it several times. The maintenance man said the landlord would fix it but he never did and the mouldy area just kept getting bigger, with the wallpaper also peeling away. I showed the landlord the problems the first year I lived there and he did not appear to care. But when I handed back the keys, he told me I needed to fix all the issues with the wall, which were essentially the issues I had flagged to him and he had never resolved. He added that I had never told him or the maintenance man about the issues, which is untrue as both my wife and I reported the problem. What are my options here? On another note, I was told by someone the tenancy contract is not legal if it is just on a piece of paper bought from a bookstore and not registered with the Abu Dhabi Government. WR, Abu Dhabi

Maintenance issues are one of the main causes of problems between landlords and tenants. The tenant has a responsibility to give back the property at the end of the tenancy in exactly the same condition it was given at the start of the term.

Having said this, the landlord has the responsibility to maintain the property during the term of the tenancy in a habitable state that is commensurate with the rent received. Given what you say in your email, without either written proof or photographic evidence that you did inform the landlord of the paint/wall problems, it now remains a he said/she said scenario. Your only recourse, therefore, is to try and come to some sort of an agreement. This can only be resolved by a face-to-face meeting with the landlord. Failing this, you have no alternative but to file a case at the Rental Dispute Settlement Committee, which is part of the Judicial Department. You can call them on 800 2353 or visit their website for more information.

With reference to the tenancy agreement, all rental contracts have to be registered under the Tawtheeq system. Tawtheeq is Arabic for attestation and was introduced back in 2011. The system provides a framework to safeguard the rights of landlords and tenants in relation to rented properties in the emirate of Abu Dhabi.

A rental contract is an agreement between both parties and is legally binding if clauses are written and agreed upon by both parties and by signing of the same. Where you say your contract was not registered with the Abu Dhabi Government, you presumably mean the Tawtheeq system. This would be difficult to believe because to connect your water or electricity to the property, it has to be registered with Tawtheeq, otherwise the Abu Dhabi Distribution Company would not connect to the services.

Renewals, cancellations and amendments all have to be updated in the system, therefore I assume your contract is legal for the above reasons.

Mario Volpi is the sales and leasing manager at Engel & Volkers. He has worked in the property sector for 35 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 8, 2020 12:39 PM

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