x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

On Your Side: 25 years could be too long to wait for a gratuity

Plus questions about residency visas, rental deposits and dealing with unsatisfactory merchandise, answered by The National's consumer advocate.

I am a few years beyond 70 and have dual nationality, in the EU and America. The foreign company that is considering me for a consulting position (in the UAE) is giving unclear signals about the matter of a residence visa. I have worked in the UAE for six consecutive years until about 25 years ago. I guess there was no gratuity then since I did not receive one. I am sure to pass any medical test. My questions: what is the age limit for a residence visa and are exemptions made? Can I still apply for gratuity? HK, Dubai

The main provisions of the UAE Labour Law were introduced in 1980 so if you were in an employed role 25 years ago in the UAE, you should have been eligible for an end of service gratuity payment. Whether you would be able to obtain payment after all this time, however, is debatable, particularly in view of a recent court ruling that stated an employee should claim any unpaid monies within a year of leaving service. The Labour Law changed in January this year to extend the maximum age for work-related visas to 65, although the visa is only available for one year at a time. If anyone over 65 wishes to work in the UAE, they can only do so via their own legal-structured company so I do not believe the company will be able to offer you a residency visa.

 

I have just applied to renew my residency visa but have been told by my company that it will be for two years only. Has there been a change in the rules or are they trying to give me less security? I haven't heard anything about a change. LH, Dubai

The Government brought in a new law, effective January 1 of this year, stating that any new visas issued or renewed for private-sector employees will be for a period of two years only. Government employees and those in certain free zones can still be issued three-year visas.

 

I am leasing a villa in Dubai directly from an overseas landlord. He has asked for a Dh5,000 security deposit that he will hold and hand back at the end of the tenancy. He informed me this will be written into the contract, but I wanted to check what legal protection I have to ensure the deposit is returned? In the UK I am a landlord and all deposits are held independently by the tenants' deposit scheme. Is there a similar system in the UAE and what would you advise to ensure I successfully reclaim my deposit at the end of the tenancy? CC, Dubai

While Dubai, unlike other Emirates, has a Real Estate Regulatory Authority (RERA), it does not focus on deposits, nor is there a requirement for tenants' deposits to be kept in separate accounts. The important factor is to ensure your tenancy agreement clearly states it will be returned at the end of the tenancy. Provided you hand the property back in the same condition you received it, there is no reason why the landlord should not repay the deposit in full. A certain amount of wear and tear should be expected and unless you specifically agree to repaint before vacating, the landlord cannot ask you to do so. You should also ensure the tenancy contract is registered with RERA either by yourself or the landlord. If the landlord refuses to repay a deposit, refer the matter to RERA who will follow it up. I also suggest retaining a copy of the landlord's passport.

 

I recently bought a phone from a well-known shop in Abu Dhabi. It was a present for my son and I gave it to him on his birthday a week later. When he opened it, we found the screen was badly scratched, it didn't look new and was not in a good condition. I took it back to the shop with my sales receipt, but was told by staff they do not change items after they have been paid for and would only consider it if something was returned no more than three days after it was bought. My son is quite upset as he now has a phone that looks bad and not the new one he was hoping for. I am really cross, but cannot afford another one and no one in the shop will help me out. Can you tell me if I have any rights? Is there something you can do? GP, Abu Dhabi

The UAE has a Consumer Code of Rights and this is promoted by the Department of Economic Development. All stores must comply. If an item is faulty, the store has the responsibility to repair it, replace it or offer a refund. This is in accordance with Consumer Protection Law No 24, 2006. GP has since returned to the store armed with this information and informed the manager that if the telephone handset is not replaced or a full refund offered she will be making a complaint to the Consumer Protection Section at the Ministry of Economic Development. This resulted in the offer of not only a new handset, but also a free cover.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai. Write to her at keren@holbornassets.com or onyourside@thenational.ae with queries for this column or for advice on any other financial planning matter.