x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 29 July 2017

On Your Side: Do your homework before opening a bank account

How to find the bank account that's right for you, plus questions about terminating a tenancy agreement and non-compete clause penalties answered by our consumer advocate.

A reader seeks advice about a dispute over canceling his tenancy contract. Pawan Singh / The National
A reader seeks advice about a dispute over canceling his tenancy contract. Pawan Singh / The National

I recently moved to Abu Dhabi and need to open a bank account so my salary can be paid into it. I am also interested in taking out a credit card for emergencies. I see that there are many local banks and also some international ones operating in the UAE, but I am at a loss as to which bank is the best one to go with. Can you make a recommendation for me based on your knowledge of the banks here? HW Abu Dhabi

It is difficult to say which bank is best for an individual without knowing exactly what they want from a bank account, how much they will be paying in and whether they require branch access. I would suggest starting by looking at www.souqalmal.com, which provides details of nearly all the accounts available in the UAE, including fees, interest rates and benefits. You can also read independent reviews of accounts and add one yourself when appropriate.

 

We have decided to return to our home country and have terminated our tenancy contract early. In our contract, it states "two months' notice and two months' rent penalty should be given for early termination of tenancy contract". We sent our landlord an email on April 21. In the email, we asked the landlord to confirm that he had received it. We didn't receive any confirmation from the landlord, so we visited his office on April 25. The employees said they had received the email and the head accountant signed a copy of it confirming this.

We also had three cheques that hadn't been cashed and it was agreed that one would be cashed because it was due in the upcoming week. That cheque would serve as two months' notice and one penalty month. The other two cheques were supposed to be returned to us and we agreed to pay the last penalty in cash when we received the cheques. On May 15, we received an email from the landlord, in which he said that he approved the termination and that the two months' notice would start on the day of the approval, May 15, and not April 30. Can the landlord determine the time of notice? According to the landlord's accountant, it should take two to three days to receive the cheques from the bank. To date, we have not received them. They say that the bank has changed management and that it has asked why we want the cheques back.

I have called the landlord's office every day for the past three weeks without getting any real reason why the bank refuses to hand over the cheques. When I ask the accountant if the bank can hold the cheques, he says that they are not holding them, there are just some issues and that someone from management within the bank has to sign off on them. Does the bank have any right to withhold a tenant's cheque that has been deposited by the landlord? MW Dubai

The date the notice period starts is the date the landlord receives your formal notification to vacate, in this case April 30, not May 15. If the cheques you are referring to are post-dated and for the rental payment that would have been due if you remained in the property, I see no reason why they should not be returned because the landlord has no right to retain or encash them once the tenancy has concluded and the deposit returned. It seems odd that the company would have given post-dated cheques to the bank and odder still that the bank cannot return them as instructed. MW should contact the Real Estate Regulatory Agency because the landlord is obliged to follow their rules and directives.

 

I started work for a small company nearly two years ago and at the time, the owner asked me to sign an agreement stating that I cannot resign to work for a competitor until I have been with the company for at least five years. If I do, he said I would have to pay him Dh10,000 for the costs incurred in organising my residency visa and labour card. I know they don't cost that much, so I need to know if what he has done is legal. I have been told that this is normal, but none of my friends have the same terms in their contract. I need to know if I have to pay him this money if I leave, or if he can stop me from working. I am on an unlimited contract. CW Sharjah

A non-competition clause is not uncommon and provided you agreed to these terms at outset, they are legally enforceable. While the UAE Labour Law states that the employer is responsible for fees relating to visas and these should not be recovered from the employee, an agreement signed by both parties will take precedence. If, therefore, you leave before you have completed five years of service, you would have no option but to pay the Dh10,000 specified. For a non-competition clause to be valid, certain conditions have to be fulfilled. The agreement should be limited to what is necessary to protect the legitimate legal interests of the employer insofar as time, place and nature of the work are concerned. It is worth noting that if an employee is made redundant, the non-competition clause does not apply.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai. Contact her at keren@holbornassets.com or onyourside@thenational.ae.