Plus questions about relocation expenses and changes in Etihad's customer loyalty programme answered by The National's consumer advocate.
On Your Side: Tenants should register with Rera to protect rights
Can you explain how to register a contract with the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (Rera) in Dubai? What is involved in the process? Do you have to physically go to Rera or does the agent do it all? We are about to sign a new tenancy contract and want to make sure everything is done correctly. CR, Dubai
The real estate management company or the landlord are responsible for registering contracts with Rera. However, a tenant can register a contract if required. Rera is in the same building as the Land Department on Baniyas Road in Dubai, opposite the head office of National Bank of Dubai. You can only register contracts before 1pm, from Sunday to Thursday. I have been advised that there is no charge for this service. It is also worth noting that you should only deal with property firms and agents that are registered with Rera. It is advisable for a contract to be registered in the event of a dispute because Rera can only assist with registered tenancies.
When I was recruited to work for an Abu Dhabi company three-and-a-half years ago, the company offered to pay our moving expenses. This amounted to about US$7,000 (Dh25,709) and included most of our household furnishings. It felt reasonable to bring all our goods with us because we were intending to make a life here. I have now been offered an opportunity back in North America that necessitates quitting my job here. In the intervening years, the company has decided it is no longer paying moving expenses for repatriating employees at certain pay levels. Unfortunately, I am not in the right pay level. I would like to know if a company can arbitrarily make such moves: to cancel return payments for certain groups of people. The company is, after all, paying to fly me and my family back home. Had I known the company was not going to pay to repatriate my furnishings, I would have just put them in storage because it would have been much cheaper. When I asked my supervisors about the change and if there was room for discussion, I was told that the company was "not inclined to discuss the matter" because it paid for the shipping in the first place. Do I have any legal standing here? HNJ, Abu Dhabi
Whether the company is liable to pay the cost of shipping personal possessions on repatriation comes down to whether it made this offer in writing. Unless it is stated in the employment contract, or there is a separate letter confirming that the company will cover your expenses to move back to North America, there is no way to hold them to a verbal offer. It is important to note that only a written statement or contract will be deemed to be a legal contract. Anyone who has been given a verbal undertaking from an employer should be aware that this is not binding and could be withdrawn if the company changes its mind. For security, you should always get everything in writing.
It seems that Etihad Airways is slowly but consistently reducing the benefits that Etihad Gold members enjoy. I have been a Gold member of the airline's frequent flyer programme, Etihad Guest, since early 2008. The reason I started flying Etihad so frequently was the benefits that were part of the programme, even if you were flying economy class. But Etihad has reduced the benefits and has now informed all Gold and Silver members that "as we enter into the peak travel season" they can't access the business-class lounge if flying economy class, which was one of the main benefits of the programme. Etihad's e-mail appears misleading because it implies that this is a temporary measure over the peak travel season and it is currently expanding the lounge facilities to welcome Gold and Silver members back shortly. But there is no sign of Etihad building any such new lounge. Even if a new lounge of the same standard or higher is built at Abu Dhabi airport, it will be months - possibly years - before this is completed. Furthermore, Gold and Silver members are now meant to use the Al Reem lounge at Abu Dhabi airport, which is of a lower standard than the Etihad business-class lounge. The current business-class lounge in Abu Dhabi also is often very overcrowded. I do not know of any airlines where Gold members cannot access the business-class lounge even when flying economy. CM, Abu Dhabi
I put the reader's complaint to Etihad and Lee Shave, the vice president of products and services, said: "The decision to dedicate the Etihad business class lounge at Abu Dhabi airport to guests travelling in Pearl business-class was not taken lightly. Due to space issues beyond Etihad's control, our business-class lounge was occasionally becoming uncomfortably crowded. A new, state-of-the-art additional Etihad lounge is planned, which, when completed, will again provide enough capacity to provide full facilities to economy passengers holding Gold and Silver Guest cards. In the meantime, provision has been made for these guests to use the Al Reem lounge in Terminal 1 and a dedicated check-in service. Etihad does its utmost to reward loyal fliers. While we try to resolve the situation at Abu Dhabi airport, Guest cardholders travelling on economy tickets are still able to use our business-class lounges anywhere else in the world, and are still able to enjoy numerous other membership benefits. We sincerely apologise for the temporary inconvenience."
Keren Bobker, the author of On Your Side, is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai. Write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org with queries for this column or for advice on any other financial planning matter.