x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Rental Committee can clarify contract law and enforce it

Landlords cannot force tenants to move out just because he has sold the property. He has to sell it with tenants in situ and the new owner must honour the terms of a lease.

We moved into a new flat two months ago, but now our landlord has told us he has money issues and has sold the apartment. We have been told that he has to buy us out of the contract. Is this true? We will end up losing money on agency fees, telephone and internet and Dewa, for example. NP Dubai

Your landlord cannot force you to move out just because he has sold the property. He has to sell it with tenants in situ and the new owner must honour the terms of your lease. If your contract has a break clause he can use that, provided you are given the appropriate notice, but he cannot make you move out just because he wants you to do so. If you cannot get an agreement with the landlord, you can take your complaint to the Rental Committee, with your registered contract, and it will clarify the law and enforce it.

I enjoyed reading a recent On Your Side column that highlighted probationary periods in the UAE. According to your column, a probationary period must be no longer than six months. I am a teacher with the Abu Dhabi Education Council (ADEC) and arrived in the country in September. My contract states the probationary period is 12 months. This long period was also commented on by the bank when I applied for a loan. Due to the long probationary period, I cannot get a loan. Has ADEC erred by making it a 12-month period, or is it a law unto itself? JG Abu Dhabi

The UAE's Labour Law clearly states that the maximum permissible probationary period is six months, but ADEC is a government body and, as such, is exempt from the majority of Labour Law regulations. In this case, JG's contract is legal, although such terms do seem rather unfair to the employee. Banks will only provide finance to people who are permanently employed. Being in a probationary period does not count as permanent employment because the individual can be fired at any time.

I read your reply to a question in The National related to end-of-service benefits. It states that the pay should be calculated over your final basic salary, including performance-related bonuses. I recently left my employer, which is an international investment bank. Over the past two years, I received discretionary bonuses of up to 10 times my basic salary. This was partly paid in shares. Am I entitled to end-of-service benefits in addition to these bonuses? SA Dubai

This is a matter that I have previously discussed with the Ministry of Labour to obtain clarification on this issue. There has also been a court ruling about the matter, which concluded that with the exception of bonuses and allowances, any amount payable to an employee that is paid on a percentage basis, commissions or performance-related should be considered as a wage and taken into consideration when calculating the end-of- service gratuity. The Ministry of Labour also has told me that provided you have confirmation in writing from your employer setting out the terms of the commission payments, for example, a fixed percentage above a certain amount of business obtained and you have received regular payments, then these payments must be taken into consideration when calculating your gratuity. It may be that your ex-employer is not aware of the full Labour Law, so I suggest you start by explaining this to them and perhaps show them this column. If they still do not agree to pay, you should contact the Ministry of Labour, which will assist with conciliation. If that does not succeed, the matter can be taken to court as a final resort.

Can you tell me if home schooling is legal in the UAE and up to what age? I can't afford the school fees here, but don't know if I have to tell the authorities if I am going to home school and what the regulations are. Can you give me any guidance or information? FM Dubai

It is permissible to home school in the UAE and there is no requirement to notify the authorities or register with the Ministry of Education. One of the main things you need to consider is whether there would be any problems when/if you return home because some countries, including the UAE, do not recognise home schooling as valid and transfer certificates are frequently required to enrol in a school. If you decide to enrol a child in a school here in the future, it can be done, but not all schools will be open to accepting previously home-schooled children and you can expect to have some difficulties. Some parents who home school their children in the UAE have set up website: http://uaehomeschool.wordpress.com.

I will be leaving the UAE in the next few weeks and my residency visa will be cancelled at the end of December. I have a Dubai driving licence and I would like to know if I will be able to use this on future trips to the UAE because it says it is valid until 2017. CF Dubai

Although a UAE driving licence is issued for a 10-year period, its validity has always been understood to be linked to your residency visa and most people believe this to be the case. That said, it is something of a grey area because a year or so ago, the issue was brought into a court case and it has been reported that a statement from the Dubai Court of Cessation said: "When the authorities terminate a resident's visa that does not mean that his/her driving licence is unusable as well. A driver's licence remains valid in Dubai as long as it hasn't expired. The document is considered applicable provided it was issued upon a valid residence visa." It is not clear whether this applies to Dubai only, or other emirates. To be on the safe side, on your return you should still obtain an international driving licence if you want to hire a car and check with the insurance company before driving a privately owned vehicle.

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

Letters can also be sent to onyourside@thenational.ae