x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 13 December 2017

Homefront: 'Can I get the deposit back if I don't move into my Dubai apartment?'

The reader says no contract was signed but the real estate agent is refusing to return the money

Property expert Mario Volpi says the fact the tenant can no longer proceed with the rental does not absolve responsibility. Pawan Singh / The National
Property expert Mario Volpi says the fact the tenant can no longer proceed with the rental does not absolve responsibility. Pawan Singh / The National

I put down a security deposit down on a flat that included the deposit and maintenance fee. I am now in a situation where I can no longer rent the apartment. No contract has been signed. Am I able to retrieve the money that I put down? The realtor says it is nonrefundable as per the rental law, but I did not sign any document that stated that. TJ, Dubai

When it comes to the security deposit, this is a down payment to essentially secure a rental property for yourself while organising all the necessary paperwork and payments.

The fact that you can no longer proceed with the rental doesn’t necessarily absolve you of your responsibility. Having said this, it is important to note that if no rental contract is signed and no other signed paperwork such as receipts etc, mention that the security deposit is not refundable, then you ought to be entitled to receive your money back.

The agent is wrong about quoting the rental law as there is nothing within Law 26 of 2007 nor the amending Law 33 of 2008 that states the security deposit is non-refundable. What he is correct about is that most agents make the security deposit non-refundable and therefore it is common practice amongst them not to return this in the case of a tenant withdrawal. For this to hold water, it has to be put in writing and normally it is written onto the receipt so a tenant is aware of what he/she is getting into.

I believe that the key to resolve this would be to attempt mediation by speaking directly with the landlord, explaining your situation and to see if an agreement of sorts can be achieved. Ultimately if the landlord is not in agreement, you will have to decide whether it is economically viable to chase the landlord through the courts.

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I just read that a contract under a normal tenancy agreement can state that the landlord wants the tenant to vacate at the end of the fixed period. I have read the Dubai laws associated with tenancies, but can’t find any reference to this. Is this the case? KF, Dubai

A contract is an agreement between two or more parties. If all the parties agree to certain clauses then it is perfectly fine to state these in a contract. Having said this, the clause you ask about goes against the law and while it is fine if all parties agree to it, the minute there is a disagreement the clause will be ineffective.

If you are talking about a normal long-term tenancy, then a tenant has the right to stay in a property for as long as he or she wishes unless a law is broken or one of the below reasons come into force. A landlord can only demand eviction under certain rules and regulations; there are many but the main ones are as follows:

1. If he wishes to sell

2. If he wishes to move in himself or his next of kin of first degree; in this case he has to prove that he does not own another suitable property he could use

3. If the property requires extensive modernisation that would restrict the tenant from living whilst the works were carried out

4.vIf the property needs demolishing

For the last two points, it is worth mentioning that a relevant condition report would also be required from the competent authorities.

For all these four reasons, the landlord has to give 12 months written notice to be sent upon expiry of the tenancy agreement and via notary public or registered mail.

If the tenant doesn’t pay rent, or if the property is being used for illegal or immoral purposes, the landlord may also evict the tenant giving 30 days' written notice.

Mario Volpi is the chief sales officer for Kensington Exclusive Properties and has worked in the property industry for over 30 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@kensington.ae