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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 20 June 2018

Homefront: 'My landlord wants to charge us Dh500 for every maintenance issue. Is that legal?'

The reader has been asked to sign a contract that states they must pay every time a problem arises in the villa

Property expert Mario Volpi analyses whether charging a tenant a fixed fee for maintenance is legal. Pawan Singh / The National
Property expert Mario Volpi analyses whether charging a tenant a fixed fee for maintenance is legal. Pawan Singh / The National

As we were signing the tenancy contract, the owner of the villa we are leasing said he would charge us Dh500 every time there was a maintenance issue. He wrote it as an addendum on the contract. I questioned this and asked him whether he had a correct Arabic version of the contract, which lacked the addendum. As tenants are we responsible for the oral clause that was not in the signed contract? Also is charging for maintenance in a rental legit? In the US it never could happen. As a note, we've had several maintenance issues in the first month - all problems that were simply not fixed before we moved in. JD, Dubai

A tenant and landlord are only bound by a written contract that is read, understood and signed by both parties. Oral clauses do not stand up in court.

On the subject of maintenance, it is important to understand what the industry norm is when it comes to who is responsible for what between a landlord and tenant. Major maintenance is normally the responsibility of the landlord and minor is on the tenant. Any single maintenance issue that costs less than Dh500 is normally regarded as minor and therefore is the responsibility of the tenant but any single maintenance issue on the property that amounts to more than Dh500 is regarded as major and therefore the responsibility of the landlord. I have never heard of a landlord charging the tenant when maintenance issues arise, this is a bit like being castigated financially if the property breaks down.

You should not agree to this clause, oral or written, as this is unfair. If any repairs or maintenance are required that were caused directly by you, then I can understand the landlord wishing to charge you for said actions, other than that it should be as per the major/ minor procedure.

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Read more from Mario Volpi:

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I signed a tenancy contract on April 1, which will start on April 15. However due to job insecurity and possible job cuts I now need to cancel it. What will be the possible implications for this? MS, Dubai

The key to getting your contract cancelled lies in careful negotiations with the landlord. Despite the fact the contract has not started yet, I presume it has been signed and therefore agreed by all parties.

I suggest you now organise a face-to-face meeting with the landlord to explain your situation. I’m sure he would not want to have a tenant who is not secure in his job and therefore have rental payment issues in the future. Under most cases, there could be a financial penalty but this is very much up to the landlord to decide. He now has to find a new tenant so I’m sure he would be more willing to allow you to cancel the contract if you were able to find someone to replace you as the tenant.

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Read more from Mario Volpi:

Homefront: Can I use a power of attorney to sell my Abu Dhabi apartment?

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We have just received a notice in Arabic via courier, which our landlord’s secretary informs us is a 12-month eviction notice as they are changing the six villa compound in Umm Suqeim from residential to commercial use. We believe they will just be revamping the compound and reletting at a higher price. Firstly, is this legal ? Secondly, would there be some kind of public plans that they would have needed to submit? Ideally we would like to stay in the property. PH, Dubai

A landlord is perfectly within his rights to demand eviction of the tenant for reasons of demolition and reconstruction but there does have to be necessary licenses and or technical reports obtained from the Dubai municipality. This eviction has to be communicated in writing via notary public or registered mail giving 12 months' notice.

Given you will be directly impacted by this decision, you would be quite within your rights to request sight of these documents to prove that the eviction is legitimate.

Mario Volpi is the sales and leasing manager at Engel & Volkers. He has worked in the property sector for 34 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@engelvoelkers.com