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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 16 December 2018

Homefront: 'My property agent is forcing me into a maintenance contract. Is that legal?'

The Dubai resident suspects a conflict of interest in the arrangement as the agent also owns the maintenance firm

The real estate agent is insisting the tenant must sign up to a 12-month maintenance contract.  Galen Clarke / The National
The real estate agent is insisting the tenant must sign up to a 12-month maintenance contract. Galen Clarke / The National

We recently moved into a villa and had listed a number of issues to be fixed prior to moving in, which our estate agent agreed would be done. After moving in there were still some issues outstanding so the estate agent sent the maintenance company back and they found more issues wrong. Now the agent is saying we have to take out a maintenance contract with the maintenance company before the outstanding work is finished - this is bearing in mind the work had already been paid for by the landlord. After some investigation, we discovered that the agent is also the manager of the maintenance firm and is trying to force us into an annual contract with her company to get all the repairs completed. Is there a legal precedence on this? Could there be a conflict of interest considering the agent is basically holding clients to ransom by holding back completion of work until the tenant signs a contract with her maintenance company? SB, Dubai

Of course there is a conflict of interest here. If you wish to apply and pay for a maintenance contract, it is surely up to you which company you use, you certainly should not be forced into any agreement with a third party company you are not happy with.

I would involve the landlord at this stage, to inform him about the outstanding maintenance issues that have yet to be completed but paid for by him. Let him know that the agent is acting in this shady way, then wait to hear what happens. The landlord has a duty of care to you as his tenant so has to deal with major maintenance issues, let the landlord contact the agent and deal with him.

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Read more from Mario Volpi:

Homefront: Is there a formal way for a landlord to withdraw an eviction notice?

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

Homefront: 'My mouldy apartment is making me sick but the agency is refusing to clean it up'

Homefront: Can I demand a month's free rent for noisy construction work next to my Dubai apartment?

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I moved out of my flat and handed over the keys to my landlord. He promised me in an email that my rental security deposit would be returned by a certain date. However, the landlord id delaying the payment of the deposit by claiming he is waiting for a security deposit from the new tenant. What can I do to get my deposit back? NA, Dubai

I suggest you arrange a face-to-face meeting with the landlord. At this meeting you will need to explain to him that your rental agreement has come to an end and it is not allowed for him to delay the return of your deposit just because he is waiting for a new tenant to pay their deposit. Your situation is totally separate and if he doesn’t agree or continues to delay, I suggest you inform him that you will file a case at the Rental Dispute Settlement Centre.

The landlord has certain responsibilities to you as his tenant and delaying payment is not the correct way to behave. In reality, getting these relatively small deposit sums back can be quite challenging and it is because they are relatively small that some landlords think they can get away with the games they play.

I know that the Land Department and the Real Estate Regulatory Authority are looking into improving the way the rental deposit is held and then returned. Unfortunately for you, these changes are sometime in the future, so in the meantime, communication and mediation is the only clear way of resolving your dilemma.

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