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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 17 December 2018

Homefront: 'My tenant ignored the eviction notice and filed the rental cheque at Rera. How do I get him to leave?'

The Dubai landlord bought the property in February and wants to move in himself but the tenant is refusing to cooperate

Mario Volpi says the owner must file a case at the Rental Dispute Settlement Centre to resolve the issue. Satish Kumar / The National
Mario Volpi says the owner must file a case at the Rental Dispute Settlement Centre to resolve the issue. Satish Kumar / The National

I purchased a two-bedroom apartment in February for my personal use in Dubai Silicon Oasis. This is my one and only property in the UAE and it is mortgaged. The property was already rented so, as per the Dubai Court’s advice, we sent a 12-month eviction notice on March 9 via the notary public office. The tenant’s regular contract was expiring on November 14, whereas the legal notice term expires four months after on March 13 2018. We were chasing him to sign the remaining four-month contract but he did not respond well. To my surprise I then received a document from the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (Rera) last week, that says the tenant deposited a one-year cheque at Rera. This is despite receiving the court’s eviction notice. How do I proceed further on this matter? AB, Dubai

The confusion here is exacerbated because there is no defined time when to serve the 12 months' notice of eviction for reason of own use.

Let me explain, on the one hand Law 33 of 2008 states that the notice ought to be served upon expiry of the tenancy agreement, in other words from just before November 14 2017. On the other hand, some judges at the Rental Dispute Settlement Centre (RDSC) do uphold the one-year notice sent at any time (which is what you have done).

Clearly your tenant did not agree about moving out in March 2018 so went quiet, preferring to lodge the rental cheques for the following year at Rera. This practice is perfectly legal.

The situation is that you bought the property to live in but your tenant does not want to leave. Your only option is to file a case at the RDSC. They will access the case and make a final decision.

While I cannot predetermine any outcome, I can say that in the past, some judges have requested another year be given to the tenant before finally vacating. The law here, however, is not set on precedents so it is also possible that you may win the case; it all depends on the presiding judge on the day.

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We are the tenants of an apartment whose ownership changed during the current tenancy contract but it was never communicated to us officially, nor was the tenancy contract amended with the new ownership. On top of that, the real estate company, that was acting as an agent, closed down. We did not have the contact details of the previous owner with whom the tenancy contract was signed nor the present owner. As required by law, we had to send a vacating notice 90 days prior to the tenancy contract expiring, but we did not have any details. When we finally got hold of the agent, she gave us the details via WhatsApp, but by then it was around 63 days before the expiry of the tenancy contract. We tried to reach the new owner on the phone but were not successful. I also sent the new broker my vacating notice via email, 34 days before the tenancy's expiry. The broker, who is now copying the new owner in via email, says we were too late in communicating our wish to vacate, so the present owner is now refusing to refund the security deposit once the apartment is vacated. The expiry is December 14. What should we do? RP, Dubai

Law 33 of 2008 amended law 26 of 2007, which is the law that regulates the relationship between landlords and tenants.

It is true that in the past, a tenant had to give 90 days’ notice if they did not want to renew their contract. Law 33 of 2008 did away with this requirement. In theory, a tenant does not (by law) have to give any notice if they no longer wish to renew their tenancy agreement. In practice, however, it is always good manners to give as much notice as possible to a landlord (for reason of not renewing) in order for him or her to then be able to find another tenant.

The landlord is not allowed to withhold the deposit for the reason given in your email. The deposit can only be used to bring back the property to the condition it was given at the start of the agreement or if any repairs or maintenance is required. If the landlord insists on his terms, you would be within your rights to file a case at the RDSC; this will cost 3.5 per cent of the annual rent to do so. You will have to weigh this cost against the actual deposit amount to see if it is economically viable to pursue the landlord.

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