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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 22 June 2018

Homefront: 'My tenant is demanding his Dh3,000 deposit in full despite a damaged kitchen'

The Dubai landlord says his former tenant is also refusing to hand back his access cards 

Mario Volpi advises the landlord, who says his tenant moved out early without informing him first. Stephen Lock / The National 
Mario Volpi advises the landlord, who says his tenant moved out early without informing him first. Stephen Lock / The National 

My tenant only gave me a few weeks' notice before moving out of my apartment. The contract ended on March 19, but he left on March 15 without informing me. When I went to the apartment, the front door was locked with the keys inside but the back door was open for anyone to access. When I collected the keys, I found it in need of major repair. For example, the marble slab in the kitchen was broken, two kitchen cupboard doors were unhinged and there was lots of rust on the kitchen items. The house was also very dirty and the walls had several nails in them so it needed painting. My tenant had paid rent of Dh157,500 in one cheque with a security amount of Dh3,000. When I contacted him on March 17, he wanted a full refund of the Dh3,000 and told me he will keep the access cards to the building and parking until he receives it. I told him that the issues left behind in the apartment require major maintenance and this amount needs to be off-set against his security. I might even end up paying much more than Dh3,000 to fix these issues. I offered to be transparent by sharing the maintenance company quotes with him. I also told him, as per our contract, he needs to return the apartment in the same condition he rented it. He is flatly refusing - saying it is all normal wear and tear - and that by not immediately refunding him the security fee, I am in violation of regulations. He is now threatening two things:

1. Not returning my access cards

2. Stopping the DEWA connection for any new tenant

I informed him that the handover of the apartment cannot be considered completed until all things related to it are returned, including the access cards, and by keeping them beyond the rental agreement period (March 19) he is maintaining unlawful access to the apartment's facilities. I can always request new access cards at a cost of Dh300 but what are my rights as a landlord in this situation? AP, Dubai

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Read more from Mario Volpi:

Homefront: 'My tenant is threatening court over a rental deposit?'

Homefront: 'Am I liable for VAT on a property paid for last year?'

Homefront: 'My landlord wants to charge us Dh500 for every maintenance issue.

Homefront: My tenant wants better security in my villa. Should I pay for this?

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I often get letters from tenants dealing with unreasonable landlords - landlords who do not respond to phone calls or emails or that are not correctly dealing with maintenance issues. Your correspondence shows me that there are also unreasonable tenants and clearly, from what you’re saying, yours is not only unreasonable but very feisty too.

Let me clear up one point that is important. Law 33 of 2008 amended Law 26 of 2007 - the law relating to the relationship between landlords and tenants. The amended law that did away with the need for a tenant to give the landlord 90-days' notice for not renewing his tenancy. So, despite the fact your tenant vacated at the end of the tenancy but did not inform you 90 days prior, he has not actually broken the law.

You are correct that the property has to be returned at the end of the tenancy in the same condition as it was given at the beginning. I personally never like to have a wear and tear clause in a rental contract because it’s too subjective and as you can see, the tenant's idea of wear and tear is clearly different to yours.

Broken kitchen doors or counter tops cannot be regarded as wear and tear but unfortunately if you were dealing with an obstinate tenant, you have little to no other choice but to file a case yourself at the rent committee. Remember that this comes with a cost of 3.5 per cent of the rental amount so you will have to weigh up the economical reasoning to do so.

You are perfectly entitled to use the deposit monies to bring your property back to the same condition as before. He cannot hold your property to ransom in such a manner by not returning access cards and threatening you with DEWA issues.

If he continues to react in an unreasonable manner, it would seem to me that you really have no other choice but to go ahead with opening a case at the rental committee.

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