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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 June 2018

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

The landlord says the tenant is refusing to pick up the cheque

<p>The landlord has deducted Dh1,500 from the original Dh8,000 security deposit.&nbsp;<em>&nbsp;</em>Jeffrey E Biteng / The National</p>
<p>The landlord has deducted Dh1,500 from the original Dh8,000 security deposit.&nbsp;<em>&nbsp;</em>Jeffrey E Biteng / The National</p>

My tenant moved out five months ago and refuses to pick up his deposit cheque. I deducted Dh1,500 from the original Dh8,000 security deposit for the following items:

1. Giant holes left in the walls from the removal of curtain rails etc

2. A towel rack that was taken by the tenant

3. Palm tree in the garden that was not sufficiently watered and died during the tenancy

4. Initial rental cheque bounced which entails a Dh500 penalty as mentioned in our rental agreement.

5. Tenant failed to vacate the property on the day the agreement ended and required an additional day to move out.

I have now moved into the house myself and repaired the holes left behind by the tenant. However, he is threatening to take me to court and says I will have to pay their legal feels.

Do I have something to worry about? The initial cheque I wrote to return the deposit may expire after six months if not cashed. Is there anything I should be doing to protect myself? AR, Dubai

A landlord is perfectly within his or her rights to deduct monies from the tenant's security deposit to have their property returned in the same condition it was given. In your case it would be more helpful if there is was an agreement to any deductions between the parties.

It is clear that your tenant does not agree with your deductions but do not panic.

For any work you had to do to the property to replace or renew, please keep the receipts and proof of costs. This way you can justify your deductions.

With reference to the tenant taking you to court, again I would not be too concerned because you have not done anything that could be deemed unreasonable. Assuming the property was in good condition, clean and tidy at the start of the tenancy then it is only fair that it is returned in the same manner. If the tenant does take it further and you are called upon by the authorities to justify yourself, stand your ground and show your evidence (receipts, photos etc.)

Cheques do have a validity of six months, so if your cheque has now expired, you can always write a new one, once all has been sorted.

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Last year, my landlord did not want to renew the tenancy. I went to the Rental Dispute Settlement Centre and deposited the cheques there. My lease started on April 1 2017 and on April 31 I received a notice stating the landlord is asking me to leave maximum by May 1 2018 because he landlord wants to sell as the buyer wishes to view a vacant apartment. However, I know that they just want to get me out of the apartment. A buyer would like to come and see the place before buying, but no one has come so far. Do I have to vacate or do I have a chance if I revisit the RDSC? AB, Dubai

A landlord is perfectly entitled to send an eviction notice via notary public or registered mail for the reason of selling. I do know that in the past some judges at the RDSC have asked the eventual buyer to re-issue another 12 months notice to the tenant, should the same buyer indeed wish to move into the property themselves. That said, the law is not set on precedent so I cannot guarantee exactly what the judges would agree upon in your case.

If 12 months have expired since your landlord issued you with the notice but no buyer has been found, it is possible a judge might allow you to stay on until the property is indeed sold.

Remember that there is a charge of 3.5 per cent of the rental amount to open a case at the RDSC.

Given the current challenging market, I think it would be better to speak with the landlord and try to sort things out rather than just proceeding to file a case at the RDSC. Perhaps you can tell the landlord that if a buyer is found, you could be persuaded to move out at a later stage. If the landlord knows you are willing to work with him, this will create a better relationship going forward.

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