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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Homefront: 'My tenant's cheques bounced, then he abandoned the apartment"

The landlord now wants to regain possession of his Dubai Marina property

The owner wants advice on the best way to enter the Dubai Marina home. Pawan Singh / The National
The owner wants advice on the best way to enter the Dubai Marina home. Pawan Singh / The National

The tenant in my Dubai Marina property took out a one-year tenancy, commencing in November last year, and gave me four cheques plus a deposit of Dh4,000. The third cheque in May 2017 did not clear. He said he had lost his job and will find a new position and pay as soon as possible. He didn't do this and this month's cheque has also bounced. Now he is not responding to phone calls, emails or personal visits. The security personnel and receptionist at the building have not seen him for a while. It appears he has abandoned the flat. We are not interested in recovering his arrears or pursuing him. We would like possession of our flat as soon as possible. Is abandonment different to a tenant in arrears? Could we repossess the flat with two witnesses, perhaps the building security, confirming this is the case, maybe also taking a video of the apartment as we enter? MN, Dubai

Clearly you are the injured party here, given your tenant has been living in your property without paying rent. Assuming you still have keys to the property, you can go and see if the tenant has actually abandoned the unit. It is advisable to take witnesses and/or video the unit as you enter, this way you cannot be accused of any wrongdoing in the future. Asking the building security to come with you as witness would be a very good idea.

If the unit has been abandoned, it would be fairly straightforward to take it back, however if the property still has the tenant's items inside, the proper way to regain full possession is to get a written notice via notary public placed on the door, informing the tenant that the full payment of arrears has to be paid within 30 days of the notice date, after which you will be granted repossession of your property legally. You will then be able to change locks as necessary and take the unit back. I realise this may seem like you are wasting a further 30 days but this way will ensure you will not have any issues in the future.

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Our tenant is also a real estate agent, who wanted our apartment for his family; we have found out he subleased the whole time. We have sent many messages asking him stop but he continues. We sent an eviction notice and he is expected to leave a few weeks from now. He appealed against the notice, saying we were harassing him and that he pays his rent. Yes, he pays the rent, but no we do not harass him in anyway. We have WhatsApp messages stating the room pricing and have a moving in form that he created with our address on, we also have a photocopy of a deposit cheque from the person he rented our property to. The building's management are aware of his activities, as he is also doing this in two other apartments in the building. We have no money to go through the courts; I am unemployed, all our savings have gone and my wife's salary as a teacher just covers all bills. This is very stressful for her and our two young children. How can we evict him? We will shortly have nowhere to live as our contract expires soon. DR, Dubai

What your tenant is doing is illegal, unless of course you are aware of it and have agreed to it - which is obvious that you have not.

Unfortunately, there is little else you can now do other than to go ahead and file a case at the Rental Dispute Settlement Committee. The procedure is quite straightforward but it does come at a cost which is 3.5 per cent of the rental amount. This fee is often returned as part of the settlement in the event you go on and win the judgement. In any case I suggest you visit the rental committee on the ground floor of the Dubai Land Department in Deira, I’m sure they might give you further advice to secure vacant possession in the event he does not actually leave. For now, sit tight to see if he does indeed move out.

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

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