x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 18 December 2017

Homefront: Palm Jumeirah villa tenant is refusing to move out over deposit row

The overseas landlord says a "cosmetic change" was made to the property without his consent, so Mario Volpi outlines the steps required for filing a case at the Rental Dispute Settlement Committee

The landlord says that despite his "calm" approach, the tenant will not leave the property. Pawan Singh / The National
The landlord says that despite his "calm" approach, the tenant will not leave the property. Pawan Singh / The National

I have an issue with a long-term tenant who lives in my villa on Palm Jumeirah. The tenant has given me 90 days notice to vacate the property and the tenancy is coming to an end. Although the tenant has followed the correct protocol regarding the notice period, he is disputing the return of his deposit. He made a cosmetic change to the exterior of the property without my consent and is now unwilling to change it back as he thinks it has "enhanced" the property.

Furthermore, a clause on the tenancy contract states that if the tenant were to stay more than two years then the property would not need to be given back freshly painted. However, I stated that if there was a lot of damage to the walls that could not be repaired by painting then this would be exempt from the clause.

I have stayed extremely calm with the tenant and tried to reason by email. However, the tenant now says that unless he gets his deposit back he will not leave the property and exercise rights under a dispute situation and raise a formal compliant with the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (Rera). What rights do I have in this situation? KK, UK

The deposit is held by the landlord on the understanding that it can be used to repair or replace any items or fabric of the property that is damaged or broken during the period of the tenancy. It is also often used to return the property to the same condition it was at the start of the agreement. I note that in your case, the tenant has no need to repaint the property at the end of the contract due to the fact he/she has been residing for longer than two years, which I presume is the case.

Of course re-painting is one thing but if, as you say, there is damage to the walls then this would fall under a repair, to which it would then be perfectly acceptable for you to use the deposit or part thereof.

Each stakeholder has rights to complain but in this case it would not be to Rera, it would be to the Rental Dispute Settlement Committee (RDSC).

Obviously the tenant cannot stay in the property rent free, so his demand of "pay me my deposit or I will not vacate" does not hold water even if he is quoting a dispute situation. No judge will allow free accommodation while a dispute is ongoing, eventually he will have to pay some sort of rent.

My advice would be to initially try and resolve this amicably. If this breaks down you can always file a case at the RDSC later. You will have to weigh up the cost of opening a case against the cost of any repair to the property.

The RDSC was established by a decree in 2013 in an effort to streamline a more efficient process to resolve complaints from tenants and landlords in Dubai.

Be aware that you will need to prepare various documents that are required for any dispute case to be filed with the centre. For overseas landlord these would include:

• Ejari certificate

• Original tenancy contract

• Passport copy

• DEWA bills

• Title deed

• Copies of cheques

• Any other relevant documents

It’s also recommended that your documents are translated into Arabic.

There is a RDSC form that also needs to be filled out at a typing centre (in Arabic and English). Once this is done, you can file the case. The centre has the jurisdiction to hear cases and it comprises four departments that handle different stages in the legal process. The Arbitration Department is the first point of contact, which aims to settle disputes amicably within 15 days.

If a settlement is not reached, then a lawsuit would need to be filed with the department of First Instance, which will rule on the matter within 30 days. Decisions taken at this stage will remain final, unless an appeal is made at the Department of Appeal. In order for this to be done, the annual rent value on the tenancy contract must be worth more than Dh100,000.

After a ruling is made at the appeals stage, it cannot be reversed. The Execution Department is then tasked with enforcing the decisions and judgements taken by the centre.

As stated, think about the cost and whether it is worth pursuing this in terms of time and money involved. With your application you will pay a fee of 3.5 per cent of the annual rent of the property. The fee amount must at least be Dh500 and cannot exceed Dh20,000.

You will get a date and a time to go and present your case. There is a queue and everyone comes in at the same time, so you may have to wait before being seen. Once you are called in, you will be asked to present your case and the other party will too. If the case is not straightforward and requires more documents or investigation, you will be given another time and date - usually a few weeks later. Depending on the complexity of the case, it can take a few months to get resolved, so be prepared.

Once the paperwork is processed, a hearing will be scheduled and both the tenant and the landlord will need to appear.

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Read more:

Homefront: 'Suspicious' tenancy contract concerns new Abu Dhabi resident

Homefront: New expat loses Dh50,000 in a Dubai property rental scam

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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