x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 18 January 2018

Read between the lines before signing a tenancy contract in the UAE

On your side: Keren Bobker answers questions on tenancy contracts, medical insurance and job contracts.

In the past I have had a standard-looking tenancy contract, but I am about to move and my new landlord has his own version. This is something he has prepared and before signing it I want to make sure it will be legal and that I won't lose out. Can you tell me if he is allowed to write his own contract and if so, what it needs to include so that I am protected? MW, Dubai

The UAE's Law No26, 2007, concerning Regulating the Relation between Landlords and Tenants, sets out the issues that must be covered in a tenancy contract. A tenancy agreement must be in writing and be signed by both tenant and landlord. It must also describe the property, confirm the purpose of tenancy (residential or commercial use), give full names of both the landlord and the tenant, state the type of land, name of the area, the period of the tenancy, the annual rent and frequency of payment and also the method of payment. The tenant must be provided with a signed copy and a signed copy should also be registered with the Real Estate Regulatory Department (Rera). Because contracts need to be registered, most landlords use standard contracts that make clear the terms for both parties.

I have a medical insurance scheme arranged by my employer. I have been a member for three years and added my wife a few months ago after we got married at the end of last year. She is now pregnant and as I had been told the plan included maternity cover, I'd assumed we would be insured. I have now been told that is not actually the case. The policy schedule says our plan includes maternity cover, so why would the insurance company not honour this? Although the company pays for me, I pay the monthly premiums for my wife and it seems a waste of money if she is not insured. How do I make a complaint and can I get compensation as her care will now cost me a lot of money? If I had known there would be a problem I would have arranged cover separately. TF, Sharjah

TF is a member of a company-sponsored medical insurance plan and as there are just eight employees the scheme has terms very similar to personal arrangements. This means that existing medical conditions are excluded, at least for a set period, and while the plan does include maternity cover for those who select and pay for this option, there are specific conditions. As is often standard for personal and smaller corporate schemes, there is a waiting period for maternity cover. In this case, the individual must be a member for a minimum of 10 months before they are eligible to claim for anything related to pregnancy. The section of the policy schedule stating maternity cover is included asks members to refer to notes which make it clear there is a waiting period. The insurance companies who provide such plans are businesses and it would not make financial sense for them to offer cover when a large claim could be made immediately. Once TF's wife has been a member of the scheme for a full 10 months she will be able to claim for pregnancy related conditions - including both pre and postnatal care. TF would not have been able to obtain cover on a private basis without a waiting period of 10 or 12 months, so he has no grounds for a claim and has not been disadvantaged.

I work in the UAE and some weeks ago received a job contact with another company. After two interviews, this company gave me an appointment letter which I signed. No other papers have been signed. One clause of this appointment letter was a "No show up penalty" in case, for any reason, I was not able to join the company by the agreed date. Having now thought about it, I have decided not to join this company and informed them just two days after the appointment letter was signed. They are now trying to apply this penalty. Is it valid? Are they entitled to do so? SG, Dubai

This is a matter that requires a legal opinion. Thenji Macanda, an employment law specialist at Dubai-based James Berry Associates, says: "This matter isn't one that would be handled by the Labour Courts as the parties have not yet executed a labour contract. At best the company would be in a position to attempt to and bring a civil claim against the prospective employee for breach of contract. It is unlikely that the Court would automatically award the company the "No show up penalty" as it is likely to consider whether there were any actual losses incurred by the company." Ms Macanda's comment must not be taken as advice, as full details of the circumstances would be required. I take this to mean the company does not have a good case against SG as he advised them quickly and they would not have lost financially, but individuals must take care signing any paperwork.


Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai. Contact her at keren@holbornassets.com