x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Try mediating with landlord before pursuing other options

Challenging your landlord in court will hurt your relationship and it will only be a matter of time before you may decide to shift to a new place.

I wish to clarify some legal issues in a rental dispute with my landlord. He has asked for a 10 per cent rent increase but failed to comply with the law in providing ample notice. In fact he only informed me of that when we approached him about renewing our lease. We were going away on holiday and would not be available to sign a new one. We had phone discussions with him in which we informed him that we were not paying an increase. We referred him to the Land Department’s website and Rera (Real Estate Regulatory Agency) in particular. We are paying an amount that is at the top end of the rental calculator for a similar property in Al Barsha 1. We gave him a cheque for the same amount as the previous year, which he accepted and deposited. He is now claiming the difference, which he says we agreed to, but that is not the case. We also have many maintenance issues which he knows of but has failed to address. I plan to reply to this and to reiterate what we have told him. We have no idea whether our previous contract was registered with Rera and have nothing to indicate that it was. Could you please advise me? My thanks in advance. D E, Dubai

Dear D E,

Your landlord has to abide by Dubai’s laws. So when it comes to rent increases, you have done the right thing by firstly checking the Rera rent calculator – which is found on the dubailand.gov.ae website – to see if any increase in rent is allowed or not. You say that after checking, there should not be any increases; if so, your landlord cannot just raise the rent.

Before taking any further action, you have to try to negotiate with your landlord. I realise this can be difficult, especially if the other party seems not to want to cooperate. Make sure you document everything so that you can better advocate for yourself.

If your landlord insists on claiming the 10 per cent increase, my advice is as follows: first, check whether the tenancy contract is registered at Ejari (a Rera online registration system). If not, you can do this yourself. While the Ejari registration is normally the landlord’s responsibility, it has become common practice for tenants to register their contracts. It is a legal requirement to register all tenancy agreements, and it is difficult to file any case with the rent committee if this is not done.

You should proceed to one of the many Dubai Land Department’s authorised typing centres. The cost is Dh160, plus Dh35 for their services.

Some of these centres offer an “urgent” service with an additional Dh25 charge.

You will be required to show your original tenancy agreement, a Dewa (Dubai Electricity and Water Authority) bill, a copy of the title deed or site plan, and a copy of the visa page in your passport.

After the registration, I suggest you file a case with the rent committee against your landlord for unreasonable behaviour. The case should be brought against him on two counts:

1) For insisting on a rent increase when one is not allowed;

2) For not addressing maintenance issues.

The cost for filing a case currently stands at 3.5 per cent of the annual rent.

The present rent committee is being replaced with a new entity that seeks to streamline the arbitration process and reach a decision within 30 to 60 days.

While the law would appear to be on your side, taking your landlord to court will undoubtedly destroy any relationship you may have had. With the consequent breakdown in relations, it will likely be only be a matter of time before you decide to move on to another property.

Mario Volpi is the managing director of Prestige Real Estate in Dubai. He has 29 years of property industry experience in the emirate and London. Send any questions to mario@prestigedubai.com