x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

We want to stay put in our Dubai villa but don’t yet have a contract

Keren Bobker is here to help with your financial queries. This week, a Dubai resident has a property concern.

We are long-term tenants in an old villa in Dubai and the tenancy contact expired on December 31 last year. When we tried to renew our tenancy contract in mid-December, our landlord verbally told us that the property was being sold and not to renew yet as the name on the tenancy would change. He advised us not to pay any rent until he advised us further. So we do not have a tenancy agreement but are still residing in the villa, as we wish to continue the tenancy. We are not aware if the landlord is still the owner. We are arranging to meet the previous/existing landlord with the potential new owner, but we would like some understanding of our rights. If they intend to continue our tenancy, when should the new contract begin? If they plan to demolish the property, do they need to produce licensed documentation to prove demolish and rebuild? If they rebuild, are they obliged under the law to offer us a tenancy? We understand that tenants are entitled to a minimum 12 months’ notice, however what happens when the tenancy has not been renewed? I understand that an eviction notice must be sent by registered post. If issued in person, what is the process? MH Dubai

My understanding is that if a landlord fails to provide a new contract at renewal the tenancy should automatically renew on the same terms as before. It is an issue for the landlord if a property is sold and this will not affect a current tenancy. The new owner will take on the tenancy that exists without any changes to the terms. Be aware that a landlord can also start the eviction process if a tenant fails to pay rent within 30 days of the due date, so even though they are saying not to pay, you must attempt to pay the usual rent in a timely manner.

There are limited reasons that a tenant can be evicted. In addition to the property being sold and the landlord’s family moving in, the other reasons, according to Dubai rental laws, are “If the owner wishes to demolish the property for reconstruction or to add new constructions that prevent tenant from benefiting from the leased property, provided that necessary licences are obtained” and “if the property requires renovation or comprehensive maintenance that cannot be executed while the tenant is occupying the property, provided that a technical report issued by Dubai Municipality or accredited by it is to be submitted to this effect.”

In every case, tenants must be given a full 12 months’ notice in writing at the tenancy renewal date. This should be delivered by registered post or through a public notary, but I would expect that if it was delivered by hand and was signed for the authorities would accept it. There is no obligation for the landlord to offer another tenancy provided the rules are followed.

I have a question about inheritance tax in the United Kingdom. I have a British passport and was born there but I have spent most of my life outside of the UK. I haven’t been back for about eight years as I have no family left there, and it is my intention to retire in the Far East. I have property and investment in a few countries and I would like to know whether any tax would be payable on my death, as I plan to leave everything to my son, who lives in Australia. AP, Sharjah

A liability to UK inheritance tax is based on domicile, a strong issue under UK law and different to residence. The deciding factor as to where you are domiciled for inheritance tax purposes lies with Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC), but in most cases if someone was born in the UK, their father was British and they hold a British passport they will be deemed domiciled, in this case as a domicile of origin. This means that their estate, meaning all their property, investments and other assets, would be subject to UK inheritance tax.

The standard exemptions and tax rates would apply. In certain cases it is possible to change domicile, by residence and intention, but this is not always straightforward and care must be taken to do it properly for it to be accepted. Professional advice should be taken.

I have been employed for four months but I can’t bear it any more. The work I am assigned to do is unprofessional and unpleasant, even though I have a bachelor’s degree in education. I want to leave this job and return to my home country of Uganda, but I have been told the visa cancellation takes up to one month. I want to leave as soon as possible as I have no money. GS Abu Dhabi

While Article 37 of UAE Labour Law states that an employer can terminate the employee within the probationary period without any issues, the law is a little vaguer regarding what an employee may do. It does not specify that a worker can resign without notice, but nor does it say a worker cannot resign without notice, so unless a contract of employment states differently an employee needs to give 30 days’ notice to resign and leave a company. The employer is not obliged to cancel the visa until the end of the notice period, at which time the individual may leave the country.

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