x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Devious landlords facing penalties, lawyer warns

The Government threatens legal legal action against landlords who try to bypass rent caps.

ABU DHABI // There will be legal consequences for landlords who try to bypass rent caps by illegally evicting their tenants, a Government lawyer warned yesterday. During a seminar on rent laws, Hussain Ghanayem, a legal adviser to the General Secretariat to the Abu Dhabi Executive Council, told delegates that unscrupulous landlords were using a variety of underhanded tactics to raise their rents by more than the permitted five per cent.

Such manoeuvres are bound to make landlords unpopular in their communities, but leaseholders also have legal recourse. "It is the law that safe keeps people's rights because social penalties alone is not a sufficient measure to discourage those who break the law nor does it do much in restoring people's legal rights," Mr Ghanayem said. About 200 people, including landlords, tenants and property lawyers, attended yesterday's seminar, hosted by the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce with the aim of clarifying the often-misunderstood 2006 Rent Law. The chamber said it held the seminar because there have been increased incidents of unlawful practice by landlords.

Many owners have resorted to "illegal pressure tactics", such as refusing to maintain property, evicting tenants unlawfully, and trying to force them to leave by cutting off their water and electricity supply so the owner can lease the house at a higher price. Mohammad Yassin, a legal adviser to the Abu Dhabi Chamber of Commerce, who moderated the event, said there was still "a lot of misunderstanding from both the landowners and tenants on their legal rights and obligations", although the Rent Law was put in place more than two years ago.

For example, there are conditions attached to the allowed five per cent rent increase. "The rent cap of five per cent does not mean that you can just increase the rent without notice," said Mr Ghanayem. If the rent contract is one to three years long, then the owner can raise the rent by five per cent each year. But the owner must give the leaseholder at least three months notice and the leaseholder must agree to the increase. The two parties can resort to the Rental Dispute Committee at the Chamber of Commerce if there is a disagreement on any new contracts, Mr Ghanayem said.

Sami Mahrous, another panel member, said the economic downturn and surge in demand for housing in the emirate increased the need for information about the legal rights and obligations of homeowners and tenants. "Some homeowners lie about how much they were renting out their property to the previous tenant, for example, in order to benefit most from the five per cent rent increase allowed," Mr Mahrous said.

What the emirate needs is a special committee equipped to deal with urgent lease conflicts, as many leaseholders forego legal rights because they are worried any attempt to settle them formally will take too long, said Mr Mahrous, a legal consultant at Al Mahrous Advocates and Legal Consultancy. @Email:talramahi@thenational.ae