x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

A decree issued last week by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President and Ruler of Dubai, ordered the establishment of the centre and for it to be headed by judges and staffed by legal professionals.

DUBAI // The mediation wing of the newly announced Rental Dispute Settlement Centre has been welcomed by residents.

They hope it will help avert costly trials and act as a counter to property scams and are keen on learning more about promises to resolve rent disputes within 30 days or, in some cases, within 60 days.

The centre was ordered last week by Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid, the Vice President and Ruler of Dubai. He has asked for it to be headed by judges and staffed by legal professionals.

“Many cases can be resolved instead of going to trial; mediation, where you sit down with the other party, is so much better,” said Rashed Ahmed, a Dubai resident of 10 years.

“People need to know clearly what is the law and the timeframe given to take decisions.”

Mr Ahmed is among thousands of residents who were affected by property scams last year that rocked the market when tenants’ rent amounts were siphoned by owners and agents of property companies who fled the country.

Interpol issued a notice last year for the arrest and extradition of Haitham Al Kouatly, chief executive of Shamyana Entertainment Services, after he fled with at least Dh6 million in annual rent paid by tenants.

Two agents from Marks Falcon Real Estate and FHS Properties absconded in September last year with half-yearly rent payments, amounting to at least Dh80m, handed to them by 7,000 tenants.

The new settlement centre will replace Dubai Municipality’s Rent Committee, which currently is the emirate’s highest property-leasing court. The current process has often been criticised as too protracted and lengthy.

“The Rent Committee is helpful and gives good guidance but it is a long process, an agonising wait,” said Mr Ahmed, referring to a tenancy dispute in the Marks Falcon case that was resolved in his favour.

“It can take more than three to four months and it is really hell because you are worried all of the time.”

Others are optimistic they can approach the new committee with cases that have yet to be resolved.

“I would take my case to the new committee if it was handled quickly,” said Karim, a resident who lost a year’s rent in the Shamyana scam when multiple tenants were found to be renting the same property, on paper at least. He filed a case with police and was advised to file a civil case in court.

“It would be easier and more direct to go to a resolution centre than to court,” he said.

Legal experts also backed the mediation process.

“It will reduce the need for parties to go through the legal process and pay high fees,” said Ludmila Yamalova, a managing partner at HPL Yamalova & Plewka.

“The conciliatory stage can be an effective mechanism if the mediation process has teeth. If done correctly, it will be hugely beneficial.”

The decree issued last week specifies the new centre will include departments for conciliation and mediation, a trial chamber, an appeals chamber and a department to implement sentences and rulings.

“The courts can be a slow process; it is good to have a speedy settlement because, in many cases, people have already lost money,” said Craig Plumb, the head of research at property management company Jones Lang LaSalle.

Property consultants said the centre would also benefit the real estate industry.

“Over the long-term, any ease in processes related to transactions and quick resolution of disputes will have a positive impact on sentiment,” said Kalpesh Sampat, the director of SPF Realty.

“As we move to systematic and process-oriented systems, it will lead to the market becoming more mature. This is definitely something that was long required and will put tenants and landlords at ease when faced with issues that need to be resolved.”