Settling a housing dispute in the UAE is easier than many residents expect
ABU DHABI // Residents should not be put off making housing complaints through official channels, lawyers said.
While many may feel intimidated by the prospect of dealing with the courts and choose alternative methods of seeking help, there are legal options open to them.
Cases in Dubai are handled by the Rent Dispute Settlement Centre (RDSC).
Lawyer Ludmila Yamalova, managing partner at HPL Yamalova & Plewka, says the process has become easier to access.
The RDSC promises “simplified procedures with most rental disputes judged within 75 days”.
Initially, an arbitration department will try to settle disputes within 15 days. If unsuccessful, a legal case must be lodged with the Department of First Instance, which aims to sort out cases within 30 days.
Rulings are final unless appealed, and only claims worth more than Dh100,000 are heard at this level.
Ms Yamalova says proceedings are conducted in Arabic but translators can be provided.
“It’s a lot easier for people to file court cases these days,” she said.
After the case has been decided, the loser pays the winner’s filing fee plus court expenses, such as notary fees, excluding translation, she says.
Most cases are related to disputed maintenance payments, illegal sublets, evictions and rent increases by landlords, of whom she said, “[they] used to be a lot more bullish”.
In a recent wave of cases, she said, landlords attempted to evict tenants under a pretence that the properties would be put up for sale, only to be rented out again at higher rates.
Tenants occupying properties in free zones must lodge their cases in the courts of the Dubai International Finance Centre, which is based on English common law. Court proceedings in the DIFC are conducted in English.
While Ms Yamalova applauds the ability of the court to resolve disputes, the lawyer says she often hears negative sentiments from the public, some of whom show little faith in the courts.
“It’s actually quite efficient and effective,” she says. “Processes are always changing, so it’s a bit of a moving target.”
The RDSC is located on Baniyas Road in Deira, Dubai, and is open from 7.30am to 2.30pm on weekdays.
Once cases are registered, plaintiffs can opt for an evening session from 4.30pm onwards. For more information, call 800 4488.
Residents in Abu Dhabi will find that the capital does not have a dedicated department dealing with real estate. Instead, complaints are handled by the Rent Dispute Settlement Committee.
When it comes to renting in the capital, Ben Crompton – a former lawyer and an estate agent and managing director of Crompton Partners – says tenants must be aware of their legal rights, as outlined in 2006’s tenancy laws.
According to the capital’s eGovernment portal, anyone wishing to have a case heard can submit an application along with required documents, which include a completed application, three copies of the complaint form, a copy of the rent contract and a passport copy.
Filing a case in the Abu Dhabi dispute settlement system will require the complainant to pay 4 per cent of the rent contract value or the demanded value, up to a maximum of Dh20,000 for the first instance and Dh10,000 for an appeal.
Following any formal appeal, a final level of appeal called cassation is available for a fee of Dh2,000.
Mr Crompton says a lawyer is not required and all proceedings are in Arabic.
“It’s a complicated process, particularly for a non-Arabic speaker,” he says.
The most common disputes he has seen are landlords trying to raise rents and people being evicted from illegally divided villas.
“Always read your lease,” he advises. “Leases are generally non-negotiable, but they are fair.”
For further information, the Abu Dhabi Rent Dispute Settlement Committee is located on Defence Street, opposite the Algfah Hotel, or call 800 2353.
How to launch a case ...
1. Gather all supporting documents, including emails between you and your landlord. Take copies of your passport, Emirates ID, Ejari (registration) certificate, original blue tenancy contract, copy of landlord’s passport, Dewa bill, title deeds and copies of cheques that have been issued.
2. Get the Rent Disputes Settlement Centre form typed and ensure that your non-Arabic documents are legally translated into Arabic.
3. Go to RDSC on Baniyas Street, Deira, and file a case.
4. Pay the fee, which is 3.5 per cent of your annual rent (minimum Dh350 and maximum Dh20,000).
In Abu Dhabi
1. Submit the application, along with the required documents, at the customer service desk at the Rent Dispute Settlement Committee, which is on Defence Street.
2. Fill in the complaint form at the customer service desk.
3. Pay the fees at the finance counter and receive a receipt.
4. Receive a date for the first case session.
Updated: February 6, 2015 04:00 AM