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Since 2010, all tenancy agreements in Dubai are required to be registered with Ejari. This is something that should typically be done by the landlord. However, some do not register their property, so our advice to tenants would be to do it themselves. The cost is about Dh160 for typing plus a Dh35 admin fee. You’ll need your original tenancy contract, a Dubai Electricity and Water Authority bill, a copy of the title deed or site plan, passport and visa. Ejari ensures rental agreements are fair and transparent to the parties involved and that terms and conditions are given full weight, should disputes arise.
The law is very clear on eviction and does not allow a tenant to be removed simply because a landlord wants to lease the property out for a higher rental income. Landlords have grounds to evict tenants if they or a next of kin wants to move in, they want to sell the property, or the property requires extensive renovation or needs to be demolished. If a next of kin will move into the property, the landlord must prove there is no other option available. If it is the landlord who will move into the property, then it cannot be leased to a new tenant within two years.
Tenants are fully within their rights to file a case with the rental committee should this be the case.
If the landlord will move into the property, the tenant must be given a 12-month notice, which can only be served at the expiry of the current contract. In particular, this applies if the above mentioned is the case or if the landlord wants to sell the property. The eviction notice must be notarised and sent through registered post. Failure to do this means the tenant can stay until the appropriate eviction notice is sent and the notice period served.
The landlord can increase the rent each year, but only if two points are satisfied. The first is that for any changes to the contract, either party must notify the other 90 days before expiration of the agreement. If this window is missed, no changes can be made — this includes the rent. If the notice is served, the tenant can check if the increase is within what is allowed by the Real Estate Regulatory Agency’s (Rera) rental calculator. The landlord can notify the tenant of a rent increase by email as long as correct procedures are followed. A 12-month notice to vacate has to be served via notary public or registered mail.
The property can also be sold by the landlord even if it is still occupied by a tenant. However, it should be properly labelled as a property with a sitting tenant. If the new owner wants to move in, a 12-month eviction notice can only be served after the property is handed over and the existing tenancy contract has expired.
If a landlord wants to increase the rent and it is in line with the rental calculator, or change conditions to the tenancy contract, or if a tenant wants to vacate a property, either party must give the other 90 days’ notice. Failure to do so means that a landlord cannot legally raise the rent, and a tenant is still legally bound by the tenancy contract. Some contracts will have different notice periods written in the addendum, which could be in direct contradiction to the law. However, if it is agreed upon by both parties and a dispute arises, it is possible the notice period stated in the contract and not the 12-month notice prescribed by the law will be applied. From the outset, it is advisable to ensure the contract conforms with the law to avoid issues.
Rera’s guidelines to limit rent increases do not apply to property governed by the Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC). Therefore, landlords of property in DIFC are free to raise rents in accordance with market demand. If a landlord is being completely unreasonable, the DIFC Courts do oversee rental disputes in the Small Claims Tribunal and the main court.
A tenant can negotiate and in all cases I would recommend to try to keep the peace first, as not all landlords are sharks and indeed not all tenants are going to trash the property or issue bounced cheques. So before you file a case at Dubai’s Rental Dispute Settlement Centre (RDSC), try talking to the landlord — it could be that the landlord has been misinformed. The cost of filing a case is 3.5 per cent of annual rent — a minimum of Dh350 and a maximum of Dh20,000. Other fees can be levied by the RDSC on the plaintiff for summoning experts, payment of expert and rent deposit fees, etc. In most disputes, a verdict is made within 75 days.
Source: Mark Wellman-Riggs, Special to Property Weekly
The writer is a General Manager of Crompton Partners