What you need to know about Tenant-landlord issues

From housing fees and service charges to deposits, our expert clears the air to prevent costly disputesToby Young

My landlord has not paid his service charge and now I am being denied access to the communal facilities and car park. What can I do?

First of all, this is illegal. Building management can not punish the tenant for something the landlord has or hasn’t done. The service charge payment is between the landlord and building management. If they have not been paid, then building management can take appropriate action through Real Estate Regulatory Agency (Rera) and the courts. Once you have explained this to the building management and there is no change in its stance, you can speak to your landlord to try and move things along, or look to bring a case yourself at Rera. One option that Rera may give you is to vacate the property. Be prepared for this question as the answer you give in court will set forward a process that could be very difficult to stop and essentially leave you with a date to vacate the property.

I booked an appointment with a real estate agent to see a property. Upon arrival, the agent told me to get the key from security and view the property myself. Now that I want to rent the property, the agent is demanding a 5 per cent fee for doing nothing. Do I have to pay it?

Essentially, by booking to view the property you have agreed to pay the agent’s fees as requested. That said, if you feel they have not earned what could be a large fee, you can try and negotiate this with them. But, there is little else you can do as the agent has direct access to the landlord and you don’t. If you wanted to negotiate the fees, this should have been done before viewing the property. In general, the 5 per cent fee is standard, although we do know of some agencies that charge as high as 7 per cent.

Who should be responsible to pay the housing fee, the tenant or landlord?

In general the housing fee is paid for by the tenant and is billed through your Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) bill. If your landlord pays your Dewa bill, then you may be asked to pay for it outside of the usual electricity andwater provisions.This will need to be clearly mentioned in your tenancy contract. If it isn’t and your landlord wants to change your contract, this can only be done upon renewal and with a 90-day notice of the changes in the terms and conditions, which you also have to agree with.

Why do landlords or real estate agents hold on to tenant’s deposits?

Unlike in some other countries there is no system in place to centrally look after tenant’s deposits. In general, it should be the landlord that holds on to a tenant’s deposit and the agent should only do so as long as it has power of attorney over the property and you are provided with a copy of all documentation to prove it.

When I moved into my property there was no inventory provided by the agent or landlord. NowI am moving out, and they are claiming I have damaged cupboards that were already broken when I moved in. What can I do?

Before moving in, we suggest that tenants and landlords discuss any faults that may exist, or list any furniture for use, including white goods. Due to
the vagaries of the system, a real estate agent does not take care of this at present (unless asked), and the onus is on the tenant to point out any faults and agree what is there and it’s condition when moving into the property. This should all be done via email in case it needs to be referred to at a later date.

Why is there not a rule that states overseas landlords have to have a power of attorney (POA) in the UAE to handle any property issues with their rented apartment?

This is a very good question and may be something that is being looked at. It would certainly make a lot of people’s lives easier, especially when trying to get a deposit returned or report a fault. Many overseas landlords now ask agents to manage their property for a small fee, and if you are using these agencies, always ensure you get copies of all documentation of the POA.

My landlord lives overseas and refuses to refund my deposit despite me allowing new tenants to move in a few days early, thus having our contracts overlap. The new tenants were happy with the property and agreed only minor maintenance was needed, costing Dh500. What can I
do to get my deposit back?

First of all, you need to try and speak to your landlord and make sure there is no other issue. If the work that needs to be carried out is paid for by the landlord, the cost can be deducted from your deposit, provided the damage is not a result of normal wear and tear. If the landlord ignores your calls and emails, we suggest opening a case at Rera. This will cost you 3.5 per cent of your deposit, with a minimum fee of Dh500. You can represent yourself and will not need a lawyer. It is worth remembering that Rera will not make awards on legal fees or expenses, but the loser of the case will have to pay the court fees. So, if you win, the landlord will  have to refund these to you along with your deposit.

I have been served an eviction notice, stating that the landlord wants to move into the property. Once I moved out, the landlord got new tenants paying a higher rent. Can I seek compensation?

Yes. Of all the key reasons that can be used for eviction, this is by far the clearest. If a landlord or an immediate next of kin wants to move in, it can only be done by giving a 12-month notice, and as long as the landlord can prove there is no other suitable property. If the landlord rents out the property within two years, you can file a complaint at Rera. The maximum payout that we are aware of is two years’ rent to the former tenant. When being evicted under this clause, it is always worth keeping all of your bills and receipts showing your costs to move out, new tenancy contract, deposit and agent’s fees as evidence.

Source: Property Weekly.

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