Absence of deposit receipt means Dubai tenant has a problem with new landlord

In January 2017, I vacated my old premises in which I was a tenant and moved to another. I was a tenant in that apartment for five years. During that tenancy, the house was sold to a new landlord. When I vacated, I asked his real estate agent to reimburse me with the deposit money that I paid to the old landlord five years ago. The new landlord has informed me that he will not reimburse me as the old landlord has not provided him with such documents. In addition, the estate agent that initially booked the apartment for me five years ago, is no longer in Dubai. Sadly, the deposit receipt is no longer available. My question is, doesn’t it go without saying that I couldn’t have moved in to the apartment without paying a deposit? Is there anything I can do to get reimbursed? AH, Abu Dhabi

Your situation is a bit tricky. On the one hand it is true that 99.9 per cent of the time a landlord would not accept a rental agreement without some form of deposit but not having proof of the same will cause you problems as it then becomes your word against his as to who has it and if so how much it was.

It is very common for the deposit details to be written on tenancy agreements each and every year for renewals and obviously on new contracts as and when they are written up. I would therefore check on your past contracts to see if the deposit was mentioned anywhere.

It is clear that the sale of the property from your old landlord to the new owner must have been conducted without the help of an estate agency. I say this because the agency would have ensured all payments were made to everyone who was owed funds and distributed these accordingly at the time of transfer, in this case the deposit.

After everything, if you find that there is absolutely no paperwork, you can still try your luck by filing a case at the rental dispute settlement committee. Please note, however, the cost of doing so is 3.5 per cent of the yearly rental amount. It may therefore not be economically viable to do this when you take into consideration the time and effort involved. It pains me to say, but you may never see your deposit again.

It is worth mentioning that the Land Department is looking into introducing a scheme that secures the safety of tenants’ deposits and ensures landlords return them in a timely manner. No indication of time has been given as to when this may come into force, but at least deposit issues may become a thing of the past.

My brother and I recently paid a deposit for a two-bedroom apartment for which the effective date of the contract is March 1. The agent then told us to come back a few days later as there was no one to sign the contract. Unfortunately my brother has a problem and now cannot move in with me to the new apartment. We are now planning on cancelling the contract but we have already paid two months of rent (Dh9,165), a security deposit fee of Dh2,750, contract charges of Dh1,375 and the agent’s commission of Dh2,000 (a further Dh3,000 in commission has not been given to the agent yet). Can we get back the Dh15,290 we have paid so far? JF, Dubai

From the information you have given me, I understand that although money has been given, the contract remains unsigned. This being the case, there is no agreement so you should be able to cancel everything. The security deposit is often not refundable, so go ahead and check the wording of the receipt given, the rest is refundable.

Mario Volpi is the chief sales officer for Kensington Exclusive Properties and has worked in the property industry for over 30 years in London and Dubai. The opinions expressed do not constitute legal advice and are provided for information only. Please send any questions to mario.volpi@kensington.ae.

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