Al Ain tenant disputes landlord's report on villa damage

I have an issue with my former landlord. I moved out of a villa in Al Ain, Abu Dhabi, recently and I have been fighting with the property management company because I do not agree with the damage report it issued to me three days after I moved out. Please see the timeline below:

• Preliminary maintenance inspection conducted on March 12

• I physically moved out on March 15

• Final maintenance inspection conducted on March 16, keys were returned to and accepted by the facilities manager (no maintenance report received)

• Damage report given to me by the property manager on March 19

• Electricity/water clearance (AADC) dated on March 22

When I received the damage report on March 19, I was very surprised because the property manager charged me Dh4,800 for a full set of “kitchen marble countertops”. There was no justification for the charge and no vendor quote. I disagree with the Dh4,800 charge because I did not damage the countertops and the counters are in perfectly usable condition. The property manager pointed out a very fine hairline crack in the corner of the counter. Please note that the counters are not even “marble” as stated in the damage report, the material is Corian. And the countertops are original to the villa, which means they are 14-and-a-half years old. I lived in the villa for three years and moved out on March 15.

So, does the landlord have the right to charge me for a full set of countertops when the only damage is a hairline crack? And does he have the right to charge me for damages after he accepted the key and I moved out? I have refused to sign the municipality closure form and I won’t sign the damage report because the landlord refuses to reevaluate the Dh4,800 charge for the kitchen counters. Plus now he says he is going to charge me one week’s rent because the date of my electricity/water clearance certificate is March 22, six days after I moved out. And he refuses to give me my deposit back in cash – only direct deposit. He is threatening me now and telling me that he will impose more charges if I don’t sign the forms. Please note he will take the charges in the damage report out of my Dh10,000 deposit. Do I have any rights in this situation? I have filed a case with the rental dispute settlement committee. KE, Al Ain

I’m glad to see that at the end of your email you state that you have filed a case at the dispute committee. Ultimately, it will decide who is right or wrong in your case. From my side, I would say that unless a landlord has signed a document stating that they are happy with the handover, they can always counter with “other” issues. Having a signed condition report is becoming vitally important in determining initial condition and therefore responsibilities when a tenant vacates. The reality is that tenants do not insist on this kind of document at the start of the tenancy as they are excited to move in, but unfortunately these problems are common as there is nothing one can rely upon in terms of describing original condition. Some contracts allow for wear and tear, but this too can be open to interpretation so it is hardly worth having this clause in a contract. Arguments always ensue at the point of a tenant’s departure, however tenants do need to understand that a property is required to be handed back in the same condition as was given in the first place.

With reference to the countertop hairline crack, being asked to pay Dh4,800 would appear harsh, especially as stated that there was no condition document, so there is no way of knowing that perhaps this fissure was there before but you just did not notice it.

So now it is up to the presiding judge to decide. My advice would be to still offer something to the landlord (document this), as a token to show willingness to resolve things on your part. This often works in your favour in the long run.

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 is provided for information only. Please send any questions to mario.volpi@kensington.ae.

business@thenational.ae

Follow The National’s Business section on Twitter