Dubai renter's absent landlord complicates rent and maintenance payments

I signed a contract last year for an apartment and paid in cash. I found the property on Dubizzle as listed by the landlord’s agent. The agent apparently only passed on half of my payment and then left the real estate company. Another person at that company assumed the case, but the landlord is never in the country and has never reimbursed me for any maintenance. The Ejari with the previous tenant was also never cancelled, so I’ve been unable to register my contract and use the building’s facilities. I am leaving the apartment this month and would like to recover the maintenance fees and my security deposit. I’m concerned this won’t happen because the landlord is always gone, and the new agent implies that I don’t have any legal recourse because I paid in cash. This, he claims, renders the transaction illegitimate (I don’t have a physical receipt but I do have documentation and a witness). I think the landlord has clearly been negligent and either he or the real estate company should take responsibility for the bad agent/employee representing their firm. Do I have any leverage to recover my money or am I at the mercy of the erstwhile landlord? MT, Dubai

Responsibility for maintenance of a rented property is often divided into two ways. Any single works required that amounts to less than Dh500 is normally the responsibility of the tenant to pay; any amount over this is the landlord’s responsibility. I hope you kept all receipts of any works carried out on the property so you can show the landlord exactly what has been spent. The deposit is also required to be returned at the end of the contract less any costs related to returning the property in the same condition it was given to you at the start. The difficulty here is that the landlord is often absent as you say, but presumably he does actually live in Dubai.

Filing a case at the rental committee costs 3.5 per cent of the annual rental amount. So you would have to weigh up this cost against the amount you have spent on maintenance that was the landlord’s responsibility and the deposit (if not returned) to see if it is economically worthwhile going down this route. With reference to the fraudulent activity of the original agent, I would definitely suggest you report this to Rera, if nothing else to stop others from thinking this is normal behaviour.

I live in newly built employee accommodation – so new that the district cooling (DC) company has fallen behind schedule and has not yet connected AC to the building (and may not do so for several more months). My employer has installed temporary AC, obviously at some cost. This week, my employer is hoping to recover some of these costs, and is using the DC company calculations to impose demand charges and consumption charges, even though it is not possible to measure the consumption charges without meters. All tenants have been charged using the “low” consumption level created by the DC company regardless of usage. The payment is expected to go to the employer – but there is significant pushback from the residents because of the lack of evidence to justify consumption, and the very high costs imposed. What are our rights here? JM, Dubai

Normally speaking, as part of the accommodation you are entitled to quiet enjoyment of the property in return for paying rent. Given that this residence is offered free as part of your employment, the law is silent as to the strength of the above right. Sadly, there appears to be little you can do other than insist with your fellow workers that the company justifies consumption. Hopefully this scenario is only temporary. The last resort would be to request the company remove you from the collective situation by taking back their temporary A/C units to enable you to buy yourself portable units that you can regulate yourself.

Mario Volpi is the chief sales officer for Kensington Exclusive Properties and has worked in the property industry for the past 32 years in London and Dubai. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and they do not reflect in any way those of the institutions to which he is affiliated. It does not constitute legal advice and is provided for information only. Please send any questions to mario.volpi@kensington.ae.

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