New landlord in Dubai's JLT wants to change rental contract with existing tenant

I have just bought a one-bedroom apartment in Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT) with a tenant already living there. The rent is only Dh80,000 per year, which is low for that tower, but unfortunately as you know I cannot raise the rent because of the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (Rera) index being the average of all one bedrooms in JLT. It doesn’t take into account the premium for the better towers. I was then thinking of reducing the number of cheques from the current four to two or perhaps one. Is this OK? Or is this considered as some type of rent increase? OR, Dubai

As per Law 33 of 2008, you cannot effect any changes to a rental contract unless you firstly give at least 90 days’ written notice of the change and secondly there also has to be an agreement to that change between the parties. In your case, you can state to the tenant that you wish to have the rent paid in a lower number of cheques by requesting this in writing giving at least 90 days’ notice, but the tenant has to also agree. You cannot just unilaterally go ahead and make this change without an agreement. Furthermore you also cannot evict the tenant for non-agreement to your change.

I need to vacate my existing tenancy agreement early by two-and-a-half months as we have purchased a villa and wish to move in. I have given the landlord advance notice – 120 days in fact – but he says he will charge me two months’ rent penalty for breaking the contract. Is his penalty valid or can I move out without penalty? Should I take this to Rera for determination? GC, Dubai

As per the law, you need to give at least 90 days’ notice for any changes to the contract. Not wishing to renew and wishing to leave early would, in my opinion, would be a material change so I believe you are within your rights to inform the landlord of this change to the contract by giving at least the 90 days’ notice. You need to check your contract about what it says regarding vacating early. If there is no clause mentioning this then just the already given not­ice period is sufficient to not renew and leaving early would be down to negotiating with your landlord. If your contract states that there is a penalty for early vacating, you will have to abide by this, unless you can convince the landlord otherwise. If you wish to go to Rera, this is your prerogative but Rera will always attempt to get an agreement between the parties before requesting anyone files a case at the rental dispute committee.

We are trying to understand what maintenance is the responsibility of the developer. My tenants’ air-conditioning compressor is not working, does this fall under developer maintenance? ND, Dubai

As per Law 27 of 2007, which is the jointly owned property law, the developer remains liable for a period of 10 years from the date of the completion certificate to repair any structural defects in the building and one year from the date of the completion certificate to repair or replace defective installations including mechanical and electrical work, sanitary and plumbing installations etc.

With this in mind, my advice would be to resolve the AC issue quickly by paying for the repair/replacement initially yourself so the tenant is not unnecessarily inconvenienced any longer than normal. You should then contact the developer about the situation for reimbursement. The law is clear, in my opinion, but getting any developer to admit liability can sometimes be challenging. If you struggle to get an agreement with the developer on this, I suggest you contact the Land Department, which will advise on the next steps to take.

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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