Register your Abu Dhabi tenancy contract or you can't sue for rental fraud
ABU DHABI // Prosecutors will no longer accept lawsuits filed by victims of rental fraud if their lease contract is not registered with Abu Dhabi Municipality.
The decision will come into force next year and is aimed at decreasing the number of fraud cases involving rented property, said Hassan Al Hammadi, head of fraud prosecution at Abu Dhabi Judicial Department.
“When we saw there are few victims who are defrauded when the contract is registered, we thought this decision will protect tenants because it leaves no room for anyone to defraud him,” Mr Al Hammadi said.
“So starting in 2017, we will not accept a person who says he was a victim of fraud if his contract was not registered, because there is nothing that prevents anyone from registering a contract.”
More than 90 per cent of 476 property fraud cases so far this year involved contracts that were not registered under the municipality’s Tawtheeq programme, and more than 99 per cent related to rental agreements, said senior prosecutor Humaid Al Darmaki.
One of the most common frauds is leasing out units that are illegally subdivided.
Another is when a new tenant is taken to see a villa or flat that has already been rented out, while no one is home. The scammer then makes them pay all fees, including water and electricity.
“The point is, people should fix the legal situation of their real estate,” Mr Al Darmaki said.
Mr Al Hammadi warned that in some cases, victims of fraud could find themselves in trouble with the law.
He gave the example of a tenant handing over a personal cheque signed by an accomplice.
When the cheque bounces and the recipient lodges a file with the courts, the tenant denies signing the cheque, saying it was stolen and forged.
“Then the court sends it to the forensics lab for testing and they confirm that it is not his signature,” Mr Al Hammadi said.
“In that situation, the accuser is questioned and in many cases becomes the defendant because the cheque is stolen.”
These types of scams have become more common, proving that fraudsters have a thorough knowledge of legal procedures and gaps, said Mr Al Hammadi.
But the main challenge with fraud cases in general is what happens after a scammer has been convicted. Even if they are sentenced to up to three years in jail, it can be difficult to ensure that the money is returned to victims.
“We are issuing a recommendation that the punishment includes an order to return the money,” Mr Al Hammadi said.
The municipality is also looking at making it an offence for any media that publishes advertisements for property with unregistered contracts.
Hussain Al Junaibi, head of the municipality’s real estate registration department, said changes to property management law will include offences and fines related to advertising.