Dubai landlords forcing tenants to sign vacate letters but Rera says it is ‘not legal’
The National News
September 18, 2014 Updated: September 19, 2014 10:24 PM
DUBAI // Landlords are demanding that tenants sign letters promising to leave their homes at the end of a one-year contract – despite the practice being illegal.
Tenants have complained that when signing the lease renewal they are being coerced into putting their name to an undertaking to vacate their homes when their tenancy contract ends instead of being given the option to renew.
This, tenants say, is an attempt by landlords to get them to pay inflated rents or move out, but owners insist it protects their property.
However, the Real Estate Regulatory Agency, or Rera, said that, according to property law, landlords must give a 12-month eviction notice and only for specific reasons, such as that the property is being sold or that they are moving in themselves.
“It is not legal for the landlord to ask the tenant to sign this letter,” said Mohammed K bin Hammad, senior director of the Real Estate Relations Regulatory Department at Rera, the regulatory arm of Dubai Land Department.
“The landlord must notify the tenant of the eviction reasons 12 months prior to the date set for eviction, provided that this notice is given through a notary public or registered post.
“If he has not, the tenant may go to the tribunal at the Rental Dispute Centre and file a case against the landlord.”
The letters have affected numerous tenants in areas such as Discovery Gardens, Silicone Oasis and International City and they have come from various agents and landlords.
Many tenants in Discovery Gardens have recently received letters stating: “Please note that this is a NON-RENEWABLE contract and we had given you this unit only on a mutually pre-agreed condition that you shall hand over the unit on expiry of the contract.
“Please refer to your undertaking letter enclosed with the tenancy contract. It was very clear to you one year in advance you will have to hand over the unit after expiry of the contract and it will not be renewable for any further period, the same was confirmed to us by you in writing … We give you final opportunity to hand over the unit … In case you fail to do so, we will be forced to take legal action as per UAE law and claim necessary compensation. All legal/administrative expense shall be recovered from you.”
While some refused to sign, other tenants felt obliged to.
“It’s a way to create uneasiness in our minds and to negotiate higher rents,” said Irtaza, who rents a one-bed in Discovery Gardens for Dh45,000. He received a letter in April to vacate by the end of the month.
“Our entire building has got vacate letters. Even last year the agent asked for more rent than the Rera index permits but after checking with a legal team and friends I stood my ground,” he said.
Another tenant said dozens of residents in his block were told they must sign vacate letters.
“They [the landlords] can only increase rent by 5-10 per cent because of Rera rules, so by hook or crook they are telling tenants to sign to force them out. They got me to sign. It’s pure blackmail,” he said.
A landlord who rents out properties in Silicon Oasis said he wanted to ensure tenants would move out.
“How long can people be on these low rents?” he said. “We want to be sure they finally leave, it’s my property, not his. A vacate letter gives some peace of mind.”
The law, however, does not support vacating notices from tenants as these go against current rental laws, said Mario Volpi, managing director of Prestige Real Estate.
“It’s either a lack of understanding from the landlord side or frustration on their part when they see an empty apartment down the corridor going for considerably more than they can raise,” he said.
“Vacating letters can be challenged. The only way to legally evict is to give 12 months, send a notarised letter or one by registered post. Two main reasons given are they want to use the property themselves or sell it.”
Vacate letters were being used to raise rent, Mr Volpi said.
“It’s a double situation, the agents or owners are not respecting the 90-day notice to change the rent terms and because the rents have gone up in the past, they want to increase by 30-40 per cent when actually the limit is 20 per cent.
“Legally even, the 5-10 per cent increase allowed by the Rera rental calculator, is only when 90-day notice is given.”