Know your rental rights in UAE
Filed on November 25, 2015 | Last updated on November 25, 2015 at 08.46 am
Website aims to create awareness on rules so you don’t pay a higher rent or move house unnecessarily, writes Deepthi Nair.
One of the biggest worries plaguing expatriates in Dubai revolves around rents. Often, there is a lot of ambiguity surrounding rental laws, with tenants counting on hearsay to make decisions.
10 tips to remember before signing on the dotted line
1. Ensure that your real estate agent is Rera registered. They should be able to provide you with their broker number.
2. Write your cheques directly to the landlord. Before handing them over, ask for a copy of your landlord’s passport and if possible the title deeds too.
3. Ask your agent to check that all service charges have been paid by the landlord, and if possible get it in writing too.
4. Ask your agent to check that there are no outstanding bills for Dewa or the chiller (air conditioning). If there are, they will need to be paid before you can set up an account.
5. If there are maintenance issues that need to be resolved before you move in, ensure that they are taken care of.
6. Be aware of how many car parking spaces you have. It is not uncommon for there to be only one to share between a husband and wife. Also find out if there is visitors parking too, and how to access it.
7. Know how to access all parts of the building. Often, swipe cards and door keys are needed to enter your property.
8. If the property is not clean before you move in, ask for it to be cleaned in advance of you moving in. A property should be handed over in a habitable condition.
9. Take photos of any issues you find with the apartment and let your agent and landlord know. This will avoid issues when you try and prove they were there before.
10. Once you have your tenancy contract, sign up for Ejari.
There are common misconceptions in the market. For instance, tenants think they can’t have a rent increase in the first two years of the contract or the maximum rent increase permissible is five per cent. Such wrong information could lead to friction between the landlord and tenant.
Propertyrights.ae is a website targeted at both landlords and tenants that aims to do away with the hassle surrounding signing a new lease or renewal. It fills a gap in the market for advisory services in the rental market. It was conceptualised by Toby Young, a British expatriate who faced multiple disputes with his landlords all through his seven-year stint in Dubai.
“One landlord wanted to use my spare room, another sought to increase the rent arbitrarily, or evict me without serving proper notice or was not willing to return my refundable deposit. Going through such disputes year after year, I realised that there was a gap in the market for a website such as Property Rights. It would automate the process of informing people of what their rights are as tenants,” says Young.
The website aims to create awareness on rental laws in Dubai so that tenants do not end up paying higher rent or move house unnecessarily.
“We help people understand the laws, the Real Estate Regulatory Authority [Rera] rent calculator, the maximum rent that can be charged and how it can be notified,” informs the managing director of Propertyrights.ae.
How the service works
Tenants can sign up for a fee of Dh100 and fill in details of their tenancy contract. Six months later, they get an e-mail setting out the maximum rent increase and maximum rent chargeable in the area you live in as per Rera calculations.
With four months left on the contract, tenants will receive another e-mail explaining that the landlord has 30 days left to notify you of any rent increase or changes to the contract.
Once that period expires, tenants have 90 days left on their contract and it is no longer legal for a landlord to change any part of the contract, including the rent.
“In the eyes of the law, tenancy contracts in Dubai are considered rolling. As soon as you enter the 90-day period before the end of the contract, you could automatically sign the new contract at the original rent and details. When the landlord comes to you with a month left for the contract to expire, tenants don’t need to panic,” explains Young.
It works the other way round too. If the tenant wishes to amend any clause in the contract, s\he has to give the landlord a 90-day notice.
The most common disputes between landlords and tenants in Dubai are regarding rent increases and eviction. Rent increases in Dubai are calculated using the Rera rent calculator. It works on a sliding scale of valuation in an area, allowing for upto a maximum of a 20 per cent increase.
“The landlord and tenant both need to give each other a three-month notice regarding the rent or terms and conditions in the contract. Anything below that 90 days and it is not legal. A rent increase notification can be delivered by email, fax or letter. It has to be acknowledged,” says Young.
In case of eviction, a landlord needs to give the tenant a 12-month notice. It has to be sent via registered mail or through the courts. A landlord is allowed to evict his tenant on four grounds: for maintenance work, demolition, selling the unit or moving in for the landlord’s personal use.
“However, there are caveats attached to each condition. For example, if the landlord evicts the tenant and re-rents the unit, the tenant can sue the landlord for up to two years’ worth of rent plus expenses,” adds Young.
Heading to Rera
In case of a rental dispute, Property Rights will provide the tenant/landlord with contact numbers at the Dubai Land Department in Deira. If needed, the website can recommend lawyers too.
“The Rera is a people-friendly space. They don’t want lawyers to be involved since the process becomes expensive. For instance, in a dispute over a property that costs Dh100,000 to rent, it will cost you 3.5 per cent of your contract value to file a case. Hiring a lawyer will cost you another Dh5,000 to Dh10,000. I can also give them telephone numbers at Rera and other handy contacts to have,” he says.
The website currently has 500 subscribers, a figure that is constantly growing. It has signed partnerships with real estate agencies who will sign up to use the website and send information out to tenants and landlords.