Does landlord or tenant pay to repair leak in Dubai and Abu Dhabi property?

Mario Volpi advises a tenant who is having a problem with paying for maintenance to sort a water leak.

Mario Volpi advises Dubai and Abu Dhabi tenants on the latest property issues.  Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
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The ceiling in the foyer of my apartment has a leak. It has stained the ceiling brown and a patch of black mould has appeared over one of the water marks. My landlord told me to contact maintenance, which I did, but they require payment from me. This is a problem with his apartment, and which was not created by me, so I don’t believe that I should be made to pay for this. Is this the landlord’s responsibility or am I liable for the cost to address the leak and repair the ceiling? ND, Dubai

The arrangement in most tenancy addendums is that the minor maintenance is taken care of by the tenant and the major is the responsibility of the landlord. Typically, to differentiate what is major or minor, most contracts stipulate putting in a specific monetary figure, for example any repairs between say Dh500-Dh1000 could be classed as minor or any amount over this as major. Consider what sort of relationship you have with your landlord. If it is a good one, then after getting an estimate from the maintenance company you will be able to see who is likely to be responsible. If your relationship is cordial, then initially paying the amount (if it’s the responsibility of the landlord) could speed up the repair and then claiming it back from him should hopefully not be a problem. If, however, you are not prepared to make the initial payment then you will have to convince him it is his responsibility, as the landlord, to keep up with the maintenance. This situation is fairly common but I stress that having a major/minor maintenance clause in the contract eliminates the inevitable arguments that often ensue.

I have a friend that has a Dubai real estate license (RERA) and he’s never done anything with it. He now wants to set up a real estate firm and commence trading. In your experience do you think now is a good time to do this? I know the real estate market is somewhat oversaturated in Dubai by thousands of brokers and real estate companies. I for one think it could be a none starter - unless he focuses on a niche market. AJ, Dubai

It is true that Dubai has, in my opinion, too many agents trading. At the real estate brokers summit held the day before Cityscape Global this year, I hosted Ali Abdullah Al Ali from the Land Department who confirmed there are currently 7,515 individual registered brokers in Dubai this year and 3,990 registered broker companies. As stated, this, in my opinion, is too many for the size of the Dubai population especially when you consider the other brokers trying to work the market that are not registered. Whether this is a good time to start a real estate brokerage business or not, will depend on your friends’ willingness to succeed and therefore the time and effort he will put into the business. The cost of running an agency will mount up dramatically as the competition can sometimes be overbearing. That said, I agree that if he specialises and is 100 per cent committed, there may be no problem starting this kind of business. The market is presently slow in terms of transactions so this will not obviously help a new company to take off quickly, as it does take time to establish. However, if he opens up now, by the time the market does return to normality he should be in a better trading position.

My landlord sent a 12-month notice that he is planning to sell the property and I have to leave in December. I believe he wants to kick me out and rent again with a higher rate since my contract is relatively low. Is there any proof I can ask for before I vacate the property or I must vacate and then submit a complaint? OP, Dubai

If your landlord is issuing you this 12 months eviction notice, it has to be served upon expiry of your tenancy agreement (according to Law 33 of 2008) and then it has to be delivered either via notary public or registered mail. If he does serve you the notice correctly and a sale does subsequently occur, then you are entitled to see the sales contract (Form F or memorandum of understanding), which will confirm that the property has indeed been sold. The law is silent as to whether you can stay on beyond the 12 months if the property remains unsold during this period. If your landlord insists on you moving out at 12 months even if the property remains unsold, your only route would be to file a case at the rental committee if you wish to stay in the property until it actually is.

Mario Volpi is a real estate professional who has worked within the industry for the past 31 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