Dubai landlord disappears with deposit - what can tenant do?

Mario Volpi advises a tenant who has spent nine months chasing the deposit - but the options are not full of hope.

The Jumeirah Lake Towers skyline in Dubai. A tenant is having trouble getting a deposit back from a landlord. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
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I signed a tenancy contract for an apartment in 2012. In addition to the rent, I paid the landlord a 5 per cent security deposit. Both were paid in cash as I didn't have a bank account or any cheques at the time. The contract was extended for another year and in 2014 I moved to another location. I handed over the apartment with all the bills settled and the state of the apartment was to the landlord's satisfaction (as confirmed by his agent). At the time communication with the landlord and agent was via email and phone. After handing over the apartment, I then tried to claim back my security deposit, but I have had no response. I have tried emailing the landlord and agent numerous times and have called the numbers we had utilised before to no avail. It has now been nine months and I am getting nowhere. What options do I have? AE, Dubai

You do not mention the amount in dirhams that you are claiming. While this may seem irrelevant at this stage, it will form a basis of what to do if all other avenues become dead ends. The first thing I would do is to go and speak to the agency. Presumably they are Rera-registered so a visit to their offices would be in order. Even if, let’s say, the actual agent has left the company, the agency still has a duty of care to assist you. The deposit would have been given to the landlord, but I stress that the agency is your first port of call. If you don’t get anywhere here, I would then go to Rera to see if it can advise further. The fact that the money is with a private individual (landlord) will mean that it may not be able to do much, but it is worth a try. The last option would be to speak to a lawyer to file a case, but this is why I was questioning the amount of your deposit because this route is expensive and time-consuming. So you may decide if all else fails to unfortunately write this sum off completely.

I own an apartment in JLT and the tenancy contract started on June 15 last year. At the time of signing, the tenant, who has lived there since June 2013, agreed he will vacate the property at the end of the contract this year and so we wrote this clause in addendum that the tenancy is non-renewable. He signed and we signed. He is now telling me he will not vacate the apartment. Do I have the legal upper hand here? If so, what should be done? Also, in the tenancy we agreed that Ejari is the responsibility of the tenant but he did not register the Ejari. Again, what do I do? WD, Dubai

Despite you and your tenant agreeing that this tenancy contract would be for one year only, putting a non-renewable clause in your agreement goes against law 33 of 2008. Your tenant does have the right of renewal irrespective of what has been agreed before or how long he has been your tenant. With regards to the Ejari, it is commonly known that the responsibility of registration lies with the landlord, but due to many absentee owners here in Dubai, it is also normal practice for a tenant to do the registration. In conclusion, it does not matter who does the Ejari but this is a legal requirement, therefore it needs to be done.

Could you confirm that we do not have to vacate after the 12-month notice period has ended if the owner has not yet sold the apartment? I have been told we need to vacate after the 12-month notice ends. SFK, Dubai

I have checked with a lawyer and the response is that if a property remains unsold during the 12-month notification to quit period, the tenant can stay on until the buyer is found. I am not sure why a landlord or agent would say you do have to vacate as the reason for your eviction in the first place has not actually happened, ie selling the property. If this was to be the case, then landlords all around the country would try to evict their tenants by saying they want to sell but actually do nothing about it, so when the tenant leaves they just rent out again to someone else at market rates. This is not what the law intends.

Mario Volpi is the managing director of Ocean View Real Estate and has worked in the industry in the emirate and in London for the past 30 years. Send any questions to

The advice provided in our columns does not constitute legal advice and is provided for information only. Readers are encouraged to seek appropriate independent legal advice.

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