Homefront: In the doghouse because of another tenant’s pet

Mario Volpi addresses a tenant's concerns over the eviction of his pet Rottweiller.

We have lived in a villa/town house in Knowledge Village since January 2011. When we moved in, management understood we had a pet Rottweiler. The management stated they had no objection as long as there were no complaints against our pet. In January 2012, we re-signed our lease. This lease stated that pets were OK as per the manager's approval. There was no specific written approval, but again management knew we had a pet and stated no objection as long as there were no complaints. Then in October, (90 days prior to our lease ending) the management stated they were raising rent by 10 per cent. Nothing else was stated. We replied saying we intended to stay, but did not agree to the rent increase, per the 2009 rent decree. We personally met the management to agree terms, whereby they stated that pets were no longer allowed due to general complaints from tenants. We disputed this as our lease clearly stated pets were OK, and that they did not contact us in writing with a change of tenancy agreement. Today, while I was at work, the management knocked on our door and told my wife we had one week to remove our pet. They stated there was another Rottweiler in the compound that attacked a maid and they have since received complaints from tenants. They stated that seven villas in the compound must now remove their pets or face eviction. They stated our villa is actually a town house (with a common wall) and therefore as per Dubai Municipality, our pet is actually not allowed. What I understand from DM is that our breed is not allowed in apartments; otherwise other residences are permissible. Although we fully understand tenants' concerns regarding our breed, our dog is both friendly and has never left the premises even for a walk. What we do object to is the manner in which we are being forced to leave, under probable threat of forced removal of our pet, who has caused no harm. We will request to leave in due time – four to six weeks – and do not want any false accusations against our family pet. We are requesting some advice to allow us to relocate in a peaceful and timely manner. JM, Dubai

You appear to have two problems to deal with, one the requested rental increase and the other your pet. Let me tackle the rent issue first.

Your landlord has to abide by the rent decree no 2 of 2011 that clearly states if he is allowed to raise your rent or not. The only way to check is to go on to the Land Department website (dubailand.gov.ae), click on the Rera button and check what the Rera rent calculator states. For the landlord to demand a 10 per cent rental increase your existing rent should be 36 to 45 per cent less than the average rent for a similar property in the area. I do not believe this is the case, so the landlord would not be able to charge this increase at this time.

The situation with your pet is much more delicate and not so clear cut. Living in a villa you would think there should be no issues whether you have a pet or not, but when it comes to a compound with villas or town houses, sadly this is a different story as there are common parts shared by all the residents.

You have acted in a correct manner in your approach with the management of the compound, informing them about your pet and getting an agreement, albeit verbal, that allowed your dog to stay. The problem always lies out of your hands, ie with other people and the management can only act to remove pets if there are complaints. Sadly for you, the actions of another pet have now led to you being in the middle of this stressful situation.

I advise you to continue speaking with Dubai Municipality as, ultimately, it is they who decide who can stay or has to leave. If you do get special dispensation from DM then the management company should abide by the decision. I appreciate that you do understand about cultural differences when it comes to dogs, especially big ones like a Rottweiler. Ultimately it comes down to lack of knowledge on the part of the frightened person who tends to overreact when faced with a dog such as yours.

If you find that the DM are disinterested in your plight, then your only recourse is to unfortunately move out. But here stick to your guns: the minimum notice period should be four weeks.

Mario Volpi is the managing director of Prestige Real Estate in Dubai. He has 29 years’ of property industry experience in the emirate and London. Send any questions to mario@prestigedubai.com