Homefront: 'Can my landlord take my passport as a guarantee to settle final bills?'

Under UAE law, it is illegal for a landlord to retain a person's passport

My tenancy contract expired and I did not renew the lease. However, the landlord will not give me the clearance letter to move out. He wants me to give him Dh4,000 as a guarantee that I will cancel all services, including electricity and water. He is also charging me daily rent plus seven days and has taken my passport as a guarantee that I will not leave the country. Can he do this? MB, Sharjah

Obtaining a clearance letter from a landlord is a common practice when moving out of a property.

As you are not renewing your tenancy agreement, my advice would be to go ahead and cancel your electricity or water connections and pay your final bills. This way, there is no need for any extra money to change hands between you or the landlord.

Some landlords use the security deposit to clear unpaid utility bills after a tenant has already vacated the premises.

Charging you the extra rent is the landlord’s way of bullying you to accept his terms, which I feel is over the top. To avoid this, close your utility accounts and settle the final bill as soon as possible to avoid paying the Dh4,000 guarantee. It is illegal under UAE law for the landlord to take your passport.

In 2002, the Ministry of Interior issued Decree 267, which states: “As the passport is a personal document and as the law obliges its owner to keep and show [it] when required by the government authorities, it is not allowed for any party to detain the passport except by the official parties with a judicial order and according to the law. Consequently, it will be considered as an illegal action to detain the passport in UAE except by the government parties.”

If you feel you have done all you can but still face issues with the landlord, you can file a case with the Rental Regulation Department within Sharjah Municipality. For more information, visit www.shjmun.gov.ae or call 06 562 3333.

After my new landlord bought the villa I am living in earlier this year, the rental contract was transferred to his name. Three months before tenancy renewal, he requested to increase the rent for the next year, which is fair as under the Real Estate Regulatory Agency’s Rental Calculator.

However, once I renewed the contract, the landlord sent me a notary letter requesting that I leave the premises 12 months from the date of renewal because he wants to sell the property.

I know that this is correct under the law but I have a feeling that he is evicting me so he can rent out the property for a higher value. Is there a way to block him from renting the villa under his name until the unit is sold, so only the new buyer can rent it out?

I understand that if he claimed to be moving into the property, I could legally raise a complaint with the Rental Dispute Settlement Committee to block him from renting it for two years. Does the same law apply to landlords claiming they plan to sell the property? ER, Dubai

A landlord has the right to evict a tenant if they give them 12 months' written notice via registered mail or notary public. Selling a property is one of the legitimate reasons for an eviction notice.

The residential property market is currently very buoyant, so if he is selling the villa at today’s market rate, it probably will not take 12 months to sell.

If you feel you have done all you can but still face issues with the landlord, you can file a case with the Rental Regulation Department within Sharjah Municipality
Mario Volpi

You will, therefore, potentially know who your future landlord will be long before you have to vacate. If, by chance, you do move out and subsequently discover that the landlord did re-let the villa to another tenant, you will be entitled to compensation.

If this happens, I suggest you file a case with the Rental Dispute Settlement Committee in Deira once you have the information or proof.

The law is there to protect tenants from rogue landlords, so if a reason to evict is to sell, the landlord cannot lease it out to someone else if you were asked to vacate the property because it was being sold.

The law is obviously more complicated than this but it should give you some comfort as to what you can do going forward.

Updated: September 2nd 2021, 4:30 AM