Homefront: ‘Is it legal to tell the building watchman that we are ending our lease?'

Dubai tenant and his family were prevented from vacating their rental unit after failing to inform the landlord in person

We plan to vacate our rental apartment by the end of this month. As this is the first time we are renting an apartment, we failed to notify the landlord personally about not intending to renew our lease.

However, we’ve been informing the building watchman about our intention to not extend our stay since July this year. We assumed this notice would be sufficient.

We decided to move to a new place with our aunt so we can share the rent. However, the watchman stopped us from leaving and said we should have informed the landlord.

While we understand the situation now and accept our mistake, we wonder why the watchman did not inform us about the right way to serve notice earlier.

We have only met the owner twice since we moved into the building two years ago. In case of any issues in the apartment, we always communicated with the watchman, who would usually relay the information to the landlord on our behalf.

We used a real estate agent to sign the apartment lease and even he failed to inform us about these policies. Our rental contract also does not state this anywhere.

Now, the owner is asking us to either pay the full year’s rent and leave or find a replacement tenant. We do not have the money to pay for a full year’s rent. What do we do? JD, Dubai

You should read your contract to see what it states when it comes to renewing or not renewing the tenancy agreement.

You made an innocent mistake by assuming that it was sufficient to inform the building watchman about not renewing the lease.

There is one important point to remember. Law 33 of 2008 amended some parts of law 26 of 2007, which governs the relationship between landlords and tenants.

You have to abide by the clauses in your contract. But understand that the former law did away with the need for a tenant to inform the landlord of contract non-renewal.

Law 33 of 2008 did away with the need for a tenant to inform the landlord of contract non-renewal
Mario Volpi, sales and leasing manager, Engel & Volkers

This means that you only have to technically inform your landlord 90 days before lease expiry if you wish to renew the rent agreement. This is because the tenancy agreement has a start and end date.

Since your landlord is asking you to vacate the apartment, I would advise you to file a case at the Rental Dispute Settlement Committee.

A judge will then decide on the outcome after considering your circumstances. It will cost 3.5 per cent of the rental amount to file a case but often the judge will award costs to any winning case.

Mario Volpi is the sales and leasing manager at Engel & Volkers. He has worked in the property sector for more than 35 years in London and Dubai. The opinions expressed do not constitute legal advice and are provided for information only. Please send any questions to mario.volpi@engelvoelkers.com

Updated: October 14th 2021, 4:00 AM