UAE Property: ‘Should tenants pay service fees in residential buildings?'

A renter faces the risk of being denied access to building amenities and electricity in the unit she leases

It is illegal for the building management to cut off electricity to an apartment even if the landlord has not paid service charges. Getty Images
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I rent a property in a residential tower in Dubai. Since my landlord, who lives overseas, has not been paying service fees for the past few months, the home owners’ association is now threatening to cut off electricity to the apartment I live in. They also plan to deny me access to the building’s swimming pool and gym.

I have been paying rent to my landlord on time. It seems unfair that I have to bear the brunt of the landlord’s inaction.

My pleas to the landlord asking him to pay the dues have been in vain. What do you suggest I do? SG, Dubai

This issue is quite common in the UAE as many owners of rented properties live overseas. In this case, it is imperative that the parties maintain communication or, at the very least, also have a representative of the owner included.

As your predicament is left unanswered, the only suggestion I can offer is to use your rent to pay for the service charges.

I don’t know how you pay your rent but if your landlord has all your future rent cheques, I suggest you organise for the next payments to be made to the building management and inform the owner what you’re doing.

It’s important to stress that it is illegal for the building management to cut off your electricity, even if your landlord has not paid service charges.

But access to amenities is another issue and the home owners’ association can make life very difficult for you, for example, by not allowing you parking or pedestrian access to the building.

I suggest you have a meeting with the building management and, rather than asking the landlord, tell him what you will do.

You are entitled to quiet enjoyment in return for your rental money, but this is not being delivered to you because of the landlord’s situation. He needs to resolve the problem or else my only other suggestion would be for you to move out.

I am an overseas investor who is keen to buy a holiday home in the UAE. However, I am confused whether to buy a property in Dubai or Ras Al Khaimah because I have heard UAE residents frequently visit the latter emirate for weekend visits.

Is there more prospect for rental returns on a holiday home in RAK? Also, is there more scope for capital appreciation on a holiday home in that emirate since prices are cheaper there?

Can I manage the property myself or is it recommended to hand over management to a holiday home company? SC, UK

Buying in your favourite emirate is a personal choice. You are right that UAE residents do frequent RAK as a weekend getaway for staycations, but my advice to you would be based on the demographic you are targeting for the holiday home.

If you decide to buy in RAK, you will obviously attract the local UAE market, but you could be missing out on the wider visitor market, who most likely would prefer Dubai as their first choice.

RAK has positioned itself as a thrill-seekers’ paradise, with the world’s longest zip line and hiking opportunities at Al Hajar Mountains, along with hundreds of kilometres of beautiful beaches.

But Dubai also has a plethora of activities and things to do and the holiday home rental pool is much larger in Dubai than in RAK.

If it’s a question of cost, buying a property in RAK is obviously cheaper, but the rental returns could be less than Dubai.

As you are a non-resident, I would not recommend that you manage the property yourself, whether you end up buying in Dubai or RAK. Ensure you employ a management company to take care of day-to-day issues that would be impossible for you to deal with from overseas.

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

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