UAE property: ‘Can a tenant sublet a flat without the landlord’s consent?’

Subleasing is only allowed if the landlord is aware of it and has expressly given his consent

If a tenant is subletting without the landlord's consent, the latter can file a case against them for not abiding by terms of the contract. Getty
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I will be buying a property soon and will inherit a contract with an existing tenant.

The tenancy is valid until February 2023. However, the current owner has given 12 months’ notice (for the reason of selling), effective from May 2022 to May 2023. Therefore, the tenant must move out by May 2023.

However, the tenant has been breaching the terms of the contract by renting out the apartment on Airbnb. Although he claims to have a Dubai Tourism licence to do so, the tenancy contract contains a clause that does not permit subletting.

Do I need to make a new contract with the tenant or will the existing contract (with the old owner) be sufficient?

Also, do I inherit the notice period served by the previous owner or do I need to give a new notice period? If I need to give notice from my end, do I hand out the notice together with the new tenancy contract?

If the tenant continues to breach the contract, how do I open a case against him? I want to ensure I take the right steps from the beginning to mitigate legal issues and achieve my goal of terminating the tenancy. MP, Dubai

Given you have bought a property with a tenant in situ, the existing tenancy agreement has to be respected, including the current terms and conditions.

You can, however, draw up a replacement contract, including your details as the landlord. You can also make changes to an existing contract provided they are communicated to all parties (in writing), giving 90 days’ notice from the date of renewal.

Rental increase changes have to abide by the Real Estate Regulatory Agency’s rental calculator and be agreed on by all parties.

With reference to the original notice given by your seller to his tenant, you can use this as leverage against the tenant. However, if he contests this at the Rental Dispute Settlement Committee (RDSC), the presiding judge will decide either to uphold it or request that you send your own 12 months’ notice.

The reason for this is that the law in the UAE is not set on precedent. It is only up to the judge at the time of any specific hearing to decide on the outcome. If you serve your own notice, it can be given together with the new contract.

Some judges at the RDSC allow 12-month eviction notices to be served at any time, even though the law (33 of 2008) states that it should be served upon expiry of the existing tenancy agreement.

In all rental contracts, subleasing is only allowed if the landlord is aware of it and has expressly agreed to the tenant doing so.

If the current tenant is subletting without your consent, you can file a case against him, which should fulfil your wish to terminate the contract.

Please visit the RDSC, which is at the Dubai Land Department building on Sir Baniyas street in Deira, for more information.

I shifted to Dubai last year and rented a house six months ago. I spent a good amount of money on landscaping, buying furniture and the broker commission.

Last week, I received a call from the broker that the owner wishes to sell the property and I need to vacate the unit by the end of the lease. This came as a shock to me as I was not prepared for a sudden disruption.

What are my rights in this case as I do not want the hassle of shifting and resettling the house again? We decided to rent this house after considering its proximity to my children’s school and my office, among other reasons. AB, Dubai

Firstly, a broker or the landlord’s representative cannot verbally notify a tenant that they need to vacate their rented property.

Your landlord is entitled to gain possession of their property, but only for the following four reasons:

  1. If they wish to sell the unit;
  2. If they wish to claim back the property for theirown use or use by next of kin of the first degree;
  3. For reasons of extensive modernisation;
  4. For the reason of demolition.

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In all these cases, the landlord has to issue you 12 months’ notice either through notary public or registered mail. Only this form of communication for one of the reasons above will allow a landlord to evict a tenant.

Even if the landlord wants to sell, your rights as the tenant remain the same, so your contract can continue even if the property is sold.

If the new buyer is an investor, presumably they will want to keep you on as a tenant. But if the buyer is an end-user and you wish to remain in the property, you can file a case at the RDSC.

It is possible that the judge may request the new buyer to serve you with their own 12 months’ notice. This could prolong your stay, by which time you could look for another suitable property to move to.

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: July 28, 2022, 4:00 AM
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