UAE Property: ‘Can the broker keep my deposit if I didn’t sign the lease?’

The tenant changed his mind about leasing after the agent quoted inflated charges

The typical agency commission should be 5 per cent of the rent plus VAT, while some companies charge a minimum fee of Dh5,000 plus VAT if the rent is less than Dh100,000. Reem Mohammed / The National
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Question: I found an apartment to rent in Dubai through an agent who had listed the property on a portal.

The day I viewed the apartment, it was listed for rent for an annual Dh84,999 ($23,140). After a few hours, the agent called me again and said the rent had increased to Dh88,000 per year.

He was also pushing me to pay Dh4,000 as a security deposit, an agency commission of Dh8,600, agent fee of Dh1,000, admin fee of Dh1,000, two cheques for Dh44,000 and Dh2,350 to register Ejari.

Although I gave my security deposit, two days later, I changed my mind and asked for a refund since I didn’t want to take the apartment owing to the charges.

Although the agent initially said the deposit was refundable, eight days after I paid the money, the agent now says the amount is already with the landlord.

I talked to the owner of the agency who said the deposit is not refundable. He added that if I need my money back, I’d have to pay the agent a commission at least Dh2,000 to Dh3,000 even though I didn't sign the tenancy contract.

I know the agency is lying and the money is still with them. I have a receipt of the security deposit.

I feel this is unfair. The apartment has not been reserved for me because the agency is still posting the property advertisement.

I borrowed money on my credit card to pay the deposit. Do I have the right to get my money back without signing the tenancy contract? MM, Dubai

Answer: Inform the owner of the agency that unless they cancel the contract and return the deposit, you will speak to the Dubai Land Department to explain how you have been treated, in the hope they will contact them to help you sort it out.

You say that they confirmed the deposit was refundable at the time of paying it, but if it was said to you verbally only and not in writing, such as on a WhatsApp message, unfortunately at this point it’s your word against theirs.

I have to state glaring issues in the table of costs, as I have several questions. Firstly, the agency commission should be 5 per cent of the rent plus VAT, while some companies charge a minimum fee of Dh5,000 plus VAT if the rent is less than Dh100,000.

As you can see, the fee should be between Dh4,400+VAT or Dh5,000+VAT, not Dh8,600.

Also, what are the Dh1,000 agent fee and the Dh1,000 admin fee for? These two charges are just an excuse to overcharge again.

The Ejari fee should be approximately Dh220, not Dh2,350, again a blatant overcharge.

For these reasons, I would speak to the DLD in order to get the agency to see sense and cancel the deal. If you didn’t sign a contract, there is no deal.

Q: My contract ended on November 4. I didn’t hear from my landlord 90 days before lease expiry and I emailed 60 him days before to say that I’m staying with the same conditions. I haven’t heard anything from him.

I filed an offer and deposit in late October right before my lease was to expire.

At the end of January, I emailed him asking for an update. He sent me an eviction notice (which he claims he sent last year, but I never received it) to leave in July 2024 and a new contract with an increase and ending in July 2024.

The eviction letter doesn’t show 12 months on the fine print, and he sent it by email, not registered mail.

After I emailed him to inform that I don’t agree with this, he never reached out again.

I’ve been to the Ejari office and the Rental Dispute Settlement Committee and they tell me to file another offer and deposit and wait to see if the landlord sues me or opens a case against me.

They said a judge will be in my favour, but how can I be sure? SH, Dubai

A: The advice you’ve been given is all correct. While I understand you need some comfort as to the likely outcome from a judge, you need to know that the law is not set on precedent, and it is entirely up to the presiding judge of the day to decide what the likely outcome is.

Having said this, I can be quietly confident that due to your landlord not adhering to the correct procedures in the timings and how to send an eviction notice lawfully, you should be fine as to the judge siding with you.

I stress this is just my opinion and is based on the information you have stated in your email.

Mario Volpi is head of brokerage at Novvi Properties and has worked in the property sector for 40 years in London and Dubai. The opinions expressed do not constitute legal advice and are provided for information only. Please send any questions to

Updated: May 02, 2024, 4:00 AM