Homefront: 'Can I break the lease on my town house if it is infested with rats?'

The Abu Dhabi resident says dozens of rats from a nearby construction site are nesting in her garden

(FILES) In this file photo taken on July 28, 2015 rats eat grains of puffed rice in Allahabad.  Like people, rats cooperate with one another and give food to those in need, but how can they be sure that other rats are being truthful about how hungry they are?
The answer may lie in smell-based cues that signal a rat's appetite more reliably than its begging gestures and squeaks, a study said March 24, 2020.
 / AFP / Sanjay Kanojia
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I rent a town house in Abu Dhabi and we recently re-signed our lease for another year. However, since re-signing, our back garden has become infested with rats from the construction site we border. It's a major health hazard with dozens, if not more, of the creatures invading our garden looking for places to nest. There are rat droppings everywhere.

We have approached the landlord, the community management and the owning company, and the most that has happened is that they've put out some poison. However, I believe it's too little, too late to stem the tide.

I have young children and I don't want them playing in rat droppings, but we have nine months left on our lease and we paid six months upfront. How can we break our lease and get our money back before my family gets sick? EB, Abu Dhabi 

Firstly, let me tackle your point of breaking the lease, you can only do so easily if there is a break clause in the tenancy agreement, otherwise you are at the discretion of the landlord.

Clearly you have a serious problem and one I hope your landlord takes seriously. When renting a property, a tenant has the right to quiet enjoyment of their unit in return for paying the rental money. It is clear in your situation, that you are not presently experiencing quiet enjoyment.

If you are not satisfied with the remedial efforts taken by the landlord or the representatives, you can use this as part of your negotiations to try to break the contract. If there is no break clause mentioned, remember that under the present laws, a landlord does not have to agree to the contract being broken but I would expect yours to be reasonable given the situation.

Despite the problem, there will most likely still be a penalty for leaving mid-contract and this is normally a couple of months' rent as compensation to the landlord. Assuming you really do believe that the problem cannot be eradicated, breaking the contract appears to be your only option, but in doing so it seems unfair to have to pay to leave.

I know you have involved the parties to help remove the vermin but have you also spoken to the Abu Dhabi Municipality? I’m sure they would act swiftly to eradicate the problem especially knowing your children could be affected.

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