Homefront: 'Can I get a copy of my title deed if I haven't paid my service charge?'

The property owner stopped paying the fee in 2017 when his developer doubled it

Abu Dhabi, UAE - April 7, 2010 - View of Abu Dhabi skyline from the top of a man made sand dune on Lulu Island. The Island will be transformed into a multi-use island community by Surouh Real Estate. (Nicole Hill / The National)
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I purchased my property in Abu Dhabi in 2014 and paid my service charge regularly until 2017. Then the developer decided to double the charge for no reason, before backing down because several owners complained to Abu Dhabi Municipality (ADM). 

Can my developer legally stop me from obtaining my title deed pending the payment of the outstanding charges? This is in light of the fact  the developer does not have its service charge approved by ADM. It also does not comply with the details of the Abu Dhabi Real Estate Law that requires developers not to make a profit from service charges, and to provide clear details of how the money is spent. The law also prohibits the demand of a single lump-sum payment for the annual service charge. From my research, there is nothing in the law that allows the developer to stop the issuance of my title deed without payment of the service charge. I want your thoughts on this before I decide whether to take this matter to a civil court. MS, Abu Dhabi 

To collect your title deed you do have to first obtain a no objection certificate from the developer. Therefore, you will have to pay off any outstanding service charges before being able to collect this document.

Please remember that the Abu Dhabi Municipality will charge 2 per cent of the purchase price in order to register your title deed. This fee has been in effect since December 1 2018. If you have paid the service charges and have documentation confirming this payment, then the developer cannot stop you from obtaining the title deed.

Can you confirm that Law 33 of 2008 has replaced Law 26 of 2007, which means Dubai tenants no longer need to give notice that they are moving out at the end of their one-year contract? CW, Dubai

Law 33 of 2008 has not replaced Law 26 of 2007, it has merely amended some of its parts. In the amended law, it did away with the need to give 90 days' notice to the landlord for non-renewal. I stress, however, that you or anyone else should adhere to the tenancy contract and/or addendum signed by you and the landlord, This agreement will give you instructions as to what to do in the event of non-renewal. If there is no clause outlining the non-renewal, you can refer to the amended law.

Please note that most landlords believe the 90-day notice for non-renewal is still in place, so there will be resistance if this has not been adhered to. Landlords need as much notice as possible to find a new tenant, in the event the current incumbent is not renewing.

Remember too that landlords hold your deposit and potentially could use this against you if they feel you have "broken the contract". Getting the deposit back can generally be a major headache for tenants, that said, please ensure clear and timely communication with your landlord regarding all things within the tenancy contract.

Mario Volpi is the sales and leasing manager at Engel & Volkers. He has worked in the property sector for 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