Homefront: 'Can my landlord charge for items that were broken when I moved in?'

The Dubai resident will have the repair costs deducted from her rental deposit when she moves out

One of the damaged items is a broken tap that has been faulty since the tenant moved in. Getty Images
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I moved into an apartment five years ago and it was far from flawless. The property certainly had a life before I moved in, for example a part of a handle was missing on a tap. However, as a tenant I expect to find these kinds of things when it is not a brand new flat. As long as it allowed me to function I did not feel the need to raise red flags to the landlord. Now five years have passed and it is time for me to move out. I took good care of the property during my tenancy, but issues such as the broken tap remained the same during my entire stay. Then the landlord's appointed agent, who does a very diligent move-out report, accused me of many of the imperfections I have put up with in the property. These were all there before I moved in, yet the agent wants to use my deposit to repair the issues; this includes changing the whole tap unit. The contract mentions that everything has to be returned as per the move in/inventory form, but in reality there is no such a thing. So, whose responsibility was it to produce this form when I moved in? Is the agent allowed to charge me without any point of reference? RP, Dubai 

Your dilemma is a common problem because of the exact situation you find yourself in. A professional agent or landlord should insist on having a proper check-in carried out that is documented —preferably with photographic evidence — and coupled with a condition report. This was clearly not done for you when you moved in. Now you have a problem trying to convince the agent that you are in fact returning the property as it was given to you in the first place.

If you do not have any proof that this tap (among other issues) was faulty at the start of your tenancy, unfortunately you will be lumbered with its repair now that you want to leave. Your problem is compounded because you have never made reference to its fault before, so naturally the agent will think it was perfectly fine at the start of the tenancy. There is little you can do now because the landlord holds your deposit and, as he has ownership of this, he will deduct any costs before returning the rest.

You could file a case at the Rental Dispute Settlement Centre but you need to weigh up the cost of filing the case against any specific loss.

Regrettably,  I think you have to swallow this cost but as a warning to you and any other potential tenants reading this, I always recommend a condition report is carried out. At the very least, photos of any problems need to be taken and then sent to the landlord as proof of condition or state of the property at the beginning of a rental agreement. This way there will be no unfair blame for faulty items that were not the tenant's responsibility to repair when finishing a rental agreement.

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