Homefront: ‘Can my tenant alter the property without my permission?’

The developer has threatened to take legal action against the landlord if the property in Abu Dhabi is not restored to its original condition

The tenant living in Al Reef in Abu Dhabi has made alterations to the property without the landlord's permission and converted the premises into a salon, with advertising outside.  
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My husband and I live in Dubai. We have a property in Abu Dhabi, which we rent out. It has come to our attention that the current tenant has made internal alterations to the property and turned it into a commercial venture, complete with advertising outside.

He did not ask our permission to do this. He maintains he has all the correct paperwork from the municipality, which allows such changes to be made (and said something about women having the right to work from home).

The developer's representatives have spoken to him and told him it is not permitted. Long story short, the developer is now giving us, as landlords, two weeks to reinstate the house or they will take criminal and civil proceedings against us.

We wish to sell the property but assume that we will require some form of NoC from the developer, which I imagine will not be forthcoming given the circumstances.

As we are in Dubai, we cannot go to Abu Dhabi at the moment. Is there anyone you could recommend who might be able to advise us about our options, if any? SF, Dubai

As you know, any material alteration to a property has to be approved by the developer and actions such as this from your tenant are not allowed without permission. Presumably, your tenant is also in breach of the tenancy agreement, so will have to reinstate the property back as before.

The developer is only exercising their right. However, they are using strong-arm tactics to force your hand by giving you just a two-week time frame to reinstate the property as before.

My advice is to speak to the tenants and get them to return the property as it was given, explaining that despite their so-called municipality permission, they are in breach of the tenancy contract.

If they refuse, you will have to file a case at the rental dispute committee located on Defence Street, Abu Dhabi (800 2353) to force them to comply. In the meantime, you should inform the developer of your actions. It is clear that this will take time, so the two-week deadline is not realistic.

The key to this is clear and frequent communication. I’m sure you want your property back as it was, so make it clear to the developer that you’re both on the same side.

Any material alteration to a property has to be approved by the developer

With reference to the sale, you will need an NoC from the developer. However, given the current status, I suggest you sort out your internal issues first before going ahead and marketing your property. When all is back to normal and you have found a buyer, the NoC will be forthcoming.

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