Homefront: 'Can our landlord charge us for work he didn't do when we lived in the villa?'

The tenants, who moved out last month, say the landlord has compiled a maintenance list that costs the same as their Dh10,000 deposit

The former Dubai tenants were previously told by the landlord's agent they would not carry out any work because they were moving out. Charlotte Mayhew / The National 
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We vacated our villa on October 29, about a month before the end of the tenancy after being in the property for four years. During this time, the landlord was extremely reluctant to carry out maintenance and repairs on the villa, so it was no big surprise when he refused to refund our deposit.

The day after we moved out, the landlord’s management company sent a representative to the villa to conduct a survey on the property. His comment to my wife was that the condition of the villa was good and he expected us only to be charged for repainting. Then, on November 12, the management company sent over a list of maintenance works required on the villa, which came in at about Dh10,000. "Coincidentally", this is the same amount as our deposit, so the landlord has stated no refund will be made. I wrote back to the managing agents rejecting most of the items mentioned. My issue is across a number of areas:

• The majority of the items are "wear and tear", with many reported by us to the landlord months ago. At the time, the landlord’s representative wrote to tell me they would not be undertaking any maintenance on the property as we were moving out. He is now effectively charging us for the work he refused to do when we were in the property.

• A number of items on the list were repaired by the landlord’s contractors some time ago. The standard of the repair was poor, and again, the landlord is making us pay for repairs that were shoddily done when we were there.

• The biggest item on the list is for servicing the AC. This was never done by the landlord while we were in the property — and now they are looking for us to pay for something that should have been done by them. We actually paid out of our own pocket to have the AC serviced annually (including in May this year).

We rented the villa for Dh200,000 and left three weeks early. I did ask for the final contractual period to be prorated, this was refused, so the Landlord kept about Dh12,000 of our rent, in addition to the Dh10,000 deposit. We moved out on November 1, as I have relocated to Jersey, so my options to pursue a complaint are quite limited. The landlord knew we were leaving Dubai, and I have no doubt this has influenced his position. With no official deposit scheme in the UAE, it seems to be at the discretion of landlords to decide whether they should return a deposit. CH, Jersey

It is true the UAE does not have a regulated deposit scheme, so each tenant must go through their own process when attempting to get the money back. Precisely for the reason you are now experiencing, I believe it won’t be too long before a scheme to regulate the holding of tenant's deposits will come into play. In the meantime you unfortunately must go through your present scenario.

The main problem I see here is that as you are out of the country, you are limited to just sending emails and making calls which quite often go unanswered or are easily avoided. Bearing this in mind and in order to really ramp up the pressure, you need to decide to either take a trip to Dubai in person to sort this out or arrange a power-of-attorney to do it on your behalf.

I am a firm believer of having face-to-face meetings with the concerned parties to resolve issues, which can sometimes be just misunderstandings. Therefore, a personal meeting to highlight all your points would go a long way to finalise this.

I realise the cost implications of getting here will be a factor, bearing in mind your deposit amount but at the very least you ought to arrange a POA. If face-to-face meetings do not bring the desired effects, your only alternative is to file a case at the Rental Dispute Settlement Centre. This can also be done via the POA.

The fee to file a case at the RDSC is normally 3.5 per cent of the rental amount but for deposit disputes it is 3.5 per cent of the deposit amount. The end result can be relatively quick and should be resolved within approximately 30-60 days. Given how thorough your paperwork is, this will help should you decide to proceed to file a case.

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