Homefront: 'Can we stay to the end of our contract even if we terminated early?'

The Dubai family do not want to vacate the apartment after struggling to find somewhere new to live

This picture taken on February 1, 2020 shows a view from La Mer North marina in Dubai, with the Burj Khalifa and the Dubai skyline seen in the background. (Photo by KARIM SAHIB / AFP)

In June 2018, I moved into an apartment with my wife and three children. Our landlord at the time had a management company overseeing the property. The apartment had not been painted and cabinets, toilets and the AC system were damaged. As far as the management company was concerned, the property was ready to move in, so we had to delay our move while we painted and decorated the apartment and fixed all the issues. The management company did not accept responsibility.

A year after we moved in, the property was sold and we had a new landlord. We contacted them to introduce ourselves, and they asked us to move out. We replied saying we had already told the management company we wished to renew. They then served us a one-year termination notice ordering us to leave at the end of tenancy so that they could move in.

After a few months, we started to have maintenance issues again. When we contacted the management company they said we need to fix the issue ourselves. They got separate quotations for multiple repairs and made sure each job cost less than Dh500 so that we had to pay as per our tenancy contract. However, the issues often happened together and collectively the cost would have been over Dh500.

<em>We still keep receiving threatening WhatsApp messages and emails from the management company telling us to move out. </em>

It became such an uncomfortable situation, particularly when our beach access was not paid and we could not access the beach from January 1. We notified the landlord and management company and kindly requested them to make sure it was paid on time. The management company replied with a WhatsApp message saying the "landlord will see".

As we were being treated unfairly we handed in a two-month early termination notice in December. However in January we couldn't find anywhere else to live and told the landlord that our circumstances had changed and we could not move out until our tenancy ended in June. 

On January 22, the management company sent us a WhatsApp message saying the landlord was going to sue us for short-term accommodation damages if we did not move out by February 16.

We explained we could no longer move out and said they needed to pay for the beach access. They said they would compensate us approximately Dh1,500. Our response was that due to their negligence we had to pay Dh11,000 for beach access, Dh100 a day for five people over 22 days. On the 23rd day, the beach access was paid. 

We still keep receiving threatening WhatsApp messages and emails from the management company telling us to move out. We contacted the Real Estate Regulatory Agency who said if the landlord still has our cheques and if we informed them of our intention to stay, then we are within our rights to stay. So, can we stay until the end of the tenancy in June? HM, Dubai 

Threatening messages like these can often disrupt the quiet enjoyment of your rental property. If, however, the new landlord has served you a legitimate 12-month notice to vacate for reason of moving in himself, or his next of kin of first degree, then you have to abide by this. There is one burden on the new landlord and that is that he has to prove he doesn’t own another suitable property he could move into instead.

I’m not sure what the landlord meant when he said he was going to sue you for "short-term accommodation damages" as you have a legitimate long-term tenancy contract. With reference to the maintenance, it is true that most contracts do state major maintenance expenses are the landlord's responsibility with minor expenses costing less than Dh500 taken care of by the tenant. However, fairness also has to come into play and it is evident that this landlord is not being decent when individualising items in order to keep the cost below Dh500.

I agree with the information you have received from Rera given that you had informed the landlord of your change of circumstances and the rent is paid up to date. Therefore, it is your right to stay on at least until the tenancy expires.

As in all of these situations, it is important that good communications are maintained and this hopefully will lead to a cordial business relationship with the landlord. Circumstances can change and as long as these are communicated in a timely manner in theory all should be OK.

Where there is a rental disagreement with no mutual solutions agreed, the only way to resolve them is to speak to the Rental Dispute Settlement Committee who will make the final decision going forward.

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