Homefront: ‘Do I have to pay a two-month penalty for vacating early?’

The Dubai resident lost his job and gave his landlord three months’ notice that he will move out

Dubai's Sheikh Zayed road is deserted during a curfew imposed by the authorities in a bid to slow down the spread of the novel coronavirus in the Emirati city on April 5, 2020.  Last night, Dubai, one of the seven emirates making up the UAE, announced a two-week lockdown in which it will carry out tests in densely populated areas. / AFP / KARIM SAHIB
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I recently lost my job and in the current situation, it is not easy to get another job. I would like to vacate my current flat and have given my landlord three months' notice. My landlord is still saying that I have to pay him two months' rent as penalty. Is this correct? What does the law say? AH, Dubai

I sympathise with your specific situation and would suggest the following. I would urge you to read what your contract states for this particular situation. In the past, tenancy agreements didn’t have any break clauses written into them, so tenants were at the mercy of landlords who, at that time, had every right to hold on to the full rent should the tenant wish to vacate early. Nowadays, contracts are more balanced as the threat of having to break a tenancy agreement, especially due to a job loss, is all too common. I assume therefore that your contract does have a break clause in it and as such, the penalty or consequence is mentioned.

The common practice is (as your landlord mentions), a two-month penalty. This is in place to compensate the landlord for the time the flat may be vacant after you move out and before finding a new tenant. In this current climate, three months may not be enough time to find another tenant – especially not at the same rent you are currently paying, I would imagine.

Having said all of this and given today’s difficult situation, I suggest you speak to the landlord again so you can clearly explain your situation to him and try to come to some other arrangement that is not so hard on you. Perhaps you can offer to find another tenant yourself and/or be very accommodating when it comes to viewings or agree on one month’s rent as a penalty rather than two.

Your situation is nobody’s fault so hopefully a more personal conversation could help to get your landlord to see your point of view.

Regardless of whether your contract has a break clause or not, if you both still do not agree on terms going forward, the only way to resolve it would be to file a case at the Rental Dispute Settlement Centre. I would like to point out, however, that during this difficult time, the RDSC would likely urge the parties to try to sort out their differences themselves before filing any cases.

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