Homefront: 'Do we have to pay for repairs and repainting when we vacate our flat?'

The Dubai resident says they left the apartment in better condition than when they moved in

The tenant is disputing the landlord's claim for repainting and repairing of their recently vacated flat in Dubai Marina. Pawan Singh / The National
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For the past seven years, we have lived in a prestigious apartment building in Dubai Marina. We did not renew our lease when it ended in mid-June. We cleaned the apartment from top to bottom, filled in all the holes made by picture nails, curtains and light fixtures and painted over these with paint of the same colour that we had retained from building maintenance. We scrubbed the floors and made sure everything was right. 

The building was not repainted during the seven years we were there. When we took possession of the apartment in June 2013, the leasing agent did not take photos of the apartment but there were paint stains on the floor from the previous tenant, who was an artist. We removed these. 

When we were moving out, however, the agent took close-up pictures of every little defect on the floor and sent it to the landlord. She also sent him an estimate of the cost of redoing the entire flooring – which is absurd.

Now the landlord is asking us to pay for repainting and floor repairs. We actually handed the flat back to his agent in better condition than when we received it. The landlord has stopped answering emails and clearly intends to keep the balance of the deposit. What is the best course of action here? SM, Dubai

This scenario is very common and can be resolved if both parties are prepared to compromise. In most cases, contracts state that at the end of the tenancy, the tenant will paint and clean the property. Landlords often expect to have the property back in the same condition as it was given to the tenant, which is why they paint and clean it at the start of a tenancy.

Some contracts also include fair wear-and-tear clauses, but I must admit that this is open to too many different interpretations. What is fair wear and tear to the tenant will almost always not be so in the eyes of the landlord and the differences can often lead to litigation.

I understand your frustration with the current agent taking detailed photos of the property to send to the landlord but she is only doing her job. It is possible that the landlord requested estimates for works to be done and, contrary to belief, not all agents are unprofessional.

If you truly believe that the intention of the landlord is not honourable when it comes to your deposit, I suggest you file a case at the Rental Dispute Settlement Committee in Dubai. While the law is not set on precedent, some judges have found in favour of tenants when it comes to the condition of the property at the time of vacating. I cannot give you a cast-iron guarantee of your outcome, but I would suggest you do open a case going forward.

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