Homefront: 'I've lost my job and cannot move out. How do I negotiate with my landlord?'

The Abu Dhabi resident says he cannot find a new home because of the Covid-19 stay-home measures

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 05 JANUARY 2020. Hazy and dusty weather building over the Abu Dhabi skyline on Al Maryah Island. (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: None. Section: National.
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I was meant to move out of my apartment and hand it back to the landlord on April 1, but due to the stay-at-home directives I was unable to find a new home to move into. It means I am now staying in the same place without renewing the contract. I do not have the money to pay the owner the same rental rate as before. If the owner asks me to pay extra money as a fine or has an issue with me not vacating or renewing the contract, who do I blame? I am a lower-to-middle income expatriate from India and this is a difficult challenge. AK, Abu Dhabi 

It is nobody’s fault that we find ourselves in this current situation where job security is a concern and countrywide stay-at-home measures are in place. There are, however, a few things that can still be done in your case.

Firstly, with the loss of your job, I’m sure you have already put out some feelers in the job market to see what other opportunities were available. My advice would be to continue to reach out by sending an up-to-date CV to prospective employers, even in this crisis. There are still some industries looking to hire, so be patient. Do not give up hope and, more importantly, keep at it.

Next, the right thing to do is to contact the owner and explain your position as this might ensure you get some relief against the rental payment. It is not that you will never pay your rent,  but going forward you do need some time to find another job. If your landlord could assist you in this regard, it would be of great help.

Another important point to note is that as an Abu Dhabi resident your landlord cannot evict you. Last month, the government ordered the Abu Dhabi Judicial Department to halt all rental property eviction cases currently in process amid the pandemic.

The government, along with the Central Bank of the UAE, has also set out a series of proposals to help individuals with personal debt such as loans. So, if the landlord has a mortgage, there is a strong possibility that a payment holiday or deferment against the mortgage payment could be arranged for him/her too. This way, no one person has to take the brunt of the hit.

If, however, you cannot come to a financial agreement with the landlord, there are still ways to look at a new rental property without leaving your house. Everything is possible online, from searching suitable units, which can be viewed via video walk-throughs and virtual tours, to signing a tenancy contract through online apps on your mobile.

Removal companies are still working and rental cheques can be given at a later date while the deposit amount can be sent via bank transfer. All that’s required is that the correct permits are applied for and issued, then you should be good to go.

While your situation is difficult, there is always a way forward to find a solution. What is really important here is not to stand still and do nothing.

Mario Volpi is the sales and leasing manager at Engel & Volkers. He has worked in the property sector in London and Dubai for more than 35 years 

The opinions expressed do not constitute legal advice and are provided for information only. Please send any questions to mario.volpi@engelvoelkers.com