Homefront: 'I've lost my job and need to move out. Do I have to pay a rental penalty?'

The Dubai resident wants to vacate the apartment this month, six months before the tenancy expires

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES. 12 MAY 2020. Dubai residents exercise along the promenade in Dubai Marina (Photo: Antonie Robertson/The National) Journalist: None. Section: National.
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I live in an apartment in Dubai on a one-year contract, which is set to expire in December. However, I have lost my job due to coronavirus and my employment visa has already expired. I need to move out of the apartment this month as the rent is paid until June 30. I gave my landlord a vacation notification but I heard they will ask for two months' rent as a penalty. What should I do? I can't pay two months' rent as a fine. SK, Dubai

Any situation of hardship during this difficult period is regrettable but my first piece of advice is to check your contract thoroughly. If your contract allows you to break the agreement for whatever reason, there is normally a compensation to the landlord for doing so.

It appears from your email that the landlord is now exercising his rights to compensation for you breaking the contract. The fact you need to move out through no fault of your own is of no consequence to the landlord. It is common in today’s rental agreements to have a break clause but also to allow for a penalty to go to the landlord too.

Having said all of this, I can sympathise with you that money is now tight, so to try to mitigate your losses, you need to meet up with the landlord to come to some sort of arrangement. Perhaps if you can find another tenant to take over your contract, the landlord may be more accommodating about the penalty. Either way the landlord has every right to claim this sum. There really isn’t anything else you can do other than to try to tap into the compassionate side of the landlord and this might only be done if he is willing, flexible and understanding.

I am landlord of a villa and recently rented the property to a tenant a few weeks ago. I have now decided to occupy the property for my own personal use and I do not have any other place to live. I understand under Dubai law I must give the tenant a 12-month notice to vacate via notary public. Am I legally permitted to give this notice during the first year of tenancy, or am I required to wait until expiry of the initial one-year lease and serve the notice upon renewal of the lease for a second year? AA, Dubai 

A landlord is not permitted to serve a vacating notice on the tenant in the first year of the tenancy. If you wish to take possession of the villa for your own use or use of next of kin of first degree, you must send the 12-month vacating notice upon expiry of the tenancy agreement. The notice must be sent via notary public or registered mail. In reality, most notary public offices also send the notice via registered mail too.

You will then be able to take possession of the villa at the end of the second year term. It is important to note that the burden of proof is on the landlord to also prove that you do not own other suitable properties that could be used instead of the subject villa.

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