We lived in a three-bedroom Arabian Ranches villa for three years which we rented from an agent. Before moving in, we fixed all four AC units and cleaned them at our own cost. The landlord had not paid the community service fees for two years before we moved in. We took good care of the property and paid Dh170,000 in rent during our first two years and Dh150,000 in our third year in either in one or two cheques. As the prices came down further this year, we wanted to negotiate starting a conversation with the landlord on WhatsApp in May, but he refused our offer of Dh135,000. As similar units are going even below our offer price, we decided to end our contract and move out. When I informed the landlord about our decision, he stated that we had breached the contract and the Dubai law by not informing him two months prior to the end of contract and he refused to refund our security deposit of Dh8,500. We actually wanted to stay another year but because we could not agree on a fair price we had no other option but to vacate. We moved out at the end of May and had it painted and cleaned. I informed the landlord about this, sent him pictures and asked him to come and inspect it. I am keeping the villa’s keys and will hand these over if the security deposit is returned. I guess we need to file a case with the Real Estate Regulatory Agency. What is your opinion? Should we keep the keys or leave the property open? The landlord never visited the villa in the three years we lived there, yet he is complaining about the status of the carport, which is a bit dusty. GE, Dubai
Law 26 of 2007, that governs the relationships between landlords and tenants, was amended by Law 33 of 2008. This did away with the need for tenants to give any notice for non renewal. You are therefore not actually breaking any law by not giving the two months notice. If you have now moved out of the property, you do need to return the keys. I understand why you would want to keep them, in order to guarantee the cleaning and painting, but keeping the keys as security for your deposit is not allowed.
With reference to any maintenance issues, the industry standard is that major maintenance is the responsibility of the landlord and minor on the tenant. The definition of major is any single expenditure of over Dh500.
To bring this dispute to a satisfactory conclusion, I recommend going to the rent dispute settlement committee (RDSC) but please remember that to file a case it costs 3.5 per of the rental amount. The steps you need to take are:
• Prepare all the required documents including Ejari, title deed, personal identification and others as detailed in the Dubai Land Department website. Legal translation will be needed for documents that are not in Arabic. Submit the application to the DLD office in Deira and pay the fees accordingly.
• As for the incurred fees for the refund of the security deposit, tenants will have to pay 3.5 per cent of the rental amount, with a minimum amount of Dh500 and not exceeding Dh20,000.
• The claim for the security deposit refund will be decided within seven to 15 days from the date of its presentation to a judge.
• In addition, the "Smart Judge" application may be used to assist the complainant with identifying the expected judgement and all the documents that will be required prior to the commencement of the litigation.
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Mario Volpi is the sales and leasing manager at Engel & Volkers. He has worked in the property sector for 34 years in London and Dubai.
The opinions expressed do not constitute legal advice and are provided for information only. Please send any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org