Homefront: ‘My apartment is very noisy. Can I vacate it without paying a penalty?’

Dubai tenant must check rental contract for clauses on early termination of lease before deciding to leave

One mature man trying to sleep covering his ears to avoid neighbour noise at home or hotel during the day.
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My family moved in to a new apartment in Dubai a month ago. The unit faces the road and the sound of traffic is bothering us. I haven’t had a good night’s sleep since and my baby cries all night because of the noise, which is worse in the evenings.

Can I cancel the contract and get another apartment without paying a penalty? BO, Dubai

I would initially ask you to look carefully at your tenancy agreement, especially at any clauses that pertain to cancelling the contract early and see what can be done. Secondly, I would request a meeting with the landlord, ideally in your apartment so they can experience the noise pollution first-hand that you are referring too.

Obviously, if there is a compensation clause for the landlord when breaking the contract early, this has to be adhered to. If this compensation is too much for you to pay, you can always explain that the apartment doesn’t fulfill your right to quiet enjoyment and that you only found this out when you moved in.

A tenant has the right to quiet enjoyment of a rented property and if this is the issue, technically you should be able to cancel without any penalties. Proving this point to the landlord will be challenging as obviously they will have another opinion.

If you cannot afford any penalty amount or you cannot get an agreement in order to move out without further losses, unfortunately your only other avenue would be to file a case with the rental dispute committee in Dubai. Of course, the cost to do so can be a prohibitive factor to consider but often a winning case gets awarded costs too.

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I read an article of yours dated July 31, 2019, titled ‘Homefront: Should Dubai tenants give 90 days’ notice before moving out?’ You have said that: “One very important point is that despite what the law states, the initial default position is what your tenancy contract actually states. If you have a clause within the agreement that says you should give a certain amount of notice (when not renewing), this needs to be adhered to.”

My tenancy contract states the following: “If the tenant wishes to vacate the subject of tenancy or wants to leave the town, he should officially inform the landlord and obtain his consent. If the tenant leaves without informing the landlord, the landlord has the right to open the premises in his capacity as the legal owner, and the tenant has no objection or claim in the future.”

I issued a vacating notice to my landlord and was seeking his acknowledgement, but instead he turned me down and said I have to pay a penalty of two months’ worth of annual rent since my contract expires on February 12, 2021.

Is my landlord right in doing this or should I just leave without him acknowledging my notice? I don't want any legal consequences for my decision. CG, Dubai

Quote
As long as you leave at the expiry of the contract and you depart in the proper way such as pay all outstanding utility bills and return the property as it was given to you, the landlord cannot enforce you to pay this penalty

I maintain what I mentioned before, that when not renewing, a tenant does not have to give two months’ notice unless the contract states so in order to leave the rented property. It is, of course, good practice to inform the owner and give them as much notice as possible as often landlords are not aware of this rule, so they will not be happy when tenants just move out at the end of their tenancy agreement.

Your contract states that you must inform the landlord and obtain consent to move out. This is not a reasonable clause as no tenant can be held to ransom like this. However, as long as you leave at the expiry of the contract and you depart in the proper way such as pay all outstanding utility bills and return the property as it was given to you, the landlord cannot enforce you to pay this penalty.

The landlord will, of course, not agree so your only recourse would be to file a case with the rental dispute committee in Dubai. This will obviously take a bit of time and attract a cost of 3.5 per cent of the rental amount to open the case. Given the circumstances, your case should be successful. Unless your contract states you have to give two months’ notice for not renewing, technically you can leave at the end of your contract.

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

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