Homefront: 'My Dh15,000 rental cheque will bounce as my work has dried up amid Covid-19'

The Dubai musician has informed the landlord and fears he may be arrested

The law related to bounced cheques changed in Dubai in 2017. Getty Images
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I have been out of work for three months due to Covid-19. I have asked my landlord, which is a company, to postpone cashing my quarterly cheque of Dh15,000, as I simply don’t have the income to pay it. I haven’t lost my job; I just haven't been working as a musician because of the movement restrictions.

The landlord says there is nothing they can do because the cheque is already with the bank and I have to give 30-days' notice to withdraw it. I am in panic mode now as I know I won't have the money this month to pay the next quarter. I will start work again next month and can pay it then, but for now I can only afford to pay on a monthly basis only. I'm afraid I'll be arrested or blacklisted if the cheque bounces. What options do I have? KS, Dubai

This pandemic has brought a lot of hardship for everyone, not least those who are renting. However, I do suggest that the best way to try to find a solution is to maintain good communication with the landlord.

When the landlord is a company, the process of agreement can take longer or indeed not happen at all, for fear of perhaps setting an unwanted precedent on the part of the landlord. This, coupled with the fact that the tenant may not be speaking directly to the landlord, only a representative, could also cloud issues in communication.

When the landlord is an individual, normally the tenant is speaking directly to him/her so it’s more likely to get the point across and have a greater chance of success.

With reference to the rental cheque, once the bank has it in its possession, it is hard to cancel it and of course you need to have a good reason.

Given that you are starting to earn again and have confirmed that you are not requesting a rent waiver, just a deferment, I really do not understand why any landlord would not go for that. Offering to pay in instalments is a solution that – while not ideal – shows willing on your part.

However, there is no reason to panic unnecessarily because if the cheque already lodged with the bank does indeed bounce, as might be the case, the scenarios are not as severe as before.

Firstly, the law changed in 2017 therefore bouncing a cheque in Dubai below Dh200,000 is no longer a criminal offence but it will attract a fine.

Any cheque up to Dh50,000 will attract a fine of Dh2,000; from Dh50,000 to Dh100,000, the fine is Dh5,000 and between Dh100,000 to Dh200,000, the fine is Dh10,000.

A bounced cheque can damage your credit score and affect you securing credit in the future. Fines will only apply if the landlord goes on to file a case with the police, who will obviously then investigate.

However, as stated before, I believe good clear communication with the landlord is the key. Set up a meeting to explain you will pay in instalments and will be able to get back on your feet in a few months. If the cheque cannot be recalled from the bank and the landlord knows it will bounce, hopefully the landlord will just accept this.

Time is running out but it seems to me that what you require is an arbitrator to get your point across to the landlord. You could speak to the Rental Dispute Settlement Committee to see what advice they could give but my experience tells me that they always initially request that both landlord and tenant try to sort out the differences mutually and amicably. Hopefully reason will prevail and you will get to speak to the right person at the management facilities company, who in turn can get directly in touch with the decision maker.

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