Homefront: ‘My ex-wife refuses to move out of the property I rent. What are my rights?’

Send a notification via registered mail informing her that she has 30 days to vacate as the owner wishes to re-let the unit

Eviction notice being delivered. Getty Images
Beta V.1.0 - Powered by automated translation

I’m facing an issue involving my ex-wife. We had rented an apartment when we were married. After the divorce, she asked if she could stay in the apartment until the lease ends. The contract is under my name. She was supposed to move out last month but now refuses to.

She doesn’t answer my calls and also doesn’t live in the apartment anymore. However, she changed the locks and keeps her belongings there, so I can’t vacate the property and am still paying the rent. I’m afraid to break into the apartment because she might blame me for stealing her belongings.

What can I do in this situation? MV, Dubai

The obvious question is have you informed the landlord of your current predicament?

If not, I suggest you do the following: inform the landlord that due to the current situation, you will have to terminate the contract and stop paying the rent. Please check the agreement because there might be some form of penalty for breaking the contract without serving proper notice. I hope the landlord will be sympathetic to your case.

Secondly, and with the landlord’s help, send a notification via registered mail to your ex-wife, informing her that she has 30 days to remove her belongings as the owner wishes to re-let the unit.

No tenant can legally stay in a rental property without paying rent, therefore, if you properly terminate the agreement by mutual consent with the landlord, she will have to vacate. If, however, she continues to occupy the unit after this 30-day notice has elapsed, the owner will have no alternative but to file a complaint at the Rental Dispute Settlement Committee to evict her.

You are right that you cannot just go in and remove her belongings without her permission. This is why I would suggest posting a notary-approved notice on the apartment door and serving a 30-day timeframe to vacate should be legally sufficient.

Once this time has elapsed, you can then legally go and change the locks and remove the items, but make sure this is witnessed so that your ex-wife cannot say you stole anything. Obviously, you will have to store them somewhere else, but at least the landlord will get his apartment back and you can stop paying rent on a property you don’t live in.

Posting a notary-approved notice on the apartment door and a serving a 30-day timeframe to vacate should be legally sufficient

I vacated my old apartment on December 4 and received an email that confirmed I will receive my security deposit of Dh1,568. The rental contract states that I should receive this amount within 30 days of handing over the apartment.

The property management company was ruthless in handling customers during the pandemic: they demanded all payments on time regardless of the circumstance and levied charges of Dh50 per day for postponing a cheque payment and Dh750 for returning a cheque.

The building management company has changed now. Although I received an email that the new property management company will refund my security deposit, they haven’t done so as yet. I have called, emailed and visited their customer service centre to no avail. They say the refund is “under process”.

If it was the other way around, they would file a police case after 30 days and levy extra fees as well.

I believe I can raise a complaint with the Rental Dispute Settlement Committee, but will still have to pay a fee to do so. Is there any way to get the property management company to pay the fee if they lose the case? Or, is there another way to get my deposit back? MD, Abu Dhabi

Getting back your rental deposit should not be as time-consuming as this. On the one hand, you have written confirmation that the payment is under process, which is good, but on the other hand, you have been waiting since December 4 for the refund.

Constantly following up will eventually pay off, but I suspect the delay is down to the fact that the management companies have switched.

I will not recommend you to file a case at the Rental Dispute Settlement Committee because by the time you have done all the necessary filing and completed the paperwork, hopefully you will be reimbursed.

It is, however, your right to file a complaint if you wish to do so. The cost for a monetary dispute is 3.5 per cent of the value disputed, plus other fees such as translation, knowledge and innovation. Please note that there is a minimum charge applicable, so I suggest you check with the committee if you will be eligible to file a case given the small amount in dispute.

If you win a case at the committee, you are also entitled to costs, although for any settlements agreed amicably, only half of the court fees and basic claims will be refunded.

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