Homefront: 'My tenant has not paid the rent since October and uses Covid-19 as the excuse'

The Dubai landlord's tenant has a history of missed payments and now refuses to renew the contract or move out

Skyscrapers stand on the city skyline in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Tuesday, July 23, 2019. Like the rest of the city, the business center has suffered from a prolonged real-estate slump brought on by oversupply and slower economic growth. Photographer: Christopher Pike/Bloomberg
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I have a tenant who has a history of late and partial rent payments. When the contract expired in October, he neither signed a new contract or moved out of the apartment. He has effectively lived in the property for free for all of this time.  I have sent him many reminders and requests to pay the overdue rent and to either sign a new contract or vacate. At first, he was using personal financial issues as an excuse for not paying the rent, but now he says it is due to Covid-19.  What can I do? HK, Dubai 

Prior to the Covid 19 situation, the procedure for evicting a non-paying tenant was quite simple. The landlord would give a 30-day written notice to the tenant to rectify the situation, after which if nothing happened, the landlord would be within his rights to file a case at the Rental Dispute Settlement Committee at the Dubai Land Department in Deira.

During the movement restrictions, there was a directive from the government that during the months of March and April no tenant evictions would be allowed. Now that the working conditions have returned to some normality, you can consult the RDSC to seek clarification. It is worth noting that the RDSC are keen for landlords and tenants to reach mutual agreements. Termination of leases are not in anyone's interest so the RDSC will work to find solutions for all parties during this difficult time.

Another way to look at your situation, if there is no communication to the contrary, a tenancy contract automatically renews under the same terms and conditions as before. While this is fine in principle and obviously illegal, in practice you still have to receive the rent so it's up to you how you want to proceed. Either you file a case at the RDSC to evict him or you take the second option by stating to the tenant that the contract automatically renews so he owes you not only for the rent arrears but the rent for the renewal period too. Either way, this will involve filing a case as the communication is non-existent.
Your last option would be to potentially confront him at the property, not in an aggressive manner but in order to check he is OK and to explain his options to either stay with payments to complete or go.

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