Homefront: ‘Should my landlord pay for property maintenance?’

The rental contract will stipulate that a landlord is legally obliged to pay for property maintenance costs

The landlord has a duty to ensure that tenants are looked after and a legal obligation to pay towards the maintenance costs. Getty Images
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We rent a villa in Dubai and are facing problems dealing with our landlord. Although he initially signed a contract stating that he would foot the maintenance bill for every repair costing more than Dh1,000, he now flatly refuses to pay for anything.

Although we provided the court with evidence to support the case, such as documents from the Dubai Municipality, Dubai Electricity and Water Authority, Dubai Police as well as a legal expert, they are not favouring us. The court seems to be supporting the landlord in this case. Is this correct? AG, Dubai

The law states that the landlord is responsible for maintaining a rented property. The normal industry practice is to attach a monetary amount to this. I note that your amount is Dh1,000, which is actually higher than the norm but given the rental property is a villa, this amount is not unreasonable.

The landlord has a duty of care to ensure that you (as tenants) are looked after and a legal obligation to pay towards the maintenance costs – more than Dh1,000 in this case as agreed in your tenancy contract. He cannot remove himself from this responsibility just because he doesn’t wish to spend any money in this direction.

I advise you to file a case at the Rental Dispute Settlement Committee at the Dubai Land Department in Deira.

The cost will be 3.5 per cent of the annual rental amount, but you are likely to be awarded costs if you win the case.

Ensure you keep all receipts and have evidence of all the necessary maintenance work already carried out as this will help your cause. While I cannot necessarily give you 100 per cent confirmation, but given the information you provided and my experience in such situations, I am sure that you will be in the right.

I recently moved into a villa. But after paying rent for one month, I realised that the services in the villa are poor. For instance, the air-conditioning is switched on only at 9pm, I am not allowed to eat inside my room and the dining area is hot.

After experiencing this, I decided to inform the landlord that I will not be extending my stay in the villa beyond the current month.

However, I was told that I have signed a three-month contract and would have to stay and pay rent for the remaining months as well. What do I do? CA, Abu Dhabi

Unless there is an early termination clause, you cannot just terminate your lease when you like without there being consequences or penalties

I would refer you back to your agreement/contract. This will explain your rights about cancellation or obligations under the terms of the paper. Presumably, you have signed this agreement so now you are bound to these terms and conditions contained therein.

Under normal long-term lease agreements, if you wish to terminate the contract, you would need to give two months’ notice before the end of the agreement. Unless there is an early termination clause, you cannot just terminate your lease when you like without there being consequences or penalties.

Most landlords will allow for early termination in return for a small penalty. Any reason to terminate will have its merits of course, but these will have to be agreed with the landlord. Therefore, it is important to try to convince your landlord to your way of thinking, or if they rectify the issues, you could possibly stay.

In your case, you state there is a three-month rule and if you didn’t sign and agree to this clause, you would not have been allowed to rent at all. Presumably, you still went ahead and signed so now it makes it more difficult for you to leave without incurring these expenses or difficulties.

You can still file a case at the Rent Dispute Settlement Committee, but I’m sure they will refer you to your signed agreement.

Your options are as follows: Give notice to vacate early and stay for the three-month duration, pay the penalty, or work to resolve the issues with the landlord for a more comfortable living experience.

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