Homefront: ‘Who should pay to fix a leak that comes from the apartment upstairs?’

The responsibility lies with the owner of the unit where the problem originated

Shocked  Woman Looks at the Ceiling While Collecting Water Which Leaks in the Living Room at Home. Worried Woman Holding Bucket While Water Droplets Leak From Ceiling in Living Room. Getty Images
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I have been facing a water leak in my apartment since December 2020. The leak is in the kitchen ceiling and I think it originated from the apartment above mine.

Despite several emails and follow-ups sent to the building maintenance team, nothing has been done to fix the problem. The people living in the apartment upstairs are not cooperating and are unwilling to pay for the repair work.

Which government department in Dubai can I file a complaint? Is it through the Real Estate Regulatory Agency? PR, Dubai

Your situation is not that uncommon but I would suggest you try the following steps.

Firstly, involve the building management since they have access to the owner of the apartment above yours. Try to understand if this owner has any kind of insurance to cover such an incident.

The responsibility lies with the owner of the unit where the problem originated. So whether there is insurance or not, this does not negate their responsibility.

I realise that taking ownership of the problem can be a challenge as nobody wants to take responsibility. Therefore, I would also recommend you to speak with Dubai Municipality to see if there is a way to amicably resolve the problem.

If all else fails, you can file a complaint at the Rental Dispute Settlement Committee located at the Dubai Land Department.

This incident has disturbed your quiet enjoyment of the property. Therefore, if a resolution cannot be found or is taking too long, going to court is your only option.

Unless form A specifically states certain criteria, it is arguable that an exclusive agreement could be open to interpretation

I had a question about an exclusive form A arrangement. What happens if a buyer contacts me directly and not through my agent? Can I sell directly to the buyer or do I have to go through my agent? NS, Dubai

Form A is a written Rera-approved contract between a property seller and a Rera-registered agency/broker. The form outlines many details regarding the sale of a property and includes information such as the sales price, commission payable and the period of time the broker has to sell the unit.

A seller can either appoint an agency on an exclusive basis or make it an open listing (non-exclusive).

Unless form A specifically states certain criteria, it is arguable that an exclusive agreement could be open to interpretation.

The industry norm is that if a property owner signs exclusive rights to an agency, in theory, even if the seller finds a buyer, the right thing to do is to inform the agent for them to take over proceedings. However, often this does not happen as the seller believes they can save money by dealing with the buyer themselves.

There is a term called “sole selling rights”. This term, if included in the agreement, means that the agent is the only entity who can sell, irrespective of where the buyer comes from.

Therefore, unless the agent has sole selling rights, exclusivity can be ambiguous. It is important to clarify from the outset whether only the agency can sell, (as in) no other agency, or if an individual can also sell.

You can see how the form can be interpreted differently. I suggest you speak to your agent and get this agreement in writing, so there will be no surprises going forward .

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