Homefront: Can I demand a month's free rent for noisy construction work next to my Dubai apartment?

The tenant has lived in his Al Barsha building since 2016, but four new construction sites have sprung up recently forcing many dwellers to move out

Of the 55 apartments in the building, 20 are now empty due to the noise pollution, the tenant claims. Ahmed Jadallah / Reuters
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I have rented a two bedroom apartment in Dubai in a new building at Al Barsha since August 2016 for Dh83,000. Recently four new construction sites have sprung up around the building, making a load of noise. I renewed my contract on August 2017 and asked for a discount as the prices had dropped but they only gave me a Dh1,000 reduction. When the construction started on the sites, many tenants left the building, so 20 of the 55 apartments are now empty, and the price now for similar apartments to mine is Dh75,000 to Dh78,000 per year. I sent the agency handling the building a request for an additional reduction but they said it was not possible. Can I ask for one month's free rent at the end of my contract? So if my contract finishes on August 2018, can I request to leave on September 2018? AT, Dubai 

Legally, any changes to a contract can only be made giving 90 days' notice from the renewal date. With reference to your negotiations, you can of course request the owner gives you this extra month for free as long as he agrees. My suggestion would be to notify him 90 days prior to the renewal date to explain what you wish for, be it the extra month for free or any other changes. These changes have to be in writing. It might be helpful to invite the owner to the apartment for this meeting so he can hear for himself what you are going through. If, however, you do not get to any mutual agreements,  inform the landlord that you will not renew and then look for another suitable property. With the way the rental prices are currently heading, it would not surprise me if you would achieve a better rent with another property.


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Is now the right time to buy in Central London or should I wait? AS, Dubai 

Predicting when the time is right to enter any property market, let alone London, is not for the faint hearted. Getting it right means you will have hit the nail on the head about many factors, such as the British economy, the buyer's sentiment, knowledge about future infrastructure spending such as on roads and transport, new amenities/facilities etc.
That said, there are a few factors that are known about the UK market that will allow us to give a best guestimate of future performance.
On the negative side, there is still the uncertainty of Brexit and while the negotiations are still ongoing, buyers will be cautious about spending money on large ticket items such as property. I suspect this alone will cool the market leading to low transactions and growth.
Last week, the Bank of England raised interest rates by 0.25 per cent. While this is not a huge amount, it will still have a negative effect on mortgage costs, again making buyers think twice.
The changes to stamp duty since 2014 have also had a negative effect on London house prices, which in turn has led to price reductions on asking prices after a period of marketing.
On the positive side, not enough properties are being built to keep up with demographic demand. London can only build on brownfield sites and this limits the number of property inventory entering the market.
In the past, Central London has witnessed an average of 5.7 per cent house price growth per annum but with tax changes such as stamp duty and the uncertain buyer sentiment due to Brexit, this growth is likely to evaporate away.
Taking all of the above into consideration, I believe you should wait before purchasing in central London, at least until 2019 as the next two years will likely see subdued growth if at all.
Property prices will most likely return to growth in 2020, by then, central London house prices will be perceived to be good value.
Another element to consider is the strength of the dollar against sterling. The pound devalued by 20 per cent last year in the wake of the Brexit announcement, since then it has regained most of its losses so I guess the time to have jumped into the London property market with the dollar in your pocket would have been last year. For now, just keep an eye on sterling; unless there is a momentous event, it is unlikely to lose ground to the extent it did last year but should it fall again to a greater extent, that too would be the trigger point to enter the London market.

Mario Volpi is the chief sales officer for Kensington Exclusive Properties and has worked in the property industry for over 30 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@kensington.ae