Homefront: 'I'm moving out to escape a sewage smell. Will I be penalised?'

The Abu Dhabi tenant says she cannot tolerate the odour, which comes from her AC unit

Air conditioner with remote controller
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I signed my Abu Dhabi tenancy contract in January this year and now need help with an issue in the apartment. The property is located on the fourth floor of a building in the centre of Abu Dhabi. The first two months were all fine, but when the weather got hotter I had to turn on the AC. It was only then I noticed the AC spreads a bad sewage smell throughout the home. I immediately notified the owner and he brought different people to look at the AC with no change on a number of occasions. It's been two months of going back and forward, and the issue has still not been resolved. I am paying my rental in two payments, as I handed over two cheques at the start of the contract. The next cheque is due in July, but I am planning to move out by then as the situation is unbearable for me. I would prefer not to pay a two-month rental penalty to the owner, given the situation. What are my options in case the landlord does not agree? SS, Abu Dhabi 

As per the Abu Dhabi Rent Law to renew, modify or terminate your rental contract, you should notify your landlord two months before contract renewal. This is the standard tenant notice period. In your case, and given the landlord has tried to rectify the situation, I would organise a meeting in your apartment (so he can witness the problem fist hand). This will help you reach an agreement on the matter.

Before doing so, check your contract to see if there is a clause stating what would happen if you were to break the contract early. If there is no clause, the landlord is under no obligation to refund your money. That said, it would appear from your letter that your landlord is responsive so I’m sure you will be able to find a solution.

To help and to mitigate the landlord's loss of rent or avert any void period, I suggest you can offer to be cooperative with viewings, should the landlord put the property back on the market for rent. Offering to stay on until another tenant is found could be another way of avoiding the two-month rent penalty.

Ultimately the landlord does have a responsibility to you as his tenant so if you find it unbearable to reside in the property, he should go out of his way to find a solution. Depending on whether he is reasonable will determine if you avoid paying the penalty should you actually vacate early.

In the event that no agreement is found, you can always file a case with the Abu Dhabi Rental Dispute Committee. This will involve paying 4 per cent of the annual rent up to a maximum of Dh10,000.

Mario Volpi is the sales and leasing manager at Engel & Volkers. He has worked in the property sector for 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