Landlords ‘refuse to renew contracts’

Owners have been looking at selling their properties in the face of falling rents and forecasts of lower prices.

International City, where residents have complained of landlords refusing to renew their leases. Jeff Topping / The National
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DUBAI // Landlords are illegally refusing to renew tenancy agreements in several areas of Dubai, the property rental regulator and experts say.

More than 30 tenants in International City, 30 in Deira and 20 in Silicon Oasis say that a few months before their contracts ended, they were told by the landlord to move out.

Owners have been looking at selling their properties in the face of falling rents and forecasts of lower prices.

Mario Volpi, the managing director of Ocean View Real Estate, said such demands were in breach of the law, which required 12 months’ notice.

“If a tenant wants to renew, the landlord cannot fail to renew a contract. It is illegal,” Mr Volpi said.

“The tenancy contract automatically renews under the same terms unless 90 days’ notice is given [by tenants].”

Justin, a tenant who has lived for two years in International City, said his landlord had told him and his family to leave and had since been uncontactable.

“My wife and daughter’s visas are due for renewal next month,” he said. “I need the rent agreement and Ejari, so I’m worried because the landlord is not taking calls or replying to emails.

“He had told us that he wanted to sell and get out of the market. It’s easier to sell immediately if there is no tenant.”

Ejari, or “My Rent” in Arabic, requires all rental contracts be registered. Without an Ejari document from the Real Estate Regulatory Agency, residents cannot obtain visas for relatives.

Another tenant was worried his electricity would be cut if the landlord did not renew the tenancy.

“I’m ready with cheques but my landlord wants me to vacate in May,” said N C, who lives in Deira. “Legally I know I can stay for a year but what if he shows non-payment on my part and cuts power? How will we survive the summer?”

But Mr Volpi said: “Dewa cannot be cut unless you stop paying Dewa bills.”

The Land Department said residents who were illegally told to vacate their premises could deposit their rental cheques with the Rent Dispute Settlement Centre.

“The tenant has the right to go to Rent Dispute Centre and file a case against the landlord,” said Mohammed bin Hammad, a senior director at Rera. “The judge will look into it and will issue a new rental contract, and the tenant will deposit the rental cheques at the centre and the landlord can receive them from there.”

Property agents say they have seen many old clients returning to hunt for new homes before their contracts expired.

“Many landlords don’t own one property. They own many properties so they want to book their profits and sell this year,” said Wendy Shen, a property consultant with West Legend Real Estate.

“We have had more cases this year than other years of tenants saying their landlords want to sell. Some tenants know their rights, they will not listen when told to leave in two months. Others start to look for new property.”

After a leap last year, rents and property prices have fallen or stagnated. In January, property broker Jones Lang LaSalle forecast an average drop of 10 per cent this year across Dubai.

Experts said tenants should be aware of their rights and negotiate before approaching the Rent Dispute Settlement Centre.