Meet the property manager helping Abu Dhabi tenants hunt down security deposits

The new service provides snagging reports for tenants and owners taking over properties from developers in an effort to prevent financial disputes

David Crook, who has worked as a property manager in the UAE for almost a decade, has set up a company called The Property Inspector. Victor Besa / The National
David Crook, who has worked as a property manager in the UAE for almost a decade, has set up a company called The Property Inspector. Victor Besa / The National

A champion for renters in Abu Dhabi is aiming to prevent tenants being left out of pocket by rogue landlords.

David Crook has worked in the property sector for 15 years and runs a Facebook group called Tenants of Abu Dhabi (TOAD), which frequently attracts complaints from people who are struggling to get back their deposit at the end of a tenancy.

So he decided to put his knowledge to good use and do something to help.

The result was The Property Inspector, a newly launched company, which provides snagging reports for tenants and owners taking over properties from developers.

“Over the years, the biggest frustration I have seen for people is security deposits and getting them back,” said Mr Crook, from the UK.

“It’s not all landlords. Some are very good. But unfortunately there is a large enough section of landlords that are unfair.”

But the service also protects landlords too, he said.

“Sometimes tenants destroy a property and the landlord have no evidence of that either. So it does work both ways. Although it’s more aimed at supporting tenants who are probably in the weaker position.”

How does The Property Inspector work?

The service works by carrying out an inventory of the condition of the property, which is mostly cosmetic, but includes a look at the AC and the electrical points and basic plumbing.

“We have an application, an iPad, depending on the size of the unit it takes an hour or a couple of hours and you get a really detailed photographic evidence report in 24 hours,” he said.

The cost starts from Dh450 for a studio, Dh750 for a two bedroom apartment and up to Dh1,000 for a three bed property.

David Crook's new business will offer support for tenants and landlords alike. Victor Besa / The National 
David Crook's new business will offer support for tenants and landlords alike. Victor Besa / The National 

The idea is people hire the company before they move in, to give them something to compare it with during the move out. Anyone who hires the company to do a move in report will get 30 per cent off the cost of another report after the housing contract is completed.

How to flush out potential problems

He said people are usually fairly savvy. But there are some tricks of the trade the untrained eye misses.

“The classic one that happens is toilet seats, believe it or not,” he said.

“If you lift the toilet seat up there are four plastic rubber stoppers, which stops the toilet seat banging against the ceramic. They basically get old, brittle and break. If you move into the unit you might check some basic stuff, but you wouldn’t probably lift the toilet seat.

“If you go to move out of the unit and a landlord will deduct the whole cost of it, because you can’t replace these stoppers.

"Depending on the brand they range from Dh200 to Dh800 for a toilet seat. Suddenly people are being deducted Dh15,000 for four toilet seats. And the tenant says it was like that when I moved in. And the landlord says no it wasn’t.”

Service will help settle disputes

Ben Crompton, managing partner of real estate agents, Crompton Partners Abu Dhabi, said the new company would help address a common frustration.

“You see people complaining about it a lot,” he said.

“It’s probably not nearly as widespread as people say it is. But it is a significant problem.”

However, he said it was not limited to the UAE. The UK brought in a deposit retention scheme to address concerns about it there.

“But whenever two people with opposite vested interests have to make a decision on something there is always going to be a lot of debate,” said Mr Crompton.

Landlords are often at fault, said Mr Crompton. But he thinks tenants also sometimes struggle to understand how the deposit system works.

“A lot of tenants will say I have been in this property three, four or five years, I shouldn’t have to repaint. But the landlords will say you moved into a clean and repainted apartment.

“You need to leave a clean and repainted apartment. But there are a few fair tenants who don’t understand that obligation to leave the apartment as they found it.”

Updated: June 1, 2021 12:49 PM

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