What happens if I can't reach my landlord?

Failure to pay mortgages is most common reason for landlords to go missing

Antonie Robertson/The National
Antonie Robertson/The National

The National spoke to some of the region’s leading property experts to delve into the problems some tenants face when their landlords appear to go missing.

While it is still rare for owners to go Awol for extended periods, when it does happen the difficulties can mount up fast.

How common is it for a landlord to be out of reach?

“Sometimes they disappear for a while but all landlords will eventually come back to take the rental money,” said Galal Mamdouh, a partner at Prime Capital Real Estate in Abu Dhabi.

He said cases where landlords could not be contacted were often due to their no longer being able to afford the property's mortgage and therefore deciding to leave the country.

“When this happens the bank takes over the apartment and the tenant deals directly with the bank,” he said.

What is the first thing a tenant should do if their landlord does not return phone calls, messages or emails?

The first port of call should be the building management company that looks after the property.

“Even though they do not necessarily look after the apartment itself, they manage the building or group of buildings in the area and are responsible for things such as security, collecting service charges, maintenance of the common areas and the moving in and out of tenants,” said Mr Mamdouh.

“They should be able to help contact the owner or at least they would have the knowledge to offer assistance.”

If the landlord cannot be reached and essential maintenance work is required at the property, does the tenant risk losing their deposit if they do not carry it out themselves?

“Major maintenance is normally the landlord's responsibility and minor maintenance falls to the tenant,” said Mario Volpi, sales and leasing manager at Engel & Volkers Dubai.

“The work ought to be concluded and paid for as soon as possible and if the tenant has had to pay, ultimately they can claim it back from future rent owed.”

What can a tenant do to get their deposit back if the landlord is out of reach?

If a landlord has not replied to requests to return the deposit upon completion of the contract, legal action is an option available to tenants. However, Mr Mamdouh was unsure about the value of taking that route.

“I haven’t seen anyone do it because the legal process would be such a headache and not worth the effort for a 5 per cent deposit,” he said. “If a landlord is out of reach they would never get it back realistically.”

Holding on to the keys of the property as security is one possible option for tenants, according to Mr Volpi.

“If a landlord is not responding then presumably there is also an agent or representative waiting in the wings that can take over in order to conclude the tenancy,” he said.

If the landlord has not cashed rent cheques how long must a tenant keep that money in their account?

“Cheques have a validity of six months, after this time they cannot be cashed and will need to be re-issued if the landlord has not cashed the original rental amount,” said Mr Volpi.

What are the possible sanctions that a landlord faces if they do not communicate with their tenants?

“There are no penalties if a landlord does not communicate with the tenant,” said Mr Mamdouh. “There’s no option but to make a police case. However, I would have to say it’s rare when an owner completely disappears.”

Updated: March 24, 2019 01:38 PM


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