This is the first in an occasional series on topics where I receive a great number of queries. With rental prices in Dubai, and across the UAE generally, increasing significantly, many people have been asked for excessive increases or asked to vacate illegally, so this article is a brief overview of tenants’ rights in Dubai. The rental rules in the UAE vary by emirate with Dubai having the strongest protection for tenants by way of the ‘Law Regulating Relationship between Landlords and Tenants in the Emirate of Dubai No. 26 of 2007’. There have been a couple of updates, but the main points are:
- Most contracts are for a period of one year and unless a notice period is stated in the contract a tenant is not entitled to a refund if they want to leave earlier.
- Non-renewable clauses added by landlords are invalid and unenforceable, so if a landlord does not make contact by 90 days before renewal a contract will renew on the same terms. If a tenant wishes to leave they must also provide the landlord with notice per the contract terms (usually 90 days).
- If the landlord wants to increase the rent at renewal they must provide 90 days notice and the increase can only be in accordance with the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA) calculator. If proper notice is not provided then the rent cannot be increased no matter what the calculator says.
- A landlord can evict a tenant for specific reasons only and NOT because they want to re-let the property at a higher rent. Permitted reasons are that the property is to be sold; an immediate family member is to take up residence but only if another property is not available; If the owner wishes to demolish the property; and If the property requires renovation or comprehensive maintenance which cannot be carried out while tenant is occupying the property. Of course, non-payment of rent is a reason for eviction, as is unauthorised sub-letting.
- If a landlord intends to evict for one of these acceptable reasons then the tenant must be given 12 months notice. This must be delivered in writing by Public Notary or registered post.
- If the landlord has claimed the property is required for his family and they do not move in, the evicted tenant may apply for compensation. The landlord is also not permitted to rent out the property for two years in this situation.
- All rental contracts should now be registered under the Ejari system and you will need a registered contract if you need to make a complaint about your landlord.
- RERA provides advice and guidance, but complaints should be made to the Rental Committee, part of Dubai’s Land Department. The fee is 3.5% of the annual rent and if you win this should be paid to you by the landlord.
- The landlord is responsible for the maintenance of a property and a reasonable amount of wear and tear is permitted. Tenants are not obliged to repaint on vacating unless they need to make good any damage.
These rules apply to everyone and there are no exceptions. The other emirates do not have clear rules, although there is talk of these being introduced despite Abu Dhabi having scrapped their rent cap. Although I no longer deal with rental queries in my weekly column in The National newspaper, On Your Side, I will assist where possible and refer people to the appropriate parties if required. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org