We rented a master bedroom in Dubai Marina for six months for Dh6,000 a month. The landlord claimed to be the owner of the apartment hence subletting was legal. However, he said everything will be communicated via WhatsApp. Every month, on receiving the rent, he would message us saying he had received x amount. On moving into the apartment, we gave him a deposit of a month’s rent – refundable when we leave. He had mentioned this as well in the WhatsApp message. However, over the past five months of living in the apartment, he has given us hell. Light bulbs would go off, kitchen electronics including the gas don’t work properly and so on. He never bothers to repair anything on time. Now it’s our final month and we have decided not to give him the rent as he already has the deposit which can be adjusted and, we were scared he will not return the money. Dh6,000 is a big amount and we do not want to lose it but he is threatening to kick us out. We proposed a settlement where we will give him some money as a deposit but he refused it and has given us two days to decide following which he will kick us out if we don’t pay the rent. He said he will give us a receipt guaranteeing return of our deposit and a copy of his passport. I am in two minds. My friend suggested I ask the police what would be best but I don’t want to involve them for fear that it will backfire on me. CC, Dubai
As you know, subletting is not allowed unless the landlord is aware of the sublet and allows for it in writing to his direct tenant. You say the landlord claims to be the owner (which incidentally doesn’t make your agreement a sublet) but you do not say how this person has proved that. Potential tenants need to see proof of ownership especially when money changes hands. Communicating via WhatsApp or any other form of social media is not ideal and has not been tested in court as a form of proper evidence should any specific case go that far. I would therefore question the reliability of this person, especially as he has not been very responsive towards the maintenance of the property. Landlords have a duty of care to their tenants in exchange for the rent and are generally responsible for the maintenance of the property.
My advice would be to vacate now. In my opinion he is not reliable enough and I certainly cannot guarantee you would get your deposit back if you do decide to pay the rent on top of him having your deposit for the last month. Work out what is owed by you for the few days you have stayed there this month and request he refunds the deposit on vacating the room. If things get nasty, I would speak to the police. I suspect he is not the landlord and if the police do get involved he would have to prove to them that he is the owner or produce a letter from the landlord allowing him to sublet.
My question is regarding my rental contract in Sharjah. I renewed my contract on March 22 for an agreed rent of Dh50,000 and gave the cheques to the property management company. My first cheque of Dh13,250 has already cleared and still I am unable to get a copy of the original tenancy contract signed by the landlord. The property management firm keep in saying that the owner is not agreeing on the rent. What are my options here? I badly need a contract to renew my family’s visas. HR, Sharjah.
You mention that you have renewed your contract on “an agreed rent of Dh50,000″ but agreed by whom if now the management is saying that the landlord is not agreeing to this rent? The solution is straightforward, either the landlord proceeds with the rent (as agreed) or your first cheque amount is returned immediately and you start renegotiating again. Landlords in Sharjah cannot increase the rent in the first three years of the tenancy. If you are out of this period, the landlord has the right to increase the rent in the fourth year and at the end of any second year period thereafter.
Sharjah municipality has a rent dispute committee under its direction which acts as a decision maker addressing all disputes relating to rents between landlords and tenants so if communications break down, my advice would be to file a case here.
Mario Volpi is a real estate professional who has worked within the industry for the past 31 years in London and Dubai. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and they do not reflect in any way those of the institutions to which he is affiliated. It does not constitute legal advice and is provided for information only. Please send any questions to firstname.lastname@example.org