Abu Dhabi tenant wants to break contract after maintenance nightmare

We have rented a place in Abu Dhabi for a year, however maintenance is non existent. We often have broken AC and no water in the whole villa and we have had no hot water for two months and a main gate that is broken and has not been fixed for four months. I have been trying to call the landlord to fix it, yet nothing has been done and they do not seem to care. So, I want to know if these maintenance issues are a breach of contract and if I can leave before the contract expires? Payments on my contract are split into two payments and the second one should happen by end of this month. But, honestly, living here in winter without hot water is tough but I do not know what else to do other than moving out. ER, Abu Dhabi

It really saddens me to read stories like yours. Now I know that most landlords are good abiding citizens but there does appear to be a few individuals who believe it is OK to shirk their responsibilities to their tenants when things go wrong within their properties and it makes me very cross to see how they treat the very people who pay them rent.

A rental contract is between two persons, a landlord and tenant; both these individuals sign up to uphold the law and fulfil their respected responsibilities. In your case either you have a landlord that doesn’t care about his property at all or is not concerned about your welfare. The tenant’s right to enjoy the property is a fundamental principle of any rental contract but this can be eradicated by the behaviour of some landlords.

My question to landlords would be, if they lived in the subject property and certain things needed repair or maintenance, would they continue to live there without doing anything about it? I’m sure they would fix it straight away. Why therefore, do they think that it is OK to “go missing” or “not return calls” when asked to help? It’s about time these rogue landlords are taught a lesson that to be a landlord requires responsibility to the tenant. They have to maintain the property for the short-term benefit of the tenant who, after all, is paying the rent in compensation and the long-term benefit of the landlord himself.

For you, you have two choices: either you do leave, in which case you have to give 60 days’ notice to vacate but you cannot leave until the end of your agreement (unless agreed by the landlord) or you conduct the repairs yourself and then deduct the cost from the next rental amount. But I must make it clear that to do so would require approval from the rent committee first (Article 8 of the tenancy law).

I just received a legal notice from my landlord (stamped by Dubai Courts, Notary Public) to vacate my villa within 12 months. The reason mentioned in the notice is “maintenance for the villa and design of a new form of the villa”. I seriously doubt he wants to carry-out works – the villa is less than 10 yrs old and we had some disputes over maintenance during the year. I think he simply wants to get rid of me. Can I ask for some sort of evidence/plan of works approved by the municipality before I vacate? And after I vacate, if he rents out the villa right away, can I ask for compensation?

Your landlord is entitled to seek eviction from you for reasons of renovation or comprehensive maintenance, to add new constructions or to demolish the property for reconstruction as these changes cannot be executed while you are occupying the property. He would, however, need to obtain necessary licenses or technical reports issued by Dubai Municipality or accredited by it. It would therefore be normal and right for you to ask to see these licenses or permissions from the DM to prove his correct intentions.

With regards to your compensation query, if you subsequently find out he has relet the property after you have vacated, Law 33 of 2007 Article 26 only mentions that a property cannot be relet for a period of at least two years if the landlord recovered the property for his own use or use of his first degree next of kin. The law is therefore silent for the reason he has given. The rental committee may regard this action of future letting of the villa, after evicting you for reasons renovation/rebuilding, as going against the spirit of the law. I do, however, wish to stress that each case is regarded by its own merit and decided on a case-by-case basis.

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 mariovolpi64@gmail.com


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