Can Abu Dhabi tenant move out halfway through contract and be refunded Dh85,000?

I am a few months into my yearly rental agreement for an apartment in Abu Dhabi. I have been offered a new opportunity which means moving to Dubai. I plan to give about two months’ notice to the landlord but can I legally quit my apartment and ask for a refund of any monthly rent for the months after I move out? Or have I lost that rent (it will be six months’ rent – so about Dh85,000)? Can I make an arrangement with the landlords to find someone to take over my contract for the six months or is that illegal here in Abu Dhabi even with the landlord’s consent? AS, Abu Dhabi

You can only give two months notice prior to the expiry of your tenancy when you are moving out and do not plan to renew the contract. You cannot just break the contract mid way through without consequences. It is normal for a tenant to try to find a replacement tenant to take over the remaining length of lease as they are still liable to pay the rent until the end of the term. If you can come to some sort of an arrangement with your landlord for the return of any rental reimbursement should you be successful in finding a replacement tenant, then this is perfectly acceptable.

We are tenants in Ras Al Khaimah and recently received our renewal contract for the second year. One of the clauses in the contract said: “The tenant agrees to repaint the premises prior to the expiry of the contract or pay the landlord for the cost of such repainting.” Is that sentence legal? In my understanding, normal “wear and tear” is acceptable and tenants do not have to repaint the walls after two years in a property. Secondly, the agency hired by the landlord is asking us to pay Dh500 to draw up the renewal contract, is that legal? AB, Ras Al Khaimah


The tenant is responsible to return the property in the exact state that it was first handed to him. If the property was freshly painted and cleaned when you first moved in, you will have to do the same when you leave. Fair wear and tear is an emotive subject because what you think is fair wear and tear, someone else will not – so this clause can be ambiguous in any tenancy contract. The estate agent also has the right to charge for the renewal fee as there is a certain amount of work and time that they will need to put in. The agent will obviously not work for free and charging Dh500 is a reasonable sum.

A colleague of mine left Dubai after her assignment finished but her rental contract, under the company’s name, was still valid for one month. I was assigned to manage the handover and the landlord asked us to allow his hired team to refurbish it as he planned to sell it. The handing over went well and his agency said it was in perfect condition. After the rental contract ended, I wrote an email asking for the refund of the security deposit. The landlord didn’t reply so after a month I sent an official letter with the company letter head asking again. This time the landlord replied right away via email and said he spent more money than the security deposit to get the apartment back into condition. The landlord also claimed that because my colleague left a window open during a holiday, painting work in the room had deteriorated. What he is claiming is not true as I saw the condition of the room before letting the refurbishment team in and took photos. The landlord never visited the apartment as he lives abroad. Also, my colleague had email correspondence between her and the landlord saying he will carry out repairs and pay major maintenance bills but he needed someone to supervise the work as he was abroad. What can I do? FF, Dubai

Based on your account, it appears the landlord may be trying to keep the security deposit unnecessarily. I recommend that you enlist (if possible) the help of the landlord’s agent as they did report at handover that the property was in perfect condition. Request they put confirmation of the same in writing to you as evidence to support your case. This, coupled with the photographs you took before allowing the landlord’s refurbishing team into the property should be enough to form a positive case for the deposit to be returned. It is normal for some work to have to be carried out on a property when there is a change of tenant as the property has to be returned in the same condition as it was originally handed over but in this case, especially as the landlord is abroad, it appears he is attempting to keep the money unnecessarily. If all else fails then you may have to get satisfaction by filing a case at the rental committee.

Mario Volpi works at Asteco property management and has over 30 years of experience in the real estate industry in Dubai and London. Send any questions to mariov@asteco.com

The advice provided in our columns does not constitute legal advice and is provided for information only.

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