Can Dubai landlord keep full deposit to carry out minor repairs?

I have a small issue with our commercial landlord. We rent a small apartment for our crew in International City, England cluster, and have recently moved out after 12 months occupancy. We repainted the flat, fixed cupboard doors and gave the place a good clean so that there was no excuse from the landlord not to return the Dh3,000 deposit. The apartment was returned in a better condition than when handed over to us. He has come back saying that there are a few things that need to be fixed and he will keep the deposit unless repaired at our own expense. These are: the circuit breaker requires replacement on the main fuse box; two light fixtures are not working; one light switch is broken; one wall plug socket is not working; shower attachment is broken and held up with tape.

I know from my experience as a landlord in the UK and also from my own private rental here that all the above would be the responsibility of the landlord. Surely we cannot be expected to maintain the fundamental services in the apartment, can we?

The contract mentions a Dh500 threshold but looks a little ambiguous as this could be per item. MA, Dubai


The subject of the security deposit comes up time and time again from many of my readers. Firstly, in general, tenants and landlords must really spell out the responsibilities of both landlord and tenant when it comes to the maintenance within the rental contract. The maintenance is generally divided out along the lines of major and minor maintenance. Minor being under Dh500 and major above Dh500 – for the total work.

Moving back to your issues, the items you mention that the landlord is requesting get fixed, I assume were in working order when you were living in the property, so my question would be that if they stopped working, I assume you would have informed the owner at the time.

If during the course of your tenancy these items did work but now do not, then it is not unreasonable for a landlord to request you give back the property to him in the same condition and repair as it was handed to you.

There is another thing to consider but this opens up another can of worms and this is “fair wear and tear”. The interpretation of this phrase can mean different things to different people but what I suggest to both you and the landlord is to come to some sort of a compromise that would enable both of you to come out of this feeling satisfied.

I found an apartment in Dubai which I liked and I agreed on the terms of the lease with the agent. The agent asked for a 5 per cent deposit of Dh4,000, which I paid. However, my circumstances changed and I wasn’t able to go through with the lease. Is the agent allowed to retain the deposit? He claims it is nonrefundabl. BM, Dubai

There are a few things to consider here. Firstly did you actually sign the tenancy contract? If so, then it could be harder for you to get the deposit back. The other point to say is when you handed over the deposit, what was written on the receipt? Did it say refundable or non-refundable?

The deposit given when renting a property effectively acts as two payments. It is handed over at the beginning to reserve the property, to hold and book it for you until the contract is signed. The same deposit is then used after the agreement has been signed in case there are any breakages or issues that are directly responsible by the tenant during the term of the tenancy.

I suggest trying, where possible, to negotiate directly with the landlord (unless of course the agent has authority to discuss matters on behalf of him). See if there is any middle ground that can be reached between you because going to the rental committee may not be cost effective.

Mario Volpi is the managing director of Ocean View Real Estate and has worked in the industry in the emirate and in London for the past 30 years. Send any questions to mario@oceanviewdubai.com.

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

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