In a perfect world, landlords and tenants will work together, doing their bit to keep each other happy. However, in reality, landlord-tenant relationships are most often than not characterised by conflict of interest, bitter conversations and, sometimes, legal battles.
With rising rents across the UAE and tenants feeling the crunch, the old cliché of the rocky landlord-tenant relationship has been all the more reinforced. However, today, it’s not just high rents that tenants have to worry about. Some landlords also cash in on renters’ situation to find an affordable property to live in, by evicting them in the pretext of needing apartments for personal use or renovation in order to rent them out at a higher price.
The key thing to remember is that there are laws in place today to protect the interests of both parties. The market is maturing and whilst there are challenges, we’ve also the introduction of new real estate laws to provide regulation, transparency and clarity. As I mentioned in my last column, your landlord cannot increase your rent by a ridiculous number. Today, whether or not a landlord can increase the rent is not governed by a two-year stay, but by the RERA rent calculator, which is found on the dubailand.gov.ae website. As a tenant, you should be given a 90-day notice period should your landlord wish to impose an increase to the existing rent value.
However, if a landlord has asked you to evict the property due to him or his immediate next of kin moving in, then for a period of two years from the date of the eviction, he cannot re-let the property. If you discover that he has re-let the property during this two-year period, you can open a case at the rent committee and will be entitled to compensation as per the law. Also, a landlord has every right to sell his property and in doing so, has to give you 12 months’ written notice. However, if the landlord fails to sell the property, then the 12 months’ notice becomes void and you will not have to move out.
For those of you renting in Abu Dhabi, it’s good to keep in mind that the laws of Abu Dhabi are different to those of Dubai. In Abu Dhabi, the landlord can give a two months’ eviction notice to the tenant as long as the latter has been in the property for four years. Sharjah tenants are protected against rental increases for three years as a landlord is not allowed to raise the rent during this time. However, rental increases are allowed in the fourth and every subsequent year hence.
Also, whilst landlords can run checks on potential tenants, tenants don’t get to do the same. However, I see nothing to stop would-be renters from doing some conscientious research such as checking if the landlord actually owns the property at the Land Department or asking for a copy of the evidence of the landlord’s ownership of the apartment/villa.
However, we also need to look at the wider picture and keep in mind that ultimately all landlords want tenants who pay their rent on time, take care of their property and keep noise levels down. After all, he is entrusting you with an asset worth hundreds of thousands of dirhams whilst incurring annual costs for its upkeep. Also, given that the years since the downturn saw a dramatic decline in rental values, landlords have the right to pick up fair value market rents, now that the market is recovering.
The key thing to remember is that the market is driving the rent, not the landlords themselves. Hence, tenants and landlords need to be aware of their rights and responsibilities and work together to reduce the stress involved with renting. The property market today is driven by strong market fundamentals and property owners have a role to play in preserving its sustainability. Ultimately, the economy will determine the wider picture of the market and how situations develop with respect to price.