Know your rights - Dubai's tenants can challenge excessive rises in rent

Recent predictions by real estate experts that rent prices in some Dubai hotspots are on course to double has spooked residents into thinking they could be forced to pay or be kicked out by landlords.

With the Dubai property market continuing to rebound following the 2009 crash, 7DAYS has received a spate of letters from readers saying landlords were trying to hike their rents by as much as 40 per cent. However, while the real estate market is hotting up - some agents reported as much as 17 per cent increases in rental fees in the final three months of 2012 - there are laws in place to help tenants and make sure the days when greedy landĀ­lords could charge what they want never return.

Rents are on the rise in certain parts of Dubai, but that doesn't mean you have to give in to a money-grabbing landlord who see Dubai's upward trend as a signal to make fast cash.

Tenants in Dubai do have rights.

The are two government bodies that oversee the rental market in the emirate - RERA, which is part of Dubai Land Authority, and Dubai Municipality's Rent Committee. All leases should be registered with RERA, either by the letting agent or landlord. RERA then uses the information to calculate average rental prices for Dubai's residential areas.

The data is fed into RERA's online rent calculator, which tenants and landlords should be using to work out if rents are fair. The calculator, on RERA's website, will ask you for the date your lease expires, the area in which you live, how many bedrooms are in your home and your current rent figure. It will then tell you the average price for similar properties in your area, how your rent compares and if your landlord is entitled to ask for more, or not.

Tenants who are unsure if their landlord's demands are legitimate can also call the RERA helpline. 7DAYS called the helpline and was advised to consult the rent calculator. We were also told: "If your landlord is entitled to ask for an increase he must do so at least 90 days before the end of the lease.
"The rental increase calculator is the law now, both parties have to use this."

If negotiations between tenant and landlord break down, the RERA advice is: "In that situatĀ­ion you need to go to the rent committee." The committee replaces the courts in rent disputes and hears cases from tenants and also from landlords. A leading property lawyer in Dubai told 7DAYS: "It is not a landlords' free-for-all out there.

The government bodies who oversee the rental system are fair. At the end of the day, it is very, very difficult to get a sitting tenant out of a property in Dubai."

In fact, a landlord cannot turn round and turf a tenant out of their property if they refuse to pay what he demands. Property owners must give a 12-month notice period if they wish to terminate the tenancy.

One real estate expert said: "Increases should not be higher than 20 per cent of the current contract price - although this is actually not written anywhere.

"If the landlord wanted to evict the tenant (due to re-sale, own use... etc) this would need to be communicated 12 months in advance. In contracts of one year this would need to be conspicuously reflected in the initial contract; or else a notification notice should be received. Failures to comply with these time limits give the tenants grounds to challenge the change of conditions or eviction requests."

DON'T BE FLEECED WITH A LEASE - DEALING WITH RENT HIKES


TWO-BEDROOM APARTMENT IN AL GARHOUD

A businessman in Al Garhoud rented his apartment for Dhs85,000 in April 2012. He has been given notice of a 17.5 per cent increase for this year, despite the RERA rent calculator saying the amount should stay the same. He said: "I have written, faxed, emailed and had letters hand-delivered with my refusal to pay the increase but I am being ignored completely by the landlord. "I had no idea what to do or where to go for help. I was really concerned that I would have to move out. Now I realise I will probably have to go to the rent committee.

"There is no justification for the rent increase apart from profiteering. Everything in the apartment is a year older and nothing else has changed. The red tape process here is frustrating. I am quite angry about all of this. I have been a good tenant and I don't deserve this."

QUICK GUIDE TO RENT

  • Always make sure you, your landlord or agent records your lease with RERA.
  • You must be notified of any proposed rent increase at least 90 days before your lease ends.
  • Termination of a lease by the landlord if he wants to sell, or move in himself, must be given one year
  • in advance.
  • Refer to the online Rent Increase Calculator within the 90-day notice period for the RERA figure for your area at: http://www.dubailand.gov.ae/English/eServices/RentalIncreaseCalculatorEN.aspx.
  • The RERA helpline number is 800 4488.
  • If negotiations break down, raise a case at Dubai Rent Committee by going to the municipality office on Baniyas Road, Deira. Your case will cost 3.5 per cent of your rent figure. Call 04 221 5555.

ONE-BEDROOM FLAT IN DOWNTOWN DUBAI

A British expat who fought a rent demand said: "I live in Downtown and after two years in my property my landlord said he wanted to raise the rent from Dhs60,000 a year to Dhs70,000. This seemed rather steep to me. When I told my landlord this he said the flat could be rented out for Dhs70,000 as properties in that area were going for similar prices.

However, after phoning the RERA helpline they advised that I should look at the rent calculator to see what percentage rise there was for my area. It said the most my rent could be hiked up was five per cent and advised that if the landlord wanted to raise it any higher than this that I should file a case. I went back to my landlord and threatened to report him if he continued to demand more money. I could see a real battle coming and being wrapped up in red tape. However, to my surprise he agreed to stick by RERA's advice and only raise it to Dhs63,000.

Ahmed on the RERA helpline was actually really helpful, it's just a case of knowing your rights. I think a lot of tenants may have just accepted they would have to pay a further Dhs10,000 a year and either forked out the cash or moved as they would not have been aware of the rental calculator or the fact they can do something about it. Landlords need to stop being greedy. Just because areas like Downtown are becoming more developed doesn't mean that tenants who have been there for years should have to pay for it."

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