Ask PW: Taking the dispute out of rent disputes

Tags: Property

29 Mar, 2017

As published in Gulf News
By Cynthia Trench, Special to PW

Here’s what you can do if you receive an early termination notice

What should you do if your landlord suddenly serves you notice?

Imagine you’ve been the model tenant paying your rent on time and keeping the property in great order and suddenly the landlord decides he wants to sell the property. Here’s what you can do if you’re evicted or receive an early termination notice.

In theory, if the property is sold and transfers to a new owner or landlord you should be fine to continue living there until the end of your contract. Article 28 of the Original Law actually says “The transfer of title to a new landlord shall not affect tenant’s right to continue occupation of the property in accordance with the tenancy contract.” However, as is so often the case, many sellers prefer to sell their property as vacant. What then?

In this case, Article 25(2)(d) of the Landlord Tenant Law states that the Landlord can ask you to leave upon expiry of your tenancy contract if he owns the property and wants to sell it. However, it’s not just a question of simply informing you that you can’t renew his contract once it expires and asking you to promptly move out on the expiry date.

The same Article states that the landlord needs to notify you of the reasons for eviction at least 12 months prior to the date of eviction. What’s more this should be done through the Notary Public or by registered mail.

This seems simple at face value, but there can be some further hidden complications. A recent example of this occurred with somebody who had a tenancy contract which started in March 2016. They were shocked to receive an eviction notice at the start of the year and assumed that when March came they would have no other choice than to start house-hunting again. However, in a case like this the landlord can’t simply tell the tenant to leave when the contract expires, as the 12-month notice period hasn’t been served.

In other words, if for example, your contract started on 2 June 2016 and you receive a notice today stating that you are about to be evicted upon the expiry of the term, you wouldn’t have to vacate when your contract ended on 1 June 2017 as the notice must be served 12 months prior to the date of eviction. So, from the landlord’s point of view it is also important to be vigilant and ask the tenant to vacate 12 months from the date of the notarised notice. Additionally, landlords should be careful when the lease expires not to renew it on the same terms. The reason for this is it may give the tenant the right to continue to occupy the property until the renewed lease expires – ie June 2018.

What happens if you want to end your contract early?

There are times when some of us need to end our contract mid-term. So, will your landlord accept your notice for early termination, and what is the law?

The law (Article 7 of the Original Law) states that “If the tenancy contract is due and valid, it cannot be unilaterally terminated by the landlord or the tenant, unless both parties agree on such termination or in accordance with the provisions of this law.” This means that nobody can change the terms of the lease and end the tenancy unless there is provision for this in the contract. In the event that no such provision exists, your landlord may be entitled to receive the rent amount for the entire term of the tenancy contract. This could be a nightmare financially, so the best advice here is to carefully check the termination provisions in your lease before signing.

When you first sign a tenancy agreement it is also wise to check is whether you need to give notice to terminate the tenancy at the end of the term. If you don’t give sufficient notice there’s always the danger that the tenancy could automatically renew, leaving you liable to pay the rent for the entire period of the renewed term.

Ultimately whether you’re a tenant or a landlord, it’s important to have a good idea of the laws of the UAE.