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Dubai landlord insists tenant pays to fix villa swamped with damp

I have an issue with damp and humidity in my villa. When I moved in two years ago, there was a small amount of peeling paint in the laundry room. We informed the landlord but got no response; we weren’t bothered as it didn’t change, grow or affect us at all. However, over the very humid summer this exploded across 30 per cent of the ground floor leaving unsightly damage to the walls and the kitchen cupboards began reeking of damp. I had two consultants come and look at the issue and they said a leak [we have now fixed four independent leaks] had spread under the floor due to changes in the water table. Several cupboards in the kitchen are now so damp they are rotting, with mould spores forming and we have had to abandon them and seal them up although the smell is persistent. The landlord is accusing us of negligence and trying to charge us 50 per cent of the fee to fix the damage despite the fact that I have already shelled out well over the contractually agreed mount of Dh1,000 that we are responsible for. I would grudgingly contribute to get it fixed but his maintenance team seem to think it can be done “overnight” and in my experience you have to let the affected areas dry before tackling them. If we go down the route of drying the kitchen, it will essentially render the room useless for a minimum of a few weeks [more likely to be a month] which is a huge inconvenience especially since we have a four-month-old baby. We are considering moving out temporarily but, again, it’s a major cost and the landlord is highly unlikely to contribute. The landlord owns several villas in the community and is insisting we use his team of cowboys to do the fix. Is this worth taking to Rera or are we just looking at reams of paperwork and additional expense? We just want it fixed. HB, Dubai

This is a common problem I face in emails and a lot of tenants face in everyday situations. Landlords need to understand that they have a duty of care to maintain their rented properties and treat them in exactly the same way as if they were living in the affected properties themselves. Sadly for you and countless others, this positive attitude does not transcend and mostly landlords feel that a quick fix will do, just as is in your case. To answer your question, unfortunately going to Rera will not resolve the issue for you as this important entity is a regulatory agency that does not have any legal jurisdiction; it can advise but your best bet would be to file a case at the rental dispute committee. This action will undoubtedly infuriate your landlord and I guess could brand you a trouble maker in his eyes. Any good will relationship you may have had would now be broken down, but I suppose you presently don’t have a cordial relationship if he is accusing you of wrongdoing in the first place.

My advice would be to accept his maintenance team to carry out the necessary repairs but have it on written record that you will not contribute as you do not agree with the remedies or perhaps workmanship of the same. This major maintenance/repair expense should be the landlord’s responsibility – unless of course he can actually prove that the damp is a direct result of your negligence. If he doesn’t accept this, then I would file that complaint at the rental dispute committee due to his lack of responsibility to you and your family as his tenant(s).

I live in Marina Sail in the Dubai Marina in a one-bedroom apartment. After two years of living there, the landlord gave me an official 12-month eviction notice. He said he wanted to sell the apartment as the reason on the notice, but he told me that he has already rented to a new tenant and the contract was signed. I know this is not legal, so if I open a case against him, how much compensation can I ask for? NM, Dubai

A landlord cannot evict a tenant from a rented property just to get a higher rent from another tenant, this goes against the spirit of the law. If you file a case at the Rental Dispute Settlement Committee explaining your situation, it is possible that a judge may find in your favour. If you do go on and win your case, you will be entitled to compensation. The exact amount will vary from case to case but in the past has included costs such as agent fees, commissions, removal costs, difference in rent etc.

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