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Dubai tenant who was victim of rent scam has to move out with no refund

I have been the victim of a rent scam in Dubai. I rented a flat in February this year through an agent whose ad I found on Dubizzle. The agent had a valid Rera card. I made a one-cheque payment for the flat, got the building parking card and the apartment keys and have lived in the property for the past three months. I also submitted my documents with the building authorities and they told me that all the documents were proper. At the beginning of last month, someone called me saying that he is the real owner of the flat. That is when I realised that the person named on the contract as the landlord was actually the tenant, who had a tenancy from the real owner for four cheques at a much higher price. I did not find anything suspicious as I rented the flat at the normal market value. The agent and the fake landlord mentioned in my contract have now left Dubai. The real owner is telling me to clear the tenant’s cheques, otherwise he will file a case with the Land Department and get the Dewa cancelled. The Dewa and Ejari were both in the name of the fake landlord. Can the landlord cancel the Dewa if it’s in the name of someone not in Dubai? I can’t pay the rental cheques again as I have already paid. What can the owner do in this case and how much time more can I stay in the flat? Also, can he make a case against me? And if he files a complaint against that tenant whose cheque is bounced, how much time will the proceeding take? Anon, Dubai

Sadly, what you are experiencing is quite common despite the fact that I have on numerous occasions (in this column) stressed to tenants to verify documents such as title deeds, passport copies etc. Also you should only ever write out rental cheques in the name of the person mentioned on the title deed or original sales contract.

Neither of you or the actual landlord have done anything wrong and in fact you are both victims of this scam, given you have paid your rent in one cheque and the landlord has never received his.

My advice would be to report this immediately to the police, who will be able to guide you further. Make sure you also make a complaint to Rera, informing them of who the agent you were dealing with is and give the broker ID number too. Unfortunately, you will not be able to stay in the property for an indefinite period, but I suggest you organise a meeting with the landlord to see if there is any common ground you both can find.

The landlord should not be able to have the Dewa disconnected, but I’m sure you can also understand his frustrations.

Under these circumstances the landlord will have to follow certain procedures to get his property back, which means you ought to be allowed to remain there for a while longer; the very least notice you will be given is 30 days, but in reality it could be even longer. Communication at this stage is key.

My tenancy contract finishes soon and I was paying Dh65,000 for a one-bed apartment in Al Nahada, Dubai. The market rate is now between Dh50,000 and Dh60,000. Is there any law in Dubai which says that my real estate agents have to reduce the price or it will be the same? If another tenant comes once I leave they will pay Dh60,000, so why can’t they reduce it for us? SD, Dubai

Any changes to a rental contract have to be communicated by either party to the other, giving at least 90 days’ notice from the expiry of the tenancy agreement. As your contract expires shortly, I’m afraid you will not be able to alter the amount this time around as the notice deadline has been missed. The Rera rental calculator is calibrated just once a year now on January 1, whereas before it was up­dated once a quarter, therefore there will be winners and losers through the year, depending on the type of market we are in.

Either way if you feel that you are paying too much in rent you need to communicate this to the landlord and/or agent giving your reasons and to try to negotiate a better deal. If they refuse to negotiate, regrettably your only option would be to move out and to look for cheaper accommodation.

Mario Volpi is a real estate professional who has worked within the industry for the past 31 years in London and Dubai. The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and they do not reflect in any way those of the institutions to which he is affiliated. It does not constitute legal advice and is provided for information only.

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