Dubai: Illegal Eviction Amid Rent Hikes Spark Concern Among Residents

(MENAFN- Khaleej Times) Dubai resident Jan Alabastro didn't want to leave the one-bedroom apartment he was renting in Jumeirah Village Circle (JVC), but he was served an eviction notice a year ago, saying the flat would be sold. Then, he discovered it was being rented out again - at a rate way higher than what he used to pay.

"Is that even legal?" asked Alabastro, who requested anonymity as he was planning to file a case. "What's crazier is that they asked me if I wanted to rent the flat again, but with the new rate that was unfairly high."

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The Filipino expat wasn't the only one. Dilip Daswani, a real estate expert in Dubai, said such a tactic by "very unscrupulous people" does exist - mainly with the intention of skirting the Rera rules that limit rental hikes for renewals.

"This is definitely illegal and those who do this could face penalties. My own son had the same issue," she said.

As the real estate market booms, some residents believe landlords are now becoming "greedy", charging exorbitant rates.

Bypassing Rera index?

Alabastro, who heads a marketing agency, said he used to pay Dh46,500 a year for his one-bedroom flat. Upon checking the Real Estate Regulatory Authority's (Rera) calculator , the average rate for a similar unit in his area was Dh54,000 to Dh66,000. However, the maximum increase that his landlord could charge upon renewal was only Dh4,650.

"If I hadn't been evicted and if I was allowed to renew, I should pay only Dh51,160 and that's the maximum, based on the calculator," he told Khaleej Times.

A few months before moving out, Alabastro was surprised to receive an offer to get a new contract for the same flat, sent via WhatsApp. "They were offering it at Dh55,000 and they said that was the lowest they could go," he said. "I tried arguing that this was beyond the permitted increase but they said this was the price in the market."

Alabastro said he was confused, too, because he thought the flat was sold, as declared in the eviction notice.

"I have a friend in the building who received the exact eviction notice but she wasn't offered the chance to rent the property again at higher rates. I felt something was off," he said.

What the law says

Landlords can evict tenants upon the expiry of their contract in certain cases, provided that a notice is served at least 12 months before the eviction, according to advisors at the Galadari Experts and Legal Consultants.

The intent to sell the property is a valid reason for eviction, the experts said, citing a Dubai law that regulates the relationship between tenants and landlords.

"[However], the problem arises if the landlord requests the eviction on [these grounds but] does not sell the leased property or it is not used for personal purposes," said Taha Ramadan, senior counsel at the firm.

Taha Ramadan

"In such cases, the landlord must not rent out the leased property until at least two years have passed for residential real estate and three years for commercial real estate from the date of reclaiming the property," Ramadan said.

A tenant may file a compensation claim against the landlord if he or she finds that the apartment has been "re-rented" before the two-year period, said Essa Ziad Galadari, advocate at the same firm.

"[In the claim, he/she] may include transportation expenses and the expenses involved in searching for a new leased property - and the difference in the rental value, if any," he said.

Essa Ziad Galadari

A case can be filed before the the Rental Disputes Settlement Centre, and it should specify all relevant details - including those related to the new tenant.

"If the tenant has proven that the landlord rented the property to a new tenant, then the centre will award him the compensation it deems appropriate," Galadari said.

Taking the matter to court does come with costs. "The fee is paid at 3.5 per cent of the compensation amount that the tenant wants, with a minimum of Dh500 and a maximum of Dh15,000," he added.


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'I knew my rights'

Alabastro admitted that he didn't know much about his rights as a tenant. "If only I had known that there were certain conditions that must be met in relation to the eviction, I would have raised questions the moment I got the letter," he said.

This wasn't the case for another Dubai resident, Joseph Roney, who received an eviction e-mail less than six months after moving into his apartment in JVC.

He was informed that his flat would be turned over to a new agency. And when the new firm stepped in, he was told that he should vacate his flat by November (the expiry of his contract) as the unit would be sold.

"This came as quite the shock for me, because I had found this flat with great difficulty, and additionally I had been given no intimation about something like this happening," Roney said.

Having been born and raised in Dubai, the expat - who works as a senior software engineer - had some semblance of the law.

He looked up information from Rera and told the new agency that they couldn't evict him just like that. He was able to force the agency to give him a one-year eviction notice, which came as a proper legal document from the government. Instead of November, he was allowed to stay until April of the next year.

Come November, however, he faced another complication: The agency was refusing to renew his lease until April, saying they "can't issue a rental contract for less than 6 months".

"I did my research again and told them that it was their responsibility to request and issue a special renewal contract for me, since they served the eviction notice," he said.

Roney was able to hold his ground - but it was a process that required a series of e-mails and "a lot of time and effort".

"I ended up saving a lot of money and also the inconvenience of having to find a new apartment again in a year, so [it was] a success, all things considered," he said.

More informed tenants

While such "dirty tricks" related to evictions and rent hikes remain an issue for some, the illegal practice is becoming less common, said another real estate expert.

"This is because tenants are able to find all the information online, plus the Dubai Land Department and real estate agents are able to guide them, as well as landlords," said Yervant Matassarian, CEO of Mertoun Real Estate.

As a middle man between landlords and tenants, Matassarian makes it a point to always give sound advice that would be fair for all.

"When advising landlords on rent increases in Dubai, it's essential to consider market conditions, rental trends, and legal regulations," he said.

"Additionally, maintaining good communication with tenants and providing notice of rent hikes through within legal guidelines fosters transparency and helps mitigate any potential disputes."


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Khaleej Times

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