Know your rights before getting evicted.
By Ilina Devadhar
In the pandemic, many countries enacted various laws and regulations to block tenant evictions for a certain period of time. This was done to safeguard the interests of millions of tenants who would otherwise have ended up on the streets. Abu Dhabi and Dubai, too, blocked all evictions for two months in March 2020.
Currently, Laws govern the way that an eviction must take place. In the UAE, these Laws are strictly adhered to and are primarily in the interest of the tenants.
All the matters related to real estate are regulated through an agency known as Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA). RERA is one of the regulatory arms of the Dubai Land Department (DLD). This agency has set definitive laws that regulate tenant and landlord relationship. The laws highlight the roles of each party and the procedure to be followed in case of any dispute.
Law No. (26) of 2007 deals with the relationship between landlord and tenant. The law is known as ‘Regulating the Relation Between Lessors and Lessees of Properties in the Emirate of Dubai’. However, specific provisions of this law have been amended by Law No. (33) of 2008.
When a landlord wants to evict a tenant, due process must be followed. If not followed, then the tenant can file a suit against the landlord. Thus, the laws are such that they protect the interests of the supposedly weaker party; in this case, it is the tenants. Rental Dispute Settlement Centre (RDSC) solves any disputes between renters and landowners.
Firstly, according to Article (4) of Law (33) of 2008, both parties must ensure that a valid tenancy contract is registered with RERA through Ejari along with all the verified documents.
According to Article (6) of Law (26) of 2007, if a tenancy contract expires but the tenant continues to live on the estate without any objection from the landlord, then it is automatically assumed that the tenancy has been extended for the same period or one year, whichever is less. The exact terms of the contract are to be followed.
Article (25) of Law No. (33) of 2008 provides a detailed list of when a tenant can be evicted when the tenancy contract is still in operation, as well as the conditions for evicting a tenant upon the expiry of the agreement.
In the case of eviction before the expiry of the tenancy, the landlord is obliged to serve such a notice to the tenant. If the tenant fails to abide by any obligation within 30 days from the date of being notified as stipulated in Clause (1), Article (25) of Law No. (33) of 2008, then the landlord is legally allowed to evict the tenant. Clause 1 mentions 9 cases when a lessor may request the eviction of a tenant before the expiry of the contract.
Further, the eviction notice must be written and sent via the public notary or through registered mail.
If a tenant fails to pay the rent or any fraction of it within 30 days from the date of notifying the same, then the lessor has the right to evict the tenant. However, this often leads to tenants waiting till the very last date to pay, much to the landlord’s disappointment. The court is silent on the number of times a tenant can default as long as he eventually pays the arrears within the given notice period.
The tenant is not allowed to sublease the property unless there is written consent from the lessor. If a tenant does sublease the property or any part of it without prior approval, then both the tenant and subtenant will be evicted, and the subtenant can claim compensation from the tenant.
The tenant cannot grant third-party access to the property for any illegal usage.
Now, suppose the landlord wishes to evict the tenant after the expiry of the contract. In that case, the landlord is obliged to serve such a notice to the tenant at a minimum duration of 12 months as stipulated in Clause (2), Article (25) of Law No. (33) of 2008. There are four exclusive cases mentioned in this Clause, and the lessor must meet any one of them to have a successful eviction claim. The eviction notice must be written and sent via the public notary or through registered mail.
It is important to note that RERA has not issued any property rent law that specifically governs the termination of tenancy contracts before the expiry date. For early termination of any contract, there has to be a relevant clause in the tenancy agreement. Otherwise, the tenant can demand compensation for premature termination of the contract.
Article (7) of Law (26) of 2007 reinforces the concept that valid rental agreements shall not be unilaterally terminated by either of the parties unless there has been a mutual agreement.
It is also important to note that when an action for eviction has been lodged, the tenant is liable to pay the rent during the ongoing hearing till the final judgement. This is stipulated in Article (31) of Law (26) of 2007.
Death of party
Article (27) of Law (26) of 2007 clearly states that there will be a continuation of the tenancy contract on the death of either the tenant or the landlord. For termination, the lessor must send a 30-day notice.
Transfer of ownership
Article (28) of Law (26) of 2007 states that the tenancy will not be impacted in the case of transfer of property ownership to a new owner. The existing tenant has full right to occupy the property until the tenancy contract expires.
UAE has one of the best regulated laws and through new and modern initiatives like EJARI (my rent), the rental market and real estate sector is one of the best regulated rental markets in the world. Now, the laws should also remove a major discrepancy which is the number of times a tenant can default and delay the rent payment. A ball park number like 3 or 5 counts should be maintained that way the landlords, too, can have a steady flow of income without worrying and this can attract more people to buy property. An assurance will be created for both parties.
(Writer is Legal Research Intern with The Law Reporters)
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