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Who Covers Repair Costs in a Rental Property? Exploring Tenant Rights in the Emirates

Rental laws in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah place responsibility for repairs and maintenance on landlord

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Staff Writer, TLR

Published on May 3, 2024, 14:33:43

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uae tenancy laws, tenants rights, repairing property, property in uae

In cases where a rented property sustains damage from severe weather conditions, determining the party responsible for covering repair costs — whether it's the landlord or the tenant — can be a legal matter. The UAE's tenancy laws have clearly outlined the repair obligations and provided insights into a tenant's potential entitlement to reimbursement or compensation.

When it comes to renting properties, understanding who is responsible for repairs is crucial for landlords and tenants.

According to Sunil Ambalavelil, principal partner at Nasser Yousuf Alkhamis Advocates and Legal Consultants, the rental laws in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah all place the responsibility for repairs and maintenance on the landlord. Depending on your emirate of residence, here is what you need to know about the applicable rental law:

Abu Dhabi

Ambalavelil referred to Article 7 of the Abu Dhabi Rental Law - Law No. 20/2006, which states: “The landlord shall maintain the leased property to keep it fit for use and shall carry out all necessary repairs excluding rental repairs during the rental period unless otherwise agreed.”

He added that in case the tenant is deprived of using the property, they can refer to the emirate’s Rental Dispute Centre, which should be done within one month of the issue arising.

“Therefore, according to the aforementioned laws, it is the landlord’s responsibility to cover all maintenance costs unless otherwise specified in the tenancy contract. However, tenants should be mindful to engage with the court to safeguard their rights and ensure they do not forfeit the opportunity to claim what is rightfully theirs,” he said.

Ambalavelil noted that if a tenant ends up spending on maintenance work, he or she can request reimbursement from the landlord, as per the UAE’s Civil Code, specifically Article 767 (1) of Federal Law No. 5 of 1985.

“This would apply to major defects, where the tenant is deprived of beneficial occupation or enjoyment,” he added.

For minor defects, Ambalavelil referred to Article 767(2), which also gives tenants the option to attend to minor defects that require urgent attention and the landlord fails to attend to them or the tenant is unable to get hold of the landlord, after which he or she can recover the expenses from the landlord or deduct the expense from the rent due.

Dubai

“As per Dubai’s tenancy regulation – Law No. 26 of 2007, the landlord is responsible for covering all maintenance costs unless otherwise specified in the tenancy contract,” said Ambalavelil.
He added that Article 17 of the same law explains that the landlord is responsible for any defect or damage not caused by the tenant.

“If the maintenance expenses are high, the tenant has the right to seek reimbursement from the landlord, as stated in the law. However, if the tenancy contract specifies terms regarding maintenance responsibility, the terms of contract will prevail as per Article 16 of Law No. 26 of 2007. In the absence of such terms in the contract, the issue must be resolved through a maintenance case against the owner in the Rental Dispute Centre,” he said.

Sharjah

“The landlord must handle all the maintenance work during the lease period unless the parties agree otherwise,” he said. Ambalavelil explained that the emirate’s tenancy regulations – Sharjah Law No. 2 of 2007, addresses the responsibility of maintenance.

Article 9: The landlord undertakes to maintain the leased premises to remain valid for use, and to handle all maintenance work during the lease period without the necessary rental maintenance unless the parties otherwise agree.

However, Article 10 of the law also brings in the responsibility of the tenant in cases of damage, stipulating that “they must utilise the leased premises in accordance with the terms outlined in the contract and in alignment with its intended purpose or customary usage”.

“This underscores that tenants should refrain from engaging in activities that could cause damage to the property and subsequently expect the owner to bear the cost of repairs. Although Article 9 clearly implies landlord’s responsibility to take care of the maintenance of the property,” he said.

What if Landlord Refuses?

According to Ambalavelil, the tenant can take a few measures if the landlord refuses to make the necessary repairs, as per Article 8 of the emirate’s rental law, including requesting the rental dispute committee to terminate the contract or request for a rent decrease proportional to the damage.

“Hence, the law has established legal procedures that allows tenants to pursue their rights if they encounter non-cooperation from the landlord regarding property maintenance. These legal measures serve as a safeguard, ensuring that tenants are not burdened with the responsibilities that rightfully belong to the landlord,” he said.

Renters’ Insurance

While the law does protect tenants, legal experts advise them to also consider having ‘content insurance’ or tenant insurance, because it also covers the tenants’ personal belongings and provides alternative accommodation, too.

In the UAE, various insurance policies are available, offering diverse coverage options. However, they are often overlooked, leading to a lack of insurance among many tenants. When considering tenants' rights and addressing their concerns, the resolution varies based on individual circumstances and the type of insurance coverage in place.

Those tenants, who might have taken content insurance, would be covered by that insurance. In particular, all of the damages to their personal property, such as furniture, appliances and other assets, will be covered by the insurance policy. Furthermore, depending on the type of insurance policy, in some cases, insurance policies will even cover temporary accommodation.

Those tenants who did not have insurance, their recourse depends, to an extent, on the cause of the damage. If the property sustained serious damages due to the negligence by or fault of the landlord, then tenants may have a claim against the landlord for compensation of those damages.

An example of this could be when landlords ignored tenants’ earlier requests to fix or remedy certain blatant defects in the property, such as defective window or damaged roof. Even in those cases where damage to the property was due to defective construction, a tenant has a right against the landlord. This is because such damage relates to the property itself, whose obligations are attached to the right of property ownership.

However, there are certain cases where the landlord may not be legally required to cover costs. The extent of the landlord's responsibility to compensate tenants in cases where the landlord is not directly at fault may influence the amount of compensation awarded.

Tenants should also be aware of the landlord's potential defense of force majeure. Recent events such as the storm and subsequent floods in the UAE could be considered force majeure, relieving landlords of their obligations.

Force majeure refers to unforeseeable circumstances preventing contract fulfilment. Landlords may argue that the storm was a natural disaster beyond their control. The outcome regarding force majeure in UAE courts is yet to be determined.

For any enquiries or information, contact ask@tlr.ae or call us on +971 52 644 3004Follow The Law Reporters on WhatsApp Channels.

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