Know your rights before signing a tenancy contract

Before you sign your tenancy contract, ensure you fully understand your rights and responsibilities as a tenant, as well as the regulations in Dubai. Equally, make sure it’s clear what obligations are those of your landlord. Failing to pick up on ambiguities or errors within your tenancy contract can potentially cause you headaches in the future. 

Here’s all you need to know about Dubai Tenancy Law to ensure you are well informed and adequately protected.

What are landlord and tenant rights?

When it comes to renting a property in Dubai, the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA) has set definitive laws to regulate the relationship between the landlord and the tenant, and clearly outlines the division of responsibilities in order to minimize disputes and misunderstandings.

Landlord’s rights

  • The landlord is required to hand over the property to the tenant in Dubai in good, livable condition, as specified in the contract. However, in rare cases, the tenant may agree to lease the unfinished property and complete it himself. Who is liable for the costs of such completion is stated in Article 15. 
  • The landlord is responsible for undertaking all property maintenance works and repairs that can compromise the tenant’s living conditions during the term of the contract, unless the two parties agree otherwise, as stated in Article 16. 
  • The landlord must not make any changes or renovations to the property that would affect the tenants full use, as intended. However, if the tenant agrees to the landlord’s renovation request, the landlord may proceed, as stated in Article 17. 

Tenant’s rights

  • If the tenant wishes to undertake any kind of renovations to the property, the landlord must grant permission and obtain any required licenses from official entities, if needed as stated in Article 19.
  • The tenant pays a refundable security deposit at the time of renting the property. In the case the landlord denies refunding the deposit, in full or part, due to any unfair deduction claims for the damage of the property, the tenant can seek the help of the rent dispute committee to resolve the issue, under Article 20. 
  • The tenant must return the property to the landlord in the same condition as received at the time of entering into the contract. Ordinary wear and tear or damage due to reasons beyond the tenant’s control may be exempted. In the event of any disagreement between the two parties, the matter may be brought to the dispute committee, as stated in Article 21.
  • The tenant is responsible for settling all charges and taxes levied by government entities and departments for the use of the property, as well as any fees or taxes prescribed for any sub-lease unless it is agreed otherwise in the tenancy contract, as stated in Article 22. 
  • Upon vacating and returning possession of the property to the landlord, the tenant should not remove any leasehold improvements made by him, as stated in Article 23.

What is a Tenancy Contract?

Before receiving the keys to a property, you and the landlord enter into a rental agreement known as a tenancy contract. A tenancy contract essentially forms a legally binding agreement enabling you to benefit from the usage of the property for a specified purpose and period of time. It states all the terms of the lease, including both parties’ requirements and expectations, outlined as clauses in the agreement. Clearly outlining and defining all terms and conditions in the agreement serves to prevent disputes and misunderstandings between parties.

Dubai Tenancy Law

The relationship between landlords and tenants in Dubai is regulated by the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA) under the Dubai Rental Law No. 26 of 2007 (and amendments from Law No. 33 (2008). The law outlines the roles and responsibilities of landlords and tenants to prevent any potential disputes and misunderstandings. The Rent Disputes Settlement Centre (RDSC) established under Decree No. 26 of 2013 looks into and resolves all matters of rental disputes in Dubai, whilst Decree No. 43 of 2013 administers all rent increases.

Regulation of Tenancy Contracts in Dubai

RERA regulates the real estate sector in Dubai overall, as well as governs tenancy contract rules. A new system of tenancy contract has been developed under the Ejari system, and it is mandatory that all tenancy agreements are registered with the system.

What should be included in a Tenancy Contract?

A Tenancy Contract should include the following details:

  • Landlord’s name and contact details
  • Tenant’s name and contact details
  • Property information; full address, building name and location, size
  • Plot number
  • DEWA premise number
  • Rent amount
  • Term of contract
  • Date of the contract
  • Security deposit amount
  • Method of payment

Any special terms and conditions in addition to the standard Tenancy Contract terms are attached to the agreement in the form of an addendum which clearly outlines all individually agreed obligations of both parties.

Important clauses in Tenancy Contracts

  • The landlord and tenant can have an addendum attached to the standard tenancy contract, which outlines the complete terms and conditions of the agreement, including who pays for what services, for example, the chiller. At what point is there a need for No Objection Certificate (NOC) from landlords during alterations to the property, and so on. However, it is mandatory to register the tenancy contract along with any amendments with RERA, as stated in Article 4.
  • Tenancy contracts cannot be terminated by a single party, unless otherwise agreed between the two parties. This means the contract term is automatically extended for a similar period or for one year (whichever is less), with the same terms and conditions, after the expiry of the contract if the tenant continues to occupy the property, Article 6.
  • If the landlord wants to end or amend the tenancy contract, he should provide written notice to the tenant at least 90 days before the expiration of the tenancy contract, Article 14.
  • In the case of death of either party – the landlord or the tenant– the tenancy contract will not be terminated automatically. It will go to the heirs unless the tenant’s heirs desire to end the agreement, in which case the termination will come into effect in at least 30 days from the date of notifying the landlord, Article 27. 
  • If the ownership of the property is transferred to a new owner, it will not have any impact on the tenant’s right to continue to occupy the property, provided the tenancy contract has a fixed date, Article 28.

Where to find a Tenancy Contract in Dubai?

You can download a standard tenancy contract from Ejari’s official website or from the DLD’s smart app. Again, for any additional terms and conditions over and above the standard terms, as agreed between the landlord and tenant, an addendum to the Ejari contract is required, which is typically drafted by the real estate agent.

The tenancy contract is written in both English and Arabic,according to local laws and customs on a Microsoft Word file and it is fully editable in every part. In fact, clauses can be edited, added and deleted based on the specific needs of tenants and landlords.

A standard Tenancy Contract is divided into the following 7 sections:

  • Primary Terms and Conditions
  • Tenant’s Obligations
  • Landlord’s Obligations
  • Contract Renewal and Termination
  • Ejari Registration
  • Governing Law
  • Observations

Who signs the Tenancy Contract?

A tenancy contract must be signed by both the landlord and the tenant, each in the presence of a witness. 

The DLD accepts the signature of the landlord’s legal representative through a Power of Attorney (POA), if necessary. However, a POA is valid for two years only and must be re-stamped by the Dubai Courts after this time. Property management companies licensed by the DLD are also permitted to sign contracts for the units they manage. You can locate the approved list of companies on the DLD’s official portal.

What documents are required for a Tenancy Contract?

What happens when a Tenancy Contract expires?

When a tenancy contract expires but the tenant continues to occupy the property, the contract term is automatically extended for a similar period or for one year (whichever is less), with the same terms and conditions, as the previous agreement, unless otherwise agreed by both parties. 

Can I exit my Tenancy Contract early?

In the case of a tenant electing to vacate the property early, the landlord is not obligated by law to refund any rent unless an early termination clause is specifically included in the agreement. There is no standard law or governing principle on early termination of tenancy in Dubai. Instead, the tenant should request a clause be included in the contract outlining a notice period and penalty amount in the case of early termination.  

What is the notice period or penalty for early contract termination?

If the tenant is vacating the property early, they must provide 60 days notice to the landlord. Typically, the penalty is 1 to 2 months rent, payable to the landlord. However, again, RERA does not provide an Article for early contract termination, and as such, any penalty or refund of prepaid rent is dependent purely upon the landlords will and intention.

What if my landlord evicts me from the property prior to expiration of the Tenancy Contract?

Under Dubai Tenancy Law, a landlord may demand eviction of a tenant prior to expiry of the tenancy period in the following circumstances:

In all the above-mentioned cases, the landlord must notify tenant with reasons of eviction at least ninety (90) days prior to the expiry date of the contract. If you feel your landlord has unreasonable grounds for eviction, you can lodge a formal complaint with The Rental Disputes Settlement Centre (RDSC), a body established specifically to resolve all conflicts between landlords and tenants in Dubai.

I don’t have a formal Tenancy Contract, what are my rights?

Under Dubai Tenancy Law (Article 4), it is mandatory to have the terms of a rental agreement in writing and registered with RERA. In the absence of a formal Tenancy Contract, both parties are not legally protected under RERA. As such, the Rent Dispute Settlement Committee (RDSC) and other relevant government entities are unable to consider or intervene in any matter of dispute that may arise from a rental relationship not registered with RERA, as it is not regarded as a legally binding contract.

What is a tenant and landlord relationship?

In tenant landlord relationship, the landlord retains the right of ownership of the property, and the tenant receives the right to use the property against the rental value he pays for the unit. The tenant is expected to look after the property, and the landlord is responsible for the maintenance, as outlined in the agreement. It is important that both parties maintain a good rapport as this develops mutual trust, and is particularly important should any issues ever arise. 

How does Tenancy Law affect landlords and tenants?

Tenancy Law creates transparency in the rental market. The unified tenancy contract system, Ejari, authenticates rental contracts and agreements between tenants and landlords. This system is in place to make sure all private rental contracts are drafted into legally binding documents and structured in the government-approved format. Tenancy law clearly defines the obligations and responsibilities for landlords and tenants, as well as provides for dispute resolution to protect the rights of each party.

Is a landlord allowed to enter a property when a tenant is not present?

No, the landlord is not permitted to enter a rental property without the tenant’s permission unless the tenancy contract has an access clause stated. Clear rules and regulations should be included in the tenancy contract regarding the viewing of property during the tenant’s occupancy. 

If the landlord wants to sell the property, he should seek the tenant’s consent to be able to show the premises to potential buyers. When the tenant permits viewings, the landlord must provide at least 24 hour’s notice, and must be present at the time of viewing. 

I have occupied the same property for years, do I have any special rights?

Legally, no, tenants don’t get to enjoy any exclusive rights or privileges simply for occupying a property for a long period of time. They receive the same rights and obligations as any other tenant.

What are your rights in case of a rent dispute?

Conflict can arise between landlord and tenant over unreasonable rent increase or an unreasonable reduction from the security deposit, amongst many others. 

Rent increases must fall within the parameters of the RERA Rental Increase Calculator. If you do not agree to the terms of the increase and cannot reach a mutual settlement with the landlord, you can raise a dispute with the RDSC. 

What does it cost to raise a rental dispute? 

  • 3.5% of the annual rent (minimum AED 500, maximum AED 20,000) to lodge a complaint
  • Approximately AED 210 per page translation fee for relevant documents

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