Early last year, the Dubai Land Department (DLD) issued a new tenancy contract format to standardise the landlord and tenant relationship in accordance with Dubai Law No. 26 of 2007, as amended by Dubai Law No. 33 of 2008 (the Tenancy Law).
Prior to the introduction of the new tenancy contract, a variety of contract formats were being used for short term tenancies. One such example included formats containing provisions which enabled the landlord to serve an eviction notice in a manner which was not in compliance with the Tenancy Law. As a result, a number of tenants in Dubai were being served notices without legitimate grounds for eviction.
While positive steps have been taken by the DLD towards further increasing transparency in the rental sector, it would appear that eviction procedures in Dubai are still often misunderstood. The Tenancy Law specifies certain circumstances in which a landlord can validly demand the eviction of a tenant, which are examined in more detail below.
Eviction prior to expiry
It is often assumed that a landlord can demand eviction at its discretion, so long as it provides sufficient notice to the tenant.
However, in order to legitimately evict a tenant prior to the expiry of a tenancy:
a) One or more of the circumstances set out in Article 25(1) of the Tenancy Law must be present; and
b) The landlord must provide notice to the tenant through the notary public or by registered mail.
The circumstances in Article 25(1) are limited to scenarios where:
• The tenant fails to pay the rent within 30 days of receipt of a payment notice, unless otherwise agreed;
• The tenant subleases the property without the landlord’s written consent;
• The tenant uses, or permits others to use, the property for immoral or illegal activities;
• The property is a commercial shop and is unoccupied by the tenant without legal reason for 30 or 90 continuous days in one year, unless otherwise agreed;
• The tenant endangers the safety of the property, causes damage intentionally or due to gross negligence, or allows others to cause damage;
• The property is in danger of collapse, as evidenced by a technical report;
• The tenant uses the property beyond the permitted use or violates building regulations;
• The tenant fails to observe its legal or contractual obligations within 30 days of receipt of a remedy notice; The property requires demolition by a government authority.
Eviction on expiry
It is a common misconception that the landlord has an automatic right to evict a tenant upon expiry of the tenancy.
In reality, irrespective of the tenancy term, the landlord cannot evict a tenant unless:
a) The reason for eviction falls within one of the grounds stated in Article 25(2) of the Tenancy Law; and
b) The landlord has provided 12 months’ notice to the tenant prior to the date of eviction through the notary public or by registered mail.
Article 25(2) of the Tenancy Law provides limited grounds of eviction on expiry, namely if:
• The landlord wishes to demolish the property;
• The property requires renovation or maintenance which cannot be carried out during occupation;
• The landlord requires the property for its personal use or by immediate next of kin;
• The landlord wishes to sell the property.
It is worth noting that if the landlord chooses to retain the property for personal use, Article 26(2) of the Tenancy Law prohibits the landlord from renting the property to a third party for a period of two years (for residential properties) and three years (for non-residential properties), unless the Rental Dispute Settlement Centre (RDSC) determines a shorter time period. Where the landlord has rented the property in breach of Article 26(2) of the Tenancy Law, a tenant may request the RDSC to award compensation. However, there is no set precedent for the treatment of such claims, and therefore it is difficult to determine how it would be enforced in practice.
If a legitimate ground for eviction does not arise, the impact is that the tenant has an automatic right of renewal on the same terms and conditions, with the exception of any permitted increase in the rent, determined according to the rent index published by Rera.
Whilst the Tenancy Law aims to limit the potential for disputes arising between landlords and tenants in relation to eviction, it is clear that any notice demanding eviction should be carefully reviewed by the tenant and legal advice obtained to ensure the landlord has issued the notice on legitimate grounds.
Nayab Aziz is a lawyer in the real estate department of Pinsent Masons. She has assisted developers and sub-developers on a range of property issues in relation to off-plan and completed projects. The views expressed here are her own.
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