What do you do when you want to downsize from a villa to an apartment Image Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

My lease is written on the green form. The lease is expiring soon and the landlord claims that he does not have to renew, due to the language “Renewal of the Tenancy is at the discretion of the Landlord”. Is this true?

The standard green lease, that many landlords continue to use in Dubai, contains clauses that renewal is at the discretion of the landlord and that the lease is null and void after the expiration date. Under the tenancy laws, a tenant has an automatic right of renewal, unless a valid legal reason is given for eviction, along with the required legal notice. Therefore, such clauses are generally not valid or enforceable. If your landlord refuses to renew your lease, deposit the new lease, along with the rent cheque(s), with the Rental Disputes Center at the Dubai Land Department. You can call 8004488 for more information.

My husband and I want to downsize from a villa to an apartment. However, we have a remaining balance on our mortgage that we cannot pay off prior to the sale. How can we sell the property?

A mortgage must be settled and released by the lender (bank) prior to the property transfer taking place. If you do not have the funds to pay the remaining balance of your loan, then the buyer in your transaction must do so. If the buyer is purchasing the property with a loan, your banks will work together to settle the mortgage. If it is a cash purchase, the buyer will issue a manager’s cheque in the name of the lender, for the amount stated in the liability letter issued by your bank.

I am a unit owner. My building is very poorly maintained, we do not have an owners’ association and the developer will not disclose how the service charges are being used. Can I stop paying them?

As an owner, you are entitled to know how your service charges are being applied. However, not paying your service charges is not a good solution, as there may be consequences. There is the possibility of a lawsuit against you for the unpaid balance, plus accrued interest charges. Some developers also use the legally questionable tactic of disconnecting the A/C and other utilities, until the arrears are paid in full. Another consideration to keep in mind - if many of the owners stop paying the service charges, and major repair or renovation of the common area elements is needed (such as elevators or the chiller), there will be a lack of funds to make such repairs. You should first gather a group of owners to talk to the developer about your concerns. If the developer is not responsive, then attempt to meet with the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA) regarding this issue.

When I vacated my flat four months ago, I painted and left it in pristine condition. However, the landlord has not yet returned my security deposit. May I file a case against him?

A landlord must return the security deposit to the tenant, unless there is damage beyond reasonable wear and tear. Since you repainted and left the unit “pristine”, the property condition does not seem to be a factor. If the landlord has not notified you of the reason for not returning your deposit, and refuses to respond, you may want to file a claim at the Rental Disputes Center. The fee is 3.5% of the security deposit amount, with a minimum of AED 500. The court fee will be reimbursed by the landlord, if you win.

I have heard about DIFC wills. What are the benefits of having one?

If you are a non-Muslim over the age of 21, own property in Dubai or Ras Al Khaimah, or have minor children living with you here, you may want to consider registering a will with the Dubai International Financial Centre’s (DIFC) Wills and Probate Registry. If you do not have a will, Shariah law will be applied. Even if you have an attested will from your country of origin, it is still possible that Shariah law will be applied to your property. Under Shariah law, there is a set method for distribution of assets and guardianship of children. With a DIFC will, you can select how your property will be distributed, as well as guardianship (with some restriction). It is important to note that, regardless of citizenship, Muslims are not eligible for this service. To find out more, visit www.difcprobate.ae.

Majdel Musa is a faculty member at the Dubai Real Estate Institute. This column is intended to provide information to readers, should not be considered legal advice. Email your questions to propertyweekly@gulfnews.com