When settling disputes, different rules may apply in different locations or type of property or building. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dubai has a civil and respectful environment and neighbourhood disputes are comparatively rare. However, as in all other jurisdictions, disputes between neighbours do arise here. It is difficult to define what laws will be applicable without having some knowledge of the nature of the dispute. For example, some disputes may be relatively minor (such as excessive noise), while others could be significantly more serious, such as damaging a party wall or blocking an entrance.

In addition, different rules may apply in different locations or type of property or building. In this article we outline the headline issues for parties to consider in a neighbourhood dispute.

The nature of the dispute

The nature of disputes could vary significantly. Common disputes are excessive noise or noise levels that are inappropriate at certain hours; constructing in a way that impedes light or views; constructing without proper permits; obstructing access ways or parking in the wrong car park; and uncivil or criminal behaviour. We consider each type of dispute and potential courses.

Excessive noise

The level of noise permitted in a given situation may depend on the circumstances. For example, construction noise during daytime may be allowed within limits that are higher than at nighttime. Similarly, a level of human noise, for example music, may be permissible in the evenings to reasonable hours.

The precise regulations are laid down by the Dubai Municipality, stating decibel limits as well as requiring the relevant officer to take into account the time of day or night and whether the noise is continuous or sporadic. If a neighbour wants to raise a complaint about noise, here are some suggestions:

1) If the noise is continuous, such as construction noise, the complaint could be laid with the Dubai Municipality, which may then use its own rules and procedures to impose a fine or punish the party for excessive noise.

(2) If the noise is sporadic, such as a noisy party, the complaint could be laid with the building manager, the community manager or the landlord (as applicable). Depending on the exact legal situation, further steps could then be taken such as: a) imposing fines (if such noise breaches established rules for the building); or (b) the landlord notifying the tenant of a breach of the lease.

(3) It may be appropriate to contact the police directly, although unless the situation appears urgent, such an assessment and such action may be best left to the professional security and building or community management staff.

Construction disputes

In most cases any form of construction would require planning approval, generally through the Dubai Municipality. In many cases also, construction may require the approval of the landlord and the building or community manager, owners’ association and/or developer (in jointly owned properties).

As for noise, the appropriate starting point for raising a compliant would be with the building or community manager or the landlord, who should be able to confirm if the works are approved or not and who should take action if the works are not approved. If you still think the noise is excessive, you may need to consult with a lawyer and/or engineering and planning consultants who are familiar with the laws and guidelines applicable.

Obstructing access ways or incorrect parking

Obstructing access ways or using incorrect parking is a form of trespass and can have civil or criminal consequences. Similarly, however, touching an offenders vehicle of forcibly removing a vehicle may also be a trespass. If the situation is of an urgent or pressing nature, we would recommend that the complaining party contact the police. If the matter is not so pressing or occurs sporadically, it may be better raised with the building or community manager or landlord, who will take appropriate action.

Uncivil or criminal behaviour

Although quite rare in Dubai, neighbours may be faced with criminal or uncivil behaviour from neighbours or their tenants. It is important in such circumstances that the aggrieved party remain calm and not aggravate the situation by themselves engaging in uncivil behaviour (note in particular that any form of physical coercion, swearing and obscene gestures in Dubai may be treated as criminal matters). A complainant may thereafter refer any criminal matter directly to the police.

Communication is key

This is only an overview of the types of disputes that may arise between neighbours and suggestions as to the formal channels by which complaints may be made. Many disputes may be circumvented or prevented by keeping in contact with and communicating with your neighbours. In this respect we support the many initiatives by community managers and various government departments to promote greater communication and understanding between residents.