Many tenants continue to defy the authorities and sublet their rented homes to third parties without the owner’s knowledge or permission. In one case, a studio apartment was sublet to three families at the same time. Image Credit: Arshad Ali/Gulf News

Sharjah: Subletting homes is not allowed under the rules of the country, yet many continue to defy authorities and sublet their rented homes to third parties. If an altercation arises with the third-party tenants, the owners are at a risk and will be held accountable.

There have been cases where third parties move into a home without the knowledge of the owner and once they are confronted, still refuse to leave.

That is the case of Mohammad. a 55-year-old UAE national who owns a two-storey villa in Al Yarmook, Sharjah. Almost one-and-a-half years ago, Mohammad was renting the villa out.

But after the tenant left, Mohammad was faced with the dilemma of having three families living inside the premises without his knowledge.

"The tenant had collected a lot of debt and had issued bounced cheques, so he left the country and ran away. He was also unable to pay his rent so I did not mind that much when he fled, because I then had the opportunity to rent it out to somebody else. When I went to visit the five-bedroom villa to check that everything was in order, I never expected to find families living inside it," he said.

Losing money

The villa Mohammad wants to rent out costs Dh55,000 per year, and he has lost a lot more since first renting it to the initial tenant.

"If the people living inside the villa are caught by the police doing illegal activities, it will be my responsibility. The tenant that signed the contract must have given them the house keys. I tried to be civilised and talk to them on many occasions, but they refused to open the door. I stood outside the house and saw them peeking through the curtains to look at me, but they still refused to open the door and talk."

Mohammad went to the police who said the issue could only be taken up by the municipality. He then went to file a complaint at the Rent Dispute Committee at Sharjah Municipality and after weeks of filling forms and visiting department managers, Mohammad's complaint was finally registered last month.

First line of defence for house owners

An official at Sharjah Municipality's Consumer Protection Department explained that if a landlord is faced with illegal tenants, he should immediately contact the Rent Dispute Committee and terminate the contract between himself and the initial tenant.

The committee will subsequently assign an inspector to follow up on the case and visit the house, and will then be required to file a written report.

"In most cases, the people living in the homes know that they are illegal tenants and that there is no contract between them and the owner," said the official.

"The municipality will at first intervene and try to settle the dispute with an arbitrator. But if both sides are unable to come to an agreement, then the case will be transferred to the Public Prosecution," he added.

On the legal stand of the tenants, advocate Mohammad Ebrahim Al Shaiba advised them to file a case against the landlord, who is responsible for summoning the first tenant who leased the apartment since he had the keys to the apartment and did not break the door to get in.

"The tenants have to file a fraud case against the landlord, and the Public Prosecution will decide who the responsible party is," Al Shaiba said.