If you are unable to get your security deposit back, you can raise your complaint with a rental dispute committee. Image Credit: Gulf News archives

Dubai: When moving out of an apartment, it is important to ensure that you hand back the unit to the landlord in good condition. Failing to do so can lead to losing your security deposit, in part or full. But what happens when you return the residential unit in perfect condition, but are still unable to get your deposit back? This was the query raised by a Gulf News reader.

He said: “I'm writing to share my harrowing experience in recovering my security deposit from my previous real estate company. In spite of handing over the unit as received, the company has failed to return my security deposit of Dh4,500. I have been following up with them since October 2020 via email and Whatsapp and have personally visited their office on multiple occasions, but in vain. They simply declined to return the amount or even have a discussion.”

How to get your security deposit back

Gulf News spoke with legal experts on the issue, who said that in Dubai, the Law Regulating Relationship between Landlords and Tenants in the Emirate of Dubai No. 26 of 2007 stipulates several aspects of the tenancy contract, which need to be adhered to by both parties.

Reda Hegazy, Senior Legal Advisor and Arbitrator, Al Suwaidi and Company, said that according to Article 8 and Article 20 of the law, the rental security deposit shall be due upon the expiry of the tenancy contract, either by termination of the contract or at the end of the tenancy period without renewal, and after delivering the unit to the landlord or his representative in appropriate condition, in good faith, and obtaining clearance from the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA).

What if my landlord refuses to return the deposit?

In case the tenant is unable to receive his or her security deposit back, a case can be filed with the Rental Dispute Centre.

“If upon the expiry of the tenancy contract, the landlord refuses without any valid reason to refund the deposit, the tenant has the right to file a complaint before the Mediation and Conciliation Directorate in the Rental Dispute Centre (RDC), to claim the deposit, as per Article 21 of Law No. 26 of 2007,” Hegazy said.

Where should I go?

You can visit the Rental Dispute Centre located near the Dubai Municipality’s main office on Baniyas Road in Deira. You can also approach a typing center that is authorised by the RDC.

Which language should the documents be submitted in?

All documents submitted to the centre must be in Arabic or legally translated to Arabic.

Which documents should I submit for my claim?

In order to file a dispute, you would need to submit the following documents:

1. Tenancy contract and its addendum, if any,

2. Ejari registration,

3. Copy of the landlord’s identification passport copy, driver’s licence copy or Emirates ID.

4. Copy of the tenant’s Emirates ID, Passport copy and/or visa page.

5. Explanatory note with the incidents and facts, explaining the claim and the amount of money which was deposited, in Arabic.

What fees should I be expecting?

The fees are a percentage of the claim itself, with a minimum fee of Dh200 and in general it is 3.5 per cent of the value of the claim.

An amicable settlement

If the case is taken to the committee, RDC can invite the two parties to try to resolve it amicably within a maximum of 15 days.

In case of reconciliation hearings, you may even need to attend it online or through a Whatsapp group initiated by the counselor as a precautionary measure during COVID-19.

Ahmed Elnaggar, Managing Partner at Elnaggar and Partners, explained the process that is followed by the centre if the case is not settled amicably between the two parties and referred to a first instance hearing.

“You will receive an email from RDC announcing the date and time to attend the first hearing and the web link for your attendance online. Both you and the landlord – or the landlord’s representative – should receive the same email message from the Secretary of RDC, who runs the hearing. It will show the exact date and time, including the link that you should use to attend the hearing,” he said.

He also advised individuals to seek legal counsel before pursuing a case, to ensure they are well-equipped to argue their legal rights.

Tips to ensure you get your security deposit back

While a tenant has the right to file a complaint in case the landlord refuses to return the security deposit, it is also helpful to adhere to some best practices before you move out of your residential unit, to help your chances of getting your deposit in full.

1. Read your contract regarding maintenance

The contract may stipulate the amount of periodic maintenance that the landlord is liable to conduct and any maximum limit on the cost of such maintenance.

2. Repair any damage, get a repaint if possible

If there is any damage to the unit, it is important you get it fixed before handover. If the wall paint has worn off, a repaint may also be advisable. Handing over the unit without these fixes can lead to the landlord deducting the costs from your deposit, which may be higher than getting it done from a reliable third party maintenance team.

3. Don’t leave behind furniture

This is applicable for unfurnished apartments. It is important to remove any clutter, furniture or household belongings before handover.

4. Clear your bills

While a clearance from the utility authority is necessary to get your security deposit, it is advisable to clear any telecommunications bills as well, to ensure a smooth move.

5. Speak to your landlord

Whether you deal with an individual or a real estate company, it is important to establish good communication and relationship with your landlord to avoid any conflicts at the time of handover.

However, if despite taking all the necessary steps, you are unable to get your security deposit back, you can file a case with Dubai’s Rental Dispute Centre (RDC) as detailed above.