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Dubai: If you agree to lease an apartment and even sign a rental contract, what are your options in case you decide to not take up residence in the unit? Can you get your rent deposit back? Or is it forfeited if you have signed the contract? A Gulf News reader wrote in, asking the question.

He said: “Last year, we were looking to move to Dubai from Sharjah and agreed to take a three-bedroom apartment in Al Qusais, back in August 2020. The real estate agent collected six cheques from us, as well as Dh250 in cash, to register the Ejari. However, he did not issue any receipt for it. He told us that he would get the receipts issued from the landlord, as well as from his office, for the commission. The rent agreed upon was Dh78,000 and the contract was to come into effect from October 2020. We met at the end of August and he issued the receipts, except for the Dh250 cash payment. Also, he asked me to provide cheques for his commission, the rent deposit of Dh3,900 and the first quarter rent. All of these three were encashed.

“I also signed a contract at the end of September, and was told that the landlord would sign it subsequently and return it, but I never received it. On October 4, my wife was made redundant and we decided against taking up the house. I called the real estate agent to inform him of the change and he asked me to send an email, which I did. The Ejari was never registered by the real estate agent, even though he had taken the money for it. Neither was a copy of the signed contract provided to me. When I asked the agent to refund the money, I was advised that the real estate commission, paid to the agent, and deposit of Dh3,900, which was given to the landlord are not refundable.

“After waiting for eight months and several follow up calls and messages, the first quarter’s rent was refunded, after they kept a day’s rent. The money for Ejari has still not been refunded. I want to know what the law states in such cases – can I get the deposit back? Should I approach Real Estate Regulatory Agency (Rera)? What about the Dh250 cash paid, as I was never issued a receipt for the same?”

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Gulf News raised the query with Dubai-based legal adviser, Aditi Gandhi, who said that based on Dubai’s Law No. 26 of 2007 regulating the relationship between the landlord and tenant in Dubai, the tenant can claim a refund of the rent deposit, as long as the signed contract does not contain termination clauses that forfeit the deposit.

“Article 20 of the law permits the landlord to obtain a deposit amount to be used for maintenance and repair of the wear and tear caused to the leased premises at the end of the lease term. The law stipulates that the landlord shall return the security deposit or the balance remaining after repairs to the tenant upon expiry of the contract. In this case, since the tenancy contract was cancelled before commencement of the lease term, they may approach the Rental Dispute Settlement Centre (RDSC) to file a complaint against the landlord to recover the amount of Dh3,900 paid towards security deposit. However, the aforesaid legal arguments may be challenged if the contract signed by the parties entitled the landlord to forfeit the security deposit, in the event of termination or breach of contract by the aggrieved party,” Gandhi said.

The law stipulates that the landlord shall return the security deposit or the balance remaining after repairs to the tenant upon expiry of the contract

- Aditi Gandhi, Dubai-based legal adviser

“As for the issue of the amount of Dh250 paid for the Ejari registration, as the reader does not have a receipt and there is no proof of this payment, it will be difficult to legally prove that the payment was made and claim this amount,” Gandhi added.

Gandhi also advised people to always check if a broker is registered with the Dubai Land Department, to ensure their rights are protected.

How to know if your real estate broker is registered

Dubai Land Department has an online directory of registered real estate brokers, which you can access by following this link:

Click on ‘Proceed to Service’ and then you will be able to search for the broker by name, or browse through the complete directory.