Dubai: If you cancel your rental contract without completing the tenancy period, what are your rights as a tenant? A Gulf News reader wrote in sharing his experience with renting a flat in Sharjah, as his post-dated cheques had been deposited, even after he vacated the residential unit.
He asked: “I had given four cheques to my landlord for my rent. I vacated the flat on October 20, 2020 and paid my first two cheques, which were for rent up till November 20, 2020, paying the landlord one month’s rent extra, as per Sharjah Municipality rules for cancellation in the middle of a contract. Now, the building manager has deposited my third cheque intentionally, which bounced. He said that he will deposit the fourth cheque as well, and is not returning my cheques either. Please advise what I should do in the scenario.”
Gulf News raised the query with Aditi Gandhi, Junior Associate, SAT & Co. Advocates and legal consultants, a Dubai-based law firm.
She said: “The tenancy contracts in Sharjah are regulated by Executive Regulation of Law No. 2 of 2007 on Regulation of Landlord-Tenant Relationship (‘Sharjah Tenancy Law’). Article 22 of the Sharjah Tenancy Law does not permit the tenant to terminate the tenancy contract prior to expiry of the term unless the tenant can prove that a force majeure event (unforeseeable circumstances that prevent someone from fulfilling a contract) has occurred, which has disabled the tenant from continuing the tenancy. If the rental dispute committee approves that the cause for early termination is a force majeure event, then the tenant will be entitled to terminate the tenancy pursuant to paying compensation to the landlord equivalent to 30 per cent of the outstanding rental amount payable under the tenancy contract.”
If the rental dispute committee approves that the cause for early termination is a force majeure event, then the tenant will be entitled to terminate the tenancy pursuant to paying compensation to the landlord equivalent to 30 per cent of the outstanding rental amount payable under the tenancy contract.
What is a force majeure event?
Gandhi also clarified what a force majeure event is, and in which circumstances it may be applied by courts in the UAE.
“With the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, the UAE courts, more specifically Dubai Courts, have broadened the scope of force majeure to include COVID-19 as a force majeure event. Though for Sharjah Courts, it is subject to evaluation on case to case basis. Since the tenant has vacated the premises and has paid compensation for early termination, assuming it is equivalent to 30 per cent of the outstanding rental amount, then the tenant can try to proceed legally against the landlord.”
She added: “It is the tenant’s right to collect the rental cheques in possession of the landlord. In the event the landlord has accepted the request for early termination and further received compensation in lieu of early termination, the tenant should ensure that the landlord signs a NOC evidencing that the payments have been made and no further debt exists. The tenant can file a case before the rental dispute committee against the landlord by submitting evidence of compensation paid by the tenant in lieu of early termination, proof that the tenancy premises has been vacated and handed over to the landlord and evidence that the landlord is threatening to deposit cheques in its possession despite being in receipt of the compensation.”
Filing a rental dispute case in Sharjah
Sharjah’s Rent Regulation Department, which is part of Sharjah Municipality, is tasked with sorting out lease disputes, referring them to the competent committee to decide on them, and implementing rulings issued by the court.