An aerial view of the high-rise buildings near Hamdan street area in in Abu Dhabi. Image Credit: Abdul Rahman/Gulf News

Abu Dhabi: Many residents in the capital are often unaware of their legal rights, as well as the legal route they can take should a dispute arise between them and their landlord. They need to be aware that the Abu Dhabi rent committee exists to handle cases between both the tenant and the landlord.

If your landlord has increased your rent, you have the right as a tenant to dispute the increase, and can refer your case to the rental committee that hears the views of both tenants and landlords.

Gulf News spoke with prominent UAE-based lawyer Hassan Elhais, on the procedures tenants could take in a dispute with their landlord.

“The landlord [and tenant] has the right to resort to the rental committee of Abu Dhabi in case of any dispute related to the rent or the increase subject to the Law No 20/2006. It is mentioned in Article 4 of the law that if there is no agreement between the parties about the increase or if there is a dispute about the increase value, then they can be brought before the committee. Before the amendments on Law No 20/2006, it was mentioned that there is a maximum limit to increase the rent yearly. However, after the amendments in 2013, the maximum limit imposed was removed. If there is no agreement between the parties about the increase or if there is a dispute about the increase value, the matter can be brought before the committee.”


Rent committee’s arbitration

According to Elhais, once both parties appear before the committee, the ruling judge will look at a number of factors before reaching a verdict. “The committee will evaluate and estimate the fair value of increase in light of several factors. The tenant will not go to the committee until he feels that the increase is unfair to him. Unfortunately, there is no fixed number or percentage that is recognised as being too much by the rental committee as the matter is different from case to case. This particular matter is governed by Article 16 of Law No. 20/2006.”

“The matter is decided on the basis of the merits of each case. The judge reaches his conclusion on the basis of several factors like the prevailing market price, the previous period of the rent and the location of the unit. The parties can avail of the provision of Article 16 of Law No. 20/2006 that gives them the right to bring the matter before the rental committee.”

Elhais also acknowledged the fact that many residents are unaware of their rights, and that more should be done to raise awareness on the matter by law firms. “We believe that law firms and lawyer associations can help to increase awareness about the rights and obligations of the landlord and tenants.

“Publishing articles by lawyers and conducting conferences can be very helpful for the tenants to be made aware about their rights. The lawyers’ associations can also organise public conferences or media meetings to increase its awareness on tenancy regulations. It can be helpful also to publish brochures about the laws through the concerned authority which can provide basic information about existing and governing laws pertaining to tenancy matters,” Elhais said.


Cost of dispute settlement

Gulf News spoke with another lawyer from Sunil Thacker Associates to enquire on where the tenant can go to seek redressal and how much would the court fees be. “Distressed tenants or landlords can approach the Rent Dispute Settlement Committee (RDSC) which is located in Al Nahyan Complex in Abu Dhabi. The proceedings are held in Arabic and the maximum court fee is capped at Dh 10,000.”

The lawyer from Sunil Thacker Associates also mentioned some of the factors that could be raised and brought up before the committee. “Much ink has been spilled on the Executive Committee’s decision to lift the rent cap in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi. Whereas, previously, a landlord could only raise rent by a certain amount on the expiration of a tenancy contract, this decision has the effect that no limit will now apply. If this results in a dispute between landlord and tenant, the options available to the tenant shall depend on the specific terms and conditions contained within the rental agreement. For example, if a landlord demands a rent increase a year into a four-year tenancy contract, the tenant shall have the right to file a complaint before the Abu Dhabi rent committee, but the committee shall in turn consider other elements of the rental agreement such as the specified notice period.”


Sami Zaatari is a trainee at Gulf News.