What to do if your landlord tries to increase your rent in Dubai

  • New regulation caps the amount a landlord can increase rents by

  • Use the rental increase calculator to find out what the average rent in your area is

  • Your landlord needs to give you at least 90 days of notice before an increase

  • Contest an unlawful increase at the Rental Dispute Settlement Centre

  • Top tips for negotiating with your landlord

 

Do you live in fear of the day your rental contract will be up for renewal? Concerned about a 50% increase?

If you answered yes, you aren't alone. The property market is booming, with Jones Lang LaSalle reporting a 17% growth in residential rents in 2013. What's more the company predicts further growth and Knight Frank expects a further 15% increase in the months to come.

But there is no reason to feel helpless against the forces of the Dubai real estate market. Here are five steps to deal with a rent increase

STEP 1: Is the rent increase in line with the rent calculator?

The new laws introduced last year for rental caps may seem confusing, but it is worth spending 10 minutes to understand how it works to have a better and more informed conversation with your landlord.

Rami Abi Faraj, Head of Residential Sales & Leasing at Better Homes has noticed a difference since the introduction of the rental caps. 'There has been significant reduction in the tension between the landlord and tenants as the rental caps and rental calculator have put both parties on the right track,' he said.

Essentially, the rental increase calculator determines the maximum your rent can be increased by.

Top tip: the calculator is updated every three months, so keep checking it in order to have an informed discussion with your landlord.

DUBAI RENTER'S GUIDE: Know your rights

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What is the new rent cap?

  • Five per cent if your current annual rent is 11 to 20% lower than the average rent for a similar property

  • 10% if your current annual rent is 21 to 30% lower than the average rent for a similar property

  • 15% if your current annual rent is 31 to 40% lower than average rent for a similar property

  • 20% if your current annual rent is more than 40% lower than average rent for a similar property


STEP 2: Has your landlord given you enough notice?

Your landlord cannot increase your rent unless he gives you 90 days notice prior to your contract renewal. And remember, for the notice to be considered valid, the landlord needs the tenants signature, so always be sure you know what it is you're agreeing to before you sign anything.

If you have been given the correct amount of notice, ask your landlord to put in a clause saying the increment will be subjective to the average price specified by the rental calculator, one week before your contract is due for renewal. Don't hesitate to ask your landlord to include such details, if anything it will let him know that you are aware of your rights as a tenant.


STEP 3: Is your landlord not budging? It is time to escalate

If your landlord raises your rent above the percentage allowed by the rent calculator, you can take your claim to the Rental Dispute Settlement Centre at the Land Department.

'There are two reasons tenants don't take their rental disputes to the committee. First they don't want the hassle of it all, from the paper work to the bureaucracy and the second is they have a very real concern their relationship with their landlord is going to breakdown, said Mario Volpi, Managing Director of Prestige Real Estate. Wherever possible try to negotiate,' he added.

Think before you decide to go down this route - you will have to pay a percentage of your current annual rent as fees to the committee and you risk irreparably breaking down your relations with your landlord.

That being said, anecdotal evidence suggests the committee is often sympathetic to tenants and takes roughly 30-60 days to come to a decision. 'Do have a voice and do not be frightened of the bureaucracy,' added Volpi.  You won't need a lawyer, just ensure to provide the right documents including copies of everything translated into Arabic.



STEP 4: I tried escalating, but my landlord says pay-up or get out

What if you refuse to agree to an unlawful rent increase and your landlord threatens to evict you? The law is clear on this, landlords can only evict tenants from an apartment if they have provided 12 months notice and they plan on reselling the apartment.

The only other reason a tenant can be evicted is if the landlord or their immediate family intend to move into the property. If it is the latter, the landlord cannot rent the property out to another tenant for another two years.

So while there is little you can do if you have been given sufficient notice for eviction, if you find out the landlord has sublet the property after you were evicted, you can take this to the rental committee and ask for payment for costs incurred as a result of the eviction.

STEP 5: Isn't there an easier way than taking my landlord to court?

Negotiate. How? That is the million-dirham question. Appeal to his better judgement, don't be antagonistic and don't point the finger. Communicate, said Volpi.

As with most negotiations, relationships are everything. Start developing a relationship with your landlord as soon as you move into your apartment. Invite him for a coffee - this allows him a chance to see how well you are taking care of his house. Introduce him to your spouse and children, this allows him to see there are other lives involved and a rent increase/eviction will have a very real effect for them.

If you have developed a good relationship with your landlord, when it comes to a rent increase try to appeal to his better reasoning. 'It is possible that your landlord may genuinely be unaware of the new laws. In which case, please open the rental calculator in front of the landlord, put in your details and let him see for himself. Try to solve these issues in a friendly way as much as possible,' added Faraj.

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