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Eviction in the U.A.E.

Eviction in the U.A.E.

Lawgical with LYLAW and Tim Elliot

14 November 2021

Tim Elliot:  Welcome to Lawgical, the U.A.E.’s first, and still the only, legal podcast.  My name’s Tim Elliot.  Lawgical comes to you from the Dubai-based legal firm, HPL Yamalova & Plewka.  As ever, here is Ludmila Yamalova, the Managing Partner.  Good to see you.

Ludmila Yamalova:  Good to see you too, Tim.

Tim Elliot:  Now, this time, Ludmila, we’re talking about evictions.  It’s really going to be, I guess, a podcast based around what we need to know when each of us rents property here in Dubai.  The simple fact is, let’s start here, you cannot evict a tenant on a month’s notice, can you?  Evictions have to be put forward, I guess, evictions are very strictly regulated here in Dubai.

Ludmila Yamalova:  Indeed, and what’s important to highlight is that in the U.A.E. every emirate has its own rental laws.  What we are talking about today is Dubai laws regulating the rental industry.  Other emirates have their own, but Dubai rental law, in fact, has been in existence since 2008.  In particular, it’s law number 33 of 2008 regulating relationships between landlords and tenants.  In particular, article 25 is the one that talks about evictions.  Although we are talking about it today in 2021, this is not the first time this issue has been discussed and, to a lot of people’s surprise, the law that we are relying on is still the same law since 2008.  Some people think, oh, they do not know about it, it must be a new law, it must be a new practice, but in fact, it has been the case that the same law has been in place since 2008 and not much has changed, which in many ways, at least for tenants, is good news.

The other point I want to make is that, in general terms, obviously not in all cases, laws are usually introduced or put forward to protect, if you will, the weaker party.  Therefore, in this particular case with rental laws, the law 33 of 2008 was introduced to protect tenants.  It was introduced back in 2008 – I was here then – because there was such an imbalance in the real estate market where tenants had to constantly move from place to place.  The minute they would sign a lease, they would have to move out right away because the landlord would give them an eviction notice and almost all tenancy agreements had a clause in there that this was nonrenewable after the first term.  Because of that, people were always being dislocated and had to pick up their homes and find another one.  It becomes very challenging, especially in a place like Dubai where so many of us are new here, at least back in 2008 were new, and we’ve come here with family.  It’s not easy to move your base, where your kids are going to school, nearby school, nurseries, you have got the whole sort of infrastructure set up, and then you have to move again.  It was in response to that that this law was introduced.  I think the goal still remains the same and that is to protect tenants.

The reason perhaps we are talking about this again today is that thankfully and luckily for Dubai in particular, our economy is picking up, at least to an extent, and certainly that has been reflected in the real estate market.  The prices have started going up and going up fairly significantly, not only with regards to buying and selling property, but also rents.  Because properties are now more valuable, the landlords want to evict their tenants either to get higher rent or to sell the property so that they can benefit from the upcycle in the market.  Because of that, we are hearing a lot more complaints, a lot more requests, a lot more questions.  My landlord just served me with a one-month notice.  What do I do?  As you rightfully pointed out, as per this law in Dubai, and that is law 33 of 2008, article 25 in particular, evictions are strictly regulated.  The general concept in the rental laws in Dubai is the rental agreement continues and renews automatically on the same terms and conditions from year to year irrespective of what the language in the lease is.  As I mentioned earlier, most leases do have a non-renewability clause.  Almost all leases I’ve seen over the years have a very specific provision that this lease terminates a year from now, and the tenant has no right to renew it.  This particular understanding is unequivocal.  That being said, that particular provision in the lease directly contradicts the express language in the law, which ultimately makes every rental agreement automatically renewable on an annual basis unless . . .  and there are a few exceptions as to when the tenancy can ultimately be terminated.

Tim Elliot:  Evictions are possible, but as we pointed out, strictly regulated.  There are – correct me if I’m wrong here – but there are five reasons or situations when an eviction might be permitted on reasonable grounds.  Is that right?

Ludmila Yamalova:  Yes.  In short, there are about five grounds – this is summarizing them – on which the eviction can take place.

(1) For example, if there is a breach of the tenancy contract, such as I don’t pay my rent.  That would be a breach of the contract, and then that would be a legitimate ground to evict me.

(2) Also, if I violate a law, so for example, I rented a one-bedroom apartment and now I started conducting some kind of a commercial business from that place.  Let’s say I opened a hair salon.  That would be strictly violating the law because that particular property is only designed to be a residential premise or property and not commercial, so that also would be a justifiable ground or eviction.  That’s number 2.

(3) The third ground is that you, Tim, for example, you want to evict me because you want to move into the property yourself.  That would be third ground.

(4) The fourth is you, Tim, again, now you want to sell the property.  You want to evict me because you want to sell the property.

(5) You, my landlord, Tim, you want to demolish, or you have to reconstruct it significantly.

Those are the five different reasons or legitimate grounds upon which a landlord can evict a tenant in Dubai.  But even those five grounds, they come with certain restrictions.  If you talk about, for example, the breach of a lease or a breach of the law, let’s say I don’t pay you rent.  Even then, you cannot evict me tomorrow or a month from now.

In order to evict me, there is a whole process.  First of all, you need to give me a notice of noncompliance, so let’s say you failed to pay rent.  Here is your notice.  That notice has to be properly attested and a properly drafted notice.  It’s not just Tim writing me an email that says, you didn’t pay me rent.  This is your notice.  You need to serve me a proper notice which to be safe, you would want to serve through the notary public, and that has been the practice, and that is what is accepted by the rental courts as evidence that you have given me notice.

  • You need to give me a notice.
  • That notice has to specifically state the reason why you gave me the notice. In your particular case, you would say, you have failed to pay me rent.
  • And then three, and this is important, you have to give me 30 days to comply with my obligations. On other words, I still have 30 days to decide, whether I want to pay rent or to find money to pay rent.

If on day 29, I pay you rent, that notice goes away, and you cannot evict me.  This is also very important.  It’s not just because I failed to pay rent once or twice that you can now evict me.  If every time I fail to do something, you give me 30 days, and if I comply then ultimately, I have complied and that particular notice goes away, and I’m back in compliance.

Tim Elliot:  And that goes on at ad infinitum.

Ludmila Yamalova:  Indeed yes.  We have a lot of clients, by the way, whose tenants are aware of this law and almost on a monthly basis there is some kind of delay in payment.  Often it is ever more than one month of a delay in payment.  Ultimately, they always come current and they pay, and that practice carries on.  Similarly, with a breach of the law.  Let’s say you found out that I am running a nail salon business out of my property, and you have served me a notice, so I close down the salon.  Once again now, just because you have found that I breached the law once, does not give you the right to evict me if I’ve stopped breaching the law, in simple terms.  That is the 30-day notice.  The form of notice in the event I’ve done something wrong and now you’ve given me notice of that, and now I obviously have a choice, either to comply and clean up my act or continue to violate.  If I continue to violate, i.e., not pay you rent, then you can move for eviction.  But the story does not end there either.  Let’s continue with our example of me being the irresponsible tenant.

Tim Elliot:  With the nail salon.

Ludmila Yamalova:  Yes, with the nail salon and not paying rent.  Let’s say it’s a double whammy.  I am doing both.  I am not paying you rent, and I’m running an illegal business.  You’ve given me notice through the notary public.  You’ve given me the reason as to why you’ve given me notice, and you give me 30 days to comply, in particular pay rent and stop doing illegal activities, for example.  I don’t.  Now, we are on day 45, and I still have not paid you rent, and I’m continuing to do what I do.  Still, even then, it does not give you the right as a landlord to come and physically kick me out.  You cannot just come and change the keys, for example, or knock on the door and say, get out.  In order to properly and legally evict me, you need to then file a case with the Rental Centre, which is RDC, the Rental Dispute Committee or Centre in Dubai, which is the Rental Court.  You need to file a case there, and then ultimately secure a judgment from the court, from RDC, authorizing you to evict me.

Now, to file that case, you as a landlord, you would need to present the legal notice, the one we talked about earlier, that you had served me first in order to file.  You cannot even – and this is why this step process is important – because you cannot, as a landlord, go and file the case against me unless you can show to RDC that you have already served me notice.  This is when the notice comes in handy for the second time around.  Then with that notice, you file a request to evict me and then I have the opportunity in RDC to either defend myself, to argue, to challenge you, or to do nothing and ignore.  Only once you have a final judgment, but let’s say I ignored because I didn’t want to deal with it, and I didn’t have money or time to do this.  I was too busy running my nail salon.

Tim Elliot:  A nail salon, it takes a lot of work.

Ludmila Yamalova:  Yes.  So, it goes further.  You now have a judgment against me for eviction.

Tim Elliot:  Right.

Ludmila Yamalova:  But because the judgment is for eviction, those kinds of cases can be appealed.

Tim Elliot:  Okay.

Ludmila Yamalova:  So, you still cannot enforce the eviction until the judgment has been made final.  For judgment to be made final, it needs to be basically final, but in this particular case, because it involves the issue of eviction, I can appeal it.  Therefore, it is not final.  Now, the second time around, I am still running a very successful, albeit illegal, business out of your residential property, doing nails.  Now I decide, okay, I don’t want to move, and so no I’ll take it seriously.  I can defend myself.  For example, you know what I could do?  I could actually just pay the rent, all the rent that I had not paid you so far, all the outstanding rent, I could just pay it to you.

Tim Elliot:  And the case would then go away?

Ludmila Yamalova:  At least your argument about me having been in breach of rental payment obligations will ultimately become moot because I’ve just paid you.

Tim Elliot:  Right.

Ludmila Yamalova:  You can still argue, look, she has been very unreliable, and she’s just been an irresponsible tenant, and I don’t want to have her on my property, and here is the evidence.  It has been many months.  She has not paid me rent, but she only paid now because of these proceedings, and it is ultimately going to be up to the judge to decide whether I truly am a bad tenant, a bad person, or I just came upon tough times and now I’ve turned the corner and wizened up, and now I’ve paid you, so therefore, it’s not fair for you to evict me.  On appeal, I could pay your rent and I can close down my salon.  Maybe by that time I’ve already saved enough money that I’ve opened up my own salon, so I no longer need to run a business illegally from a residential property, and now your argument about me breaching the law has gone away because I no longer have an illegal business.  My breaching of the contract by not paying you rent is also moot because I have just paid your rent.  Your ultimate argument then, that she has done these things before, may stand, and RDC may still issue a judgment in your favor and confirm eviction on the grounds that I obviously have a proven record of being an irresponsible tenant.

Tim Elliot:  Okay.  But if you pay the rent that is due to get out of a sticky situation, that’s a hard thing to argue, that you’re unreliable, because ultimately you have paid the rent, and people really, most landlords, I guess, really just want their money back, don’t they?

Ludmila Yamalova:  Yes and no.  Here you got your money back, but you also had to spend time and money fighting me, and by the way, you can ask, if you have a judgment in your favor, and the courts do regularly award the court fees that you have filed to pursue me, against me, so I’d have to reimburse you for those court fees.  Not the legal fees if you decided to hire a lawyer, and by the way, importantly, you don’t need to hire a lawyer to represent you in RDC.  You might have to necessarily pay a lawyer, but you would have had to have paid translators, unless you can speak Arabic and do all this in Arabic, but whatever it is you do, you need to argue in Arabic and whatever documents you present in support of your case, you need to also legally translate into Arabic.  So, you will still have some costs and obviously your time and the headache of dealing with me, and that’s (1) one reason why you still may want to get rid of me.  Then (2) is because the prices have gone up, and you could now be perhaps making 50% more than what you are making off of me, so you may still want to pursue this and use my previous record of being an irresponsible tenant to ultimately advance your objective of getting rid of me so that you can start receiving higher rent.  You may still want to carry on with the case, and you may still win.  But what’s important is that in the event that on appeal you still prevail, even if I’ve come current and everything else, and simply because the court now sees me for who I am, and that I was playing with you, and so the court may say, no, Tim, you’ve proven enough that she is not a desirable tenant for you, and then issue a decision to evict me.  Okay, so now, at that point, the decision is final.

Now you can in fact enforce against me.  However, once again, it’s not that now with this decision you show up at my doorsteps and you change the locks or kick me out.  It doesn’t work that way.  In order to evict me, by the way, to do it properly and to do it legally, you now need to file an enforcement case.  You can file it through RDC as well, but it’s a separate case.  It’s an administrative case.  But it is a separate case.  It’s an enforcement case where now you need to have an enforcement judgment that says, yes, Ludmila has to move out, and she has to pay this, this, and this amount as part of this.  Now with this enforcement case then, you’ll have an enforcement order.  With that, you’ll have to approach the police.  I mean, first of all, I will have to be served with that order.  The service these days is much easier.  I can be served either by the notice being glued to the door.  I can also be served by phone or by email or WhatsApp.

Then, after that, let’s say I’m still being a very objectionable tenant and I’m still not moving.  You cannot just come and say, get out.  In order to actually physically get rid of me, unless I move out on my own, you will need to, with that enforcement order, approach the police and visit the property with the police, and then with the police they will have to enter the property and they will have to do an inventory.  This is done for the legitimate reasons of why that process exists.  Let’s say I have left town for that period of time, and you came, and you open the door, and Ludmila is gone.  I have now got a court order.  I can now get rid of all of her stuff and re-take the property.

I can then come back and file a case against you.  I had money in my property.  I had jewelry.  I had expensive equipment, and you’ve stolen all of that.  I can make that claim against you.  In order to avoid these kinds of claims, this is why the requirement of the police being on site and taking an inventory exists.  Then, to avoid these kinds of arguments or claims, you will come there with the police.  This is, by the way, in your own interest.  That is, if you will, a softer or modest example.  There could be other examples.  Let’s say I was some kind of a criminal, and there are some incriminating materials or evidence that is in the property.  You wouldn’t want to have your paw prints on it without legitimate witnesses.  The legitimate witnesses in this particular case would be the police officer.  That process exists there to protect you as a landlord.  Then, once you come with the police officer, they can open the door in their presence, and it’s going to be all documented in the report, and they will take the inventory of what’s in the place and all of the witnesses and such.

After that, let’s say I now know Tim has entered the premises, so I’m not coming back into Dubai.  Then you will, again through the enforcement court, you will have an order and once you have an inventory of all of the things that you found, through the enforcement court you will ask the court to auction off all the things in the inventory that you might have found in the property, and the proceeds from the auction sale you could apply towards the judgment amount.  Only then will you be able to ultimately – here we are, how many months later?  You now have your property back.  You’ve finally gotten rid of all the things in the property.  You will be able to sell some things through the auction, by the way, which is also a process in and of itself.  Then the proceeds of the auction might still not be enough to satisfy the judgment amount.  If I had not paid my rent or if I still owed you amounts under the judgment, then you could still continue with your enforcement case and then keep chasing me for other assets.  That is basically the process for eviction in the event I did something wrong.

Tim Elliot:  Okay, that is three, four, five months down the road.  That is the length of the process really, isn’t it, practically speaking, it’s going to be that long.  That’s assuming a dodgy tenant, Ludmila’s Luscious Nails is set up somewhere else, and she’s, as they say, done a runner.  What about if your landlord is in the wrong, and you know your landlord is in the wrong, what do you do as a good tenant with a nasty landlord?

Ludmila Yamalova:  That’s it.  That’s the other side of the equation.  The landlord is in the wrong.  You, as a landlord, what can you do to me to be in the wrong?  Obviously, I am paying you a rental price which you know is well below the market price, so you could get 50%, if not more, of what I’m paying right now, and obviously you don’t want to continue to rent it to me.  I’m a good tenant this time around.  But you want to make money because at the end that is why you bought this property is to be able to make money.

Tim Elliot:  Sure.

Ludmila Yamalova:  You legitimately want to make more money, so you want to evict me at the end of my tenancy agreement.  But as a mentioned, the law allows me as a tenant to continue to insist for that tenancy agreement to renew automatically.  But you want to increase rent.  What you can do is you can try to increase rent, but you need to give me a 90-day notice before my lease expires, and that particular rent increase has to be in line with the rental index and that has to be allowed by the Dubai Rental Index, which in this case, let’s say it would not be.  In most cases, it is still not allowed, and then I now have to agree to it.  Obviously, we went through that whole process, and I didn’t agree to it.  Now you’re saying, okay, fine, I want to move into the property myself, or I want to sell it.  Either one of those reasons would be a legitimate reason normally to evict your tenant, however, even in those cases there are still requirements.

There are a number of requirements.  One requirement is that you serve your tenant with a proper notice.  Once again, to be safe, the notice should be done through a notary public so it will be in Arabic and English, and the notice should state the reason for the eviction, and that is in this case, let’s say Tim wants to sell the property.  I need to get that notice but it only kicks in 12 months after I receive it.  In other words, even if you decided to sell the property and you even had a potential buyer or an actual buyer, I would not be required to leave that property until one year after I receive your notice.  The same case applies if you want to re-take the property for yourself because now you were living in a villa.  Your kids grew up and left the house, and you no longer want a villa.  You want a smaller place with a view which is what I have now, which is also your property, so you want to legitimately move into that property.  The same requirements apply.  You have to give me notice through a notary public.  That notice should clearly state the reason for why you want to evict me, and I still have a year after I receive that notice to leave.

Let’s say to your earlier question, I know that you don’t actually want to sell the property, or you’re not planning to move into the property.  You’re just doing it because you want to increase rent.  In that case, I can challenge you.  I can say, okay, well, I don’t believe that you want to sell the property, for example, because at the end of the 12-month notice, I don’t move out because I know that you are lying to me.  Then you would have to do something.  The notice, just because you’ve given me a 12-month notice, does not come into effect on its own.  You need to do something about it in order to make it effective, which would be what?  In this case, you’d have to file a case with RDC and request my eviction.  In this case, I would challenge your request for eviction on the grounds that you lied to me, that you, if fact, were trying to evict me for reasons which are not proper under the law.  In other words, you don’t really want to sell the property.  You just wanted to get rid of me so that you can rent the property for higher.  Now, how do I prove that?

Tim Elliot:  That’s my natural, next question, because it’s very hard to say, well, you’re lying.  Well, I’m not.  Well, you’re lying.  Well, I’m not.

Ludmila Yamalova:  Indeed.  Here is my answer.  Well, look this property has not even been advertised anywhere.  Now, how would you disprove that?  You, as a landlord, how would you disprove that?  If you had actually been trying to sell it, then you would have something to disprove that point.

Tim Elliot:  But you could just say, look, it’s a private sale.  It was a family member.  I mean, you could easily turn around and just say, oh, well, it fell through at the last minute, last week.

Ludmila Yamalova:  Okay.  But where’s the proof?

Tim Elliot:  Okay.

Ludmila Yamalova:  Right.  So, in that case, let’s say you as a landlord, if you actually did try, or did you just try to make it look like you tried?  At the very least you could have some sort of an agreement with a broker.  Look, I have listed the property with a broker.  Here is a copy of an agreement.  Or, look, I have advertised the property on PropertyFinder.ae, for example, or Dubizzle, or what have you.  Look, I requested, and I have a few emails to Ludmila asking her to show the property.  Let’s say she either denied or she allowed.  That would be your proof.  But if you don’t have any of that, then it’s really ultimately going to be up to the judge to decide who they believe.  But you can see how it may become fairly complicated and that I may actually have a winning argument.  That is basically one scenario.

The other scenario is let’s say you said you want to move into the property.  Now, that’s a harder one to disprove because for you to move in there isn’t really much evidence that you can show that you actually wanted to move into the property.  You could, let’s say if you’re moving out of your other property, you can show I’ve left that other property, or I sold it, or I’ve let the lease end on that property.  That could be.  But what if you are just moving from Scotland to Dubai for the first time in many, many years?  You wouldn’t necessarily have that proof.  In that case, and I’m thinking, well, it’s going to be a tough battle for me to challenge him, so I move out because even if I may suspect that you are really planning to move in, but I just have any proof and I want some peace and quiet and some stability in my own life, so I move out.  I move out and then two months later I find out Tim has rented the place out to someone else at a much higher price.  Then, in that case the law allows me to pursue you for the difference in rent for two years for damages basically.  It is for the damages.  The damages would be, for example, the difference between my rent that I used to pay, I would have paid had you not kicked me out, and my current rent, plus whatever other damages you can prove, such as moving expenses, real estate brokerage fees, and whatever other expenses I would have incurred as a result of having to move from your place to my new place for reasons which ultimately I deem to be illegal.

Tim Elliot:  I now understand why evictions are so strictly regulated.  Let’s just sum up very quickly if we can.  If you think, and let’s take the tenant’s point of view because that’s where we ended there, if you think you’re being treated unfairly by your landlord and being asked to leave on unreasonable grounds, any of the aforementioned, if you like, you’re covered by Dubai law number 33 of 2008, as you said, regulating relationships between landlords and tenants, and you need to point in particular to article 25 of that law.

Ludmila Yamalova:  Indeed.

Tim Elliot:  Right.

Ludmila Yamalova:  That would be a correct summary.

Tim Elliot:  That’s what you need to do.  That’s another episode of Lawgical, this time evictions, in the main from the tenant’s perspective, a topic I hope we’ve managed to help illuminate slightly.  As ever, our legal expert here on Lawgical, Ludmila Yamalova, the Managing Partner here at Yamalova & Plewka in JLT, Jumeirah Lakes Towers, here in Dubai.  Thank you once again, Ludmila.

Ludmila Yamalova:  Thank you, Tim.

Tim Elliot:  You can find us at LYLAW on social media, TikTok, Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, wherever you tend to land for your social stuff.  We’ve also now got an easy-to-search library of hundreds of podcasts, all manner of legal issues here in the U.A.E., all free to listen to and download as well.  To have a legal question answered in a future Lawgical episode or if you’d like a consultation with a qualified U.A.E. experienced legal professional, click the Contact button at LYLawyers.com.