What can I do if the landlord does not want to return my security deposit amount?

12 Jul, 2020

It is probably one of the most repeated questions or inquiries that I have heard from my clients whenever representing the tenant in a rental dispute! As per the majority of tenancy contracts, the tenant must pay 5% of the annual contract to the landlord as a security deposit towards possible repairs and fit-outs restoration. The security deposit would go to 10% in case the unit is a furnished one.

Despite what the legal logic would entail, the tenant or the landlord rarely make an actual snagging report at the beginning of the rental relationship to set the baseline or prove how the unit looked like when the handover was done at the start of the rent period. This makes it almost impossible to dispute the landlord if it was claimed that the unit's damage actually happened during or before the handover of the unit to the tenant. And in most cases, the tenants are not happy with the quotations provided to them at the end of the contract, and they believe they can easily find a cheaper maintenance company. 

The fact that the landlord has already in hand the full amount makes it very frustrating and sometimes offending when the tenant feels like being taken advantage of because of the contract's termination! 

Below you can see answers to all your questions and learn what you can do as a tenant to recover the security deposit if the landlord is abusing its possession.

 How can I start a rental disputes committee complaint against the landlord:

  • Where to go?
    Approach any typing center that is authorized by the Dubai Rental Disputes Committee RDC. Most such Typing Centers exist around the RDC location close to Dubai Municipality's main office in Deira, Al Maktoum Road.
  • What language to consider speaking and documents submissions?
    The language spoken can be English or Arabic, and sometimes Hindu or Urdu depending on what language the secretary of the RDC attending the hearing speaks. However, all documents submitted must be in Arabic or legally translated to Arabic.
  • What documents should I submit for my claim?
    The basic list of documents required will be
    1- Tenancy contract and its addendum, if any,
    2- Ejari registration,
    3- Copy of the landlord identification "passport copy, license. Emirates EID, etcc.."
    4- Copy of the tenant Emirates ID, Passport copy and/or Visa page.
    5- Explanatory note with the incidents and facts and explain the claim and how much the security deposit itself is. "In Arabic"
  • What fees should I be expecting?
    The Fees are a percentage of the claim itself. With a minimum and maximum. In general, it is 3.5% of the value of the claim. Minimum fee is fixed to AED 200.

How does the dispute start? 

  • The conciliation phase
    In case you feel there is a chance to settle with the landlord, it is advised to register the file for conciliation first. This phase relies on your decision only. Otherwise, you have the right to start it as a dispute directly.
  • The WhatsApp group
    If you have registered the file to start with conciliation, you will be entitled to attend preliminary discussion remotely with the RDC counselor through the WhatsApp group initiated by RDC due to the current pandemic situation and the social distancing measures. Before the pandemic situation, such a conciliation session used to happen physically before the counselor on the premises of RDC. Both parties get to tell their opinion concerning the situation and discuss their amicable settlement offers with the conciliator. In case both parties agree on such an amicable settlement, the file can stop at this stage by signing an amicable settlement agreement and proceeding with the resolution terms. 
  • The Rental Disputes Committee first official hearing
    In case the conciliation phase was not successful for any reason. You will receive an email from RDC announcing the date and time to attend the first hearing and the web link for your attendance online. Both of you and the landlord – or the landlord representative - should receive the same email message from the Secretary of RDC, who runs the hearing. It will show the exact date and time, including the link that you should use to attend the hearing through the "vidyocloud" website.

 What to expect during the First Instance Committee hearing:

  • Online login
    Once you log in, you should mute your speaker and close your webcam. You will see a list of the attendees for several similar cases waiting for the hearing to start. The only video and audio access should be on for the secretary of RDC who manages the hearing and checks the files together with the attendees' list.
  • The hearing session start:
    The secretary of the Committee will announce the start of the hearing by asking everybody to mute their microphones and closing the cameras. You are only allowed to do so when requested and when the secretary calls for your case to start.
  • The Judge attends and the hearing starts
    The judge will attend, and the secretary will take the sequence of the cases calling for each case by the names of the parties. Each party must demonstrate their relation to the case "attending personally or by power of attorney representing themselves or someone else" Any of the parties can attend the hearing personally or by Power of Attorney. The judge will start to ask questions, listen from both case parties, and discuss whatever they want to clarify. The judge has the right to stop the conversation whenever he wants and to adjourn the hearing. He can give the other party time to reply to the claim or to submit more documents or any other memo as he sees necessary. 

We highly recommend you and everyone with a similar situation to seek professional legal advice before proceeding to register or attend the hearings of a complaint with the DRDC to make sure you are well equipped and prepared to argue your legal rights, to prepare your explanatory memo supported by the articles of the law and to check if the documents you will submit and the arguments you may bring before the judge are relevant. Going into a legal battle requires legal professionals.

For any legal assistance and further inquiries in relation to the subject, please do not hesitate to reach us at ae@elnaggarlegal.com , for any suggestion and comment in regards to the legal blog or the above article please email us at editorial@theuaejurist.com

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