Question: In spite of the ongoing market slowdown, rents in our building are said to have increased according to new tenants. Our rent contract renewal is due in the last quarter of this year, do you think we will also be hit with a rent increase?

Unabated rent increases have been a common occurrence in the UAE; however, with the intervention of the authorities, tenants now have some added protection.

According to the law, your landlord needs to give you at least 90 days’ notice prior to the expiration of your current contract if he intends to increase your rent.

It will also greatly help you if you familiarize yourself with Law No. 43 issued on 22 December 2013 which replaced Decree No. 2 of 2011. Law No. 43 introduced the following restrictions (summarized) to take immediate effect with regard to the calculation and implementation of legally allowable rental increases:

  • There should not be any rent increase, if the rent for the real estate unit is no more than 10% below the average rent that a similar property commands within a neighborhood
  • The annual rent increases, as specified by the decree, can range from 5% up 20% according to how much the current rent is less than the market average
  • The market average rates are to be determined by the RERA Rental Index (RERA Rent Calculator)

The implementation of Law No. 43 is necessary to safeguard consumer’s interests, the overall industry and the economy at large from rampant and unjustifiable rental increases on existing rental contracts. It does not set out to control the rental value of new contracts and where a property is to be let for the first time or to a new tenant, it is up to the owner and prospective tenant to agree as to how much rent should be charged for the property.

Question: I am a landlord still relatively new in the business and I want to give my tenant one year’s notice to vacate an apartment I own. I already sent him a notice through a courier company but he (tenant) said it is not valid. What is the correct procedure? 

First of all, for the notice to hold up legally, you must have a valid reason for requesting the tenant to vacate the premises. Has the tenant committed any breach in respect of the tenancy agreement? Has there been any illegal activity in the premises? Do you need the unit for yourself? Do you intend to sell the apartment?

If your tenant is in breach of the tenancy agreement or has broken the law in some way you must serve a 30-day notary public notice to the tenant. The notice must clearly state why the tenant is being given 30 days’ notice to fix the matter and the details of the matter itself.  If the tenant does not respond in accordance to the request, then you can go to the Rental Dispute Settlement Center and ask for the issuance of an eviction order.

If you want to sell the property or use it yourself, you will need to provide a 12-month’ notice to the tenant through the notary public stating your intentions. You may then refuse to renew any lease for a period that extends more than 12 months past the date of notification.

The notice must be delivered by courier, and it is essential you keep a record of the delivery report as evidence of receipt (by the tenant) in case the tenant refutes receiving your notice in future proceedings.

Question: I have a mortgage on the flat I live in. Recently, I received an unexpected inheritance so I now have a substantial amount of cash. Should I pay off my mortgage or invest my money elsewhere?

Congratulations on your financial windfall! Your decision will depend on what interest rate you are paying on your mortgage, and on the expected returns in the investment you are considering.

If you can achieve a return greater than your mortgage interest rate then you should invest the cash elsewhere and take advantage of your low mortgage rate.

There are some very attractive mortgage products in the marketplace with a few mortgage providers offering rates as low as 3.99% or even 3.49%. If you have a mortgage with such a low interest rate it would not be too difficult to find an investment that will yield in excess of your mortgage rate.

For example, you may consider investing in an investment property such as an apartment  which will yield you a nett annual cash-flow of 5% and, over a period of 5 years, an annual capital appreciation of anywhere between 5% and 7%. This would be a more lucrative allocation of your cash.

If, however, you are not confident in achieving a return on your cash that exceeds your mortgage rate then I suggest you pay down your mortgage outright as you will save the interest costs.

Question: I have a mortgage on an apartment that I live in and I happen to have some cash currently. Should I settle my loan or invest the cash elsewhere?

It all depends on what interest rate you are paying on your mortgage. And what return you could expect if you invested elsewhere.

If you can achieve a return greater than your mortgage interest rate then you should invest the cash elsewhere and take advantage of your low mortgage rates.

There are some very attractive mortgage products in the marketplace with a few mortgage providers offering rates as low as 2.99%. If you have a mortgage with such a low interest rate it would not be too difficult to find an investment that will yield in excess of your mortgage rate.

For example, you may consider investing in an investment property such as an apartment  which will yield you a net annual cash flow of 5% and, over a period of 5 years, an annual capital appreciation of anywhere between 5% and 7%. This would be a more lucrative allocation of your cash.

If, however, you are not confident in achieving a return on your cash that exceeds your mortgage rate then I suggest you pay down your mortgage outright as you will save on the total cost of interest payments.

QUESTION:  I live in a freehold apartment and have some concerns regarding the service charges I am paying for. We do have an existing owners association, should I direct my queries to them? Is it their responsibility to answer such concerns?

Based on the info you provided, it is assumed that you have a fully operational and registered interim owners association board that currently represents you and all apartment owners in your building.

The first thing you should do is to attend OA meetings, get involved and address your queries directly including details on service charges. The OA itself is composed of unit owners and is mandated to represent all the owners of the jointly-owned property development in question, i.e. your apartment building, and is registered as an official entity with RERA.

An OA’s primary purpose is to manage, operate and maintain common areas such as hallways, lifts, stairwells, recreational areas, building systems – virtually all of the owner-shared elements of the building on behalf of all the other owners within the building. They do this by appointing contractors with the expertise to carry out the required tasks and set a service charge that all owners must pay to cover the cost of the contractor services.

The OA is a not-for-profit business entity which elects a board whose role is to action “motions” carried by the OA in addition to managing contractors, managing budgets and capital provisions, enforcing rules for the common good and organizing items such as insurance. As a member, you can always request and view the financial statements of the association to ensure that the service charges you are paying for are justified and correct.

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