Q: I recently rented an apartment on Al Reem Island and the real estate agent asked me to pay him in cash for both the rent and his agency fee explaining that this was normal in Abu Dhabi. I am due to move in next week but am really worried as his phone is switched off and I cannot contact him.
A: This sounds like a scam, which I have heard is occurring particularly where the properties are less expensive.
I would suggest that you try to contact his agency, if it exists, and also the landlord of the actual property.
If you find that he has taken your money then besides going to the police there is little that you can do.
The lesson to learn is to only deal with agencies that are registered with the municipality, such as District Real Estate, and never hand over cash without fully satisfying yourself that the transaction is bona fide.
Q: We have just moved into a villa and the landlord has contacted me to say that he has decided to sell and would I allow people to view. Where do we stand on this?
First, let me assure you that you cannot be asked to leave before the end of your lease term and it is quite possible that the new buyer could be an investor.
Allowing someone to view a property in order to purchase is down to negotiation between you and the landlord. I would suggest that you advise him of times suitable to yourself and hopefully these will be adhered to.
It is generally better if all parties try to work together in these situations.
Q: I have recently purchased an off-plan property in Abu Dhabi but having spoken to friends I am really worried about whether my money is safe or if the property will actually be built. Where do I stand?
A: A new law was introduced in Abu Dhabi in January 2016 that protects all buyers of off-plan properties. The money that you have paid plus all future payments will be placed in an escrow account monitored by the Department of Municipal Affairs (DMA).
This money will not be released until the property is completed within the timescale specified by the developer and agreed with you, the buyer. They have a six-month window at the end of the agreed handover date.
Should the property not be completed within this time frame then you will have the right to request that your money is returned. A similar law also applies in Dubai to off-plan properties.
Q: We vacated our old apartment three weeks ago and have now moved into a villa. However we seem unable to get our security deposit back from the landlord and he just keeps cancelling meetings. What do you suggest we do?
Unfortunately some landlords consider the security deposit as almost non-refundable and are reluctant to return it.
A security deposit is held by the landlord to put the property back into its original condition allowing for fair wear and tear.
Assuming that there is no dispute then I can only suggest that you continually pursue him both by email and telephone.
It is not usually realistic to open a legal case since the cost would not be viable, but you could threaten to do so.
Q: We rented an apartment through a real estate agent with a lease start date of the middle of last month. The maintenance has still not been completed and it is now nearly four weeks late and we still cannot move in. What can we do?
A: This is clearly an issue that should have been resolved by your real estate broker since they have a responsibility to ensure that maintenance is completed in time to coincide with your move-in date.
I suggest that you contact them to arrange a meeting with the head of maintenance and the landlord to fix a timetable for the maintenance work to be completed and also for the lease start date to be amended to your new move-in date.
Make sure that the meeting is documented and an agreed timetable is confirmed in writing.
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