Dubai tenants complain of withheld security deposits

June 11, 2018
Dubai Rent Disputes Centre advises aggrieved tenants to file case against property owners or agencies

Tenants in Dubai say landlords refuse or delay returning their security deposits, sometimes even months after they’ve moved out of their apartment.

Landlords require rental security deposits from tenants to ensure that rent or other dues will be covered in the event the tenant leaves suddenly. In most cases, damage caused by tenants and repainting costs are deducted from the security deposit.

Based on industry practice, the rental deposit is returned to the tenant within a reasonable timeframe of days after all outstanding bills have been settled and the landlord has conducted a final inspection of the property.

But this is not the case for Indian expatriate Siddhartha Chodanker whose rental payment and security deposit is nowhere to be found.

Chodanker’s building in Al Barsha was taken over by a new property management company. Tenants were required to sign fresh contracts and give new rental cheques and security deposits, which they did.

“We shifted here last year, in November. The handover took place in February. But both companies are not giving clarity as to where my money is. The old company said they have already turned over the money to the new company but the new company is denying this,” Chodanker, 41, told Gulf News.

Chodanker’s “missing” money amounts to Dh10,500 towards two months of rent plus a deposit of Dh2,500.

“My money is blocked. My father was in the hospital when all this was happening and I didn’t have money to send to him. My sister paid for everything. But it’s not just me who’s facing this issue. Other tenants have Dh11,000 stuck between the two companies, others Dh4,000, while three or four tenants only need their security deposit,” he said.

Similarly, T.K.P. Nair says it took months for his security deposit to be returned — and only after scores of emails and phone calls to his landlord. “I vacated the villa on January 29 and they returned the security deposit just a month back. I only got half the amount because they charged Dh2,000 for repainting even though I had had the flat repainted and restored to its original condition,” Nair told Gulf News. “They were charging me for a hairline crack on a tile that you would need a magnifying lens to see.”

Gulf News contacted the Rental Disputes Centre of the Dubai Land Department for clarity. Judge Abdul Qader Mousa, the centre’s director, said tenants have the right to file a case at the centre to retrieve their security deposits after they have returned the property to the landlord at the end of their lease.

“In all cases, if the landlord refuses to return the security deposit, they must prove intentional damage caused by the tenant to the leased property, which differs from minor damages that may have resulted from wear and tear,” Judge Mousa told Gulf News.

“The claim for refunding the security deposit shall be decided within seven to 15 days from the date of its presentation to a judge. In addition, the ‘Smart Judge’ application may be used to assist the complainant with identifying the expected judgement and all the documents that will be required prior to the commencement of the litigation,” he added.

The centre’s First Instance department received 9,407 cases and 1,545 in the Reconciliation Department in 2017, 719 of which were amicably settled.

Nair said he thought of filing a complaint but the whole process would take time and would mean an additional expense just for a small claims court battle.

Judge Mousa said the centre always aims to find an “alternative and expeditious solution for all parties”.

“It should be noted that this and other measures are carried out with ease, taking into consideration the rights of all to practice justice and tranquility in the real estate sector,” he said.