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Dubai's Tenancy Law: when can a landlord serve an eviction notice?

Out-Law Analysis | 24 Apr 2018 | 5:11 pm | 3 min. read

ANALYSIS: The introduction of a standardised tenancy contract in Dubai provides some clarity around the circumstances in which a landlord can validly demand a tenant's eviction.

However, although the Dubai Land Department (DLD) has taken positive steps towards further increasing transparency in the rental sector, it would appear that eviction procedures in Dubai are still often misunderstood.

Issued early last year by the Dubai Land Department (DLD), the new tenancy contract format was intended to standardise the landlord and tenant relationship in accordance with Dubai Law No. 26 of 2007, as amended by Dubai Law No. 33 of 2008 (the Tenancy Law).

Before this new tenancy contract was introduced, a variety of contract formats were being used for short term tenancies. One such example included formats containing provisions which enabled the landlord to serve an eviction notice in a manner which was not in compliance with the Tenancy Law. As a result, a number of tenants in Dubai were being served notices without legitimate grounds for eviction.

The Tenancy Law specifies certain circumstances in which a landlord can validly demand the eviction of a tenant, which are examined in more detail below. Any notice demanding eviction must be carefully reviewed by the tenant, and legal advice obtained to ensure that the landlord has issued the notice on legitimate grounds. Either party is entitled to file a claim with and obtain a determination from the Rental Dispute Settlement Centre (RDSC) where a dispute regarding the validity of the eviction notice arises.

Eviction prior to expiry of tenancy

It is often assumed that a landlord can demand eviction at its discretion, so long as it provides sufficient notice to the tenant.

However, in order to legitimately evict a tenant prior to the expiry of a tenancy:

  • one or more of the circumstances set out in article 25(1) of the Tenancy Law must be present; and
  • the landlord must provide notice to the tenant through the notary public or by registered mail.

The circumstances in article 25(1) of the Tenancy Law are limited to scenarios where:

  • the tenant fails to pay the rent within 30 days of receipt of a payment notice, unless otherwise agreed;
  • the tenant subleases the property without the landlord's written consent;
  • the tenant uses, or permits others to use, the property for immoral or illegal activities;
  • the property is a commercial shop and is unoccupied by the tenant without legal reason for 30 or 90 continuous days in one year, unless otherwise agreed;
  • the tenant endangers the safety of the property, causes damage intentionally or due to gross negligence, or allows others to cause damage;
  • the property is in danger of collapse, as evidenced by a technical report;
  • the tenant uses the property beyond the permitted use or violates building regulations;
  • the tenant fails to observe its legal or contractual obligations within 30 days of receipt of a remedy notice; and/or
  • the property requires demolition by a government authority.

Eviction on expiry of tenancy

It is a common misconception that the landlord has an automatic right to evict a tenant upon expiry of the tenancy.

In reality, irrespective of the tenancy term, the landlord cannot evict a tenant unless:

  • the reason for eviction falls within one of the grounds stated in article 25(2) of the tenancy law; and
  • the landlord has provided 12 months' notice to the tenant prior to the date of eviction through the notary public or by registered mail.

Article 25(2) of the Tenancy Law provides limited grounds of eviction on expiry, namely if:

  • the landlord wishes to demolish the property;
  • the property requires renovation or maintenance which cannot be carried out during occupation;
  • the landlord requires the property for its personal use or by immediate next of kin; and/or
  • the landlord wishes to sell the property.

It is worth noting that if the landlord chooses to retain the property for personal use, article 26(2) of the Tenancy Law prohibits the landlord from renting the property to a third party for a period of two years (for residential properties) or three years (for non-residential properties), unless the RDSC determines a shorter time period.

Where the landlord has rented the property in breach of article 26(2), a tenant may request that the RDSC award compensation. However, there is no set precedent for the treatment of such claims, and therefore is it difficult to determine how they would be enforced in practice.

If a legitimate ground for eviction does not arise, the tenant has an automatic right of renewal on the same terms and conditions with the exception of any permitted increase in rent, determined according to the rent index published by the Dubai Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA). Landlords and tenants can use RERA's online rental increase calculator to generate the permitted rent increase for the relevant property.

Nayab Aziz is a real estate law expert at Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com.