The Rental Dispute Settlement Centre: a safe gateway to the relationship between landlords and tenants

The Rental Dispute Settlement Centre (RDC) was established in 2013 as the judicial arm of the Dubai Land Department (DLD), following a decree issued by His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai. The decree gave RDC the objective of employing new methods with flexible mechanisms to meet the requirements of the next era, and supporting the execution of issues and matters related to Dubai real estate with greater accuracy, impartiality and transparency.

Based on these criteria, RDC has developed a specialised judicial system to deal with rental disputes, and conciliation procedures to ensure social and economic stability while also supporting the sustainable growth of the Emirate.

Mandates RDC is responsible for the settlement of all rental disputes arising between tenants and landlords over real estate located in the Emirate or its free zones, including counter-claims as well as requests for temporary or urgent action from either party to the lease.

RDC also adjudicates appeals made against decisions and judgments in accordance with the provisions of the decree and the regulations issued thereunder, and its team is responsible for implementing the decisions and judgments RDC issues following rental disputes.

Common Issues Since its inception three years ago, RDC has received various types of complaints and issues related to the real estate sector, and handled proceedings to help regulate the relationship between landlords and tenants. Common issues include the termination of contractual relationships and the landlord forcing the tenant to evacuate the property.

His Excellency Judge Abdulqader Mousa, Director of RDC, commented: “Under Law No. 26 for the year 2007 and its amendments, which outline the relationship between landlords and tenants in the Emirate of Dubai, the landlord is entitled to apply for the evacuation of the property in 12 cases. The most common of these are if the tenant fails to pay rent, if demolition or overall maintenance of the building is planned, or if the landlord wishes to use the property for their own personal use or for the use of their next of kin of the first degree. From the date of restoration of the tenant, the landlord is not entitled to lease to others before at least two years for residential properties and three years for non-residential properties, unless the committee rules otherwise in light of the causes. If the landlord does so, the tenant has the right to request for the committee to order proper compensation.”

Regarding rent increase, Moussa added that the tenant must be notified 90 days before the end of the contractual relationship in one of two ways: notary public or by registered mail.

Tenant insurance is among the disputes that can arise between the two parties. The law allows the landlord to provide the tenant with insurance to safeguard the maintenance of the property until the end of the contract period, at which point the landlord is obliged to refund the insurance or what remains of it to the tenant. At the end of the lease period, the tenant is obliged to hand over the property to the landlord in the state that it was received at the outset of the contract, except for expenses incurred from normal use or for reasons beyond the tenant’s control.

Moussa pointed out that among the other problems handled by RDC are cases in which landlords cause disputes with tenants by cutting off services to the property, although it is forbidden for the landlord to do so or to prevent the tenant use of the property in any way. “In such a case, the tenant may apply to both the police station where the property is located to rescind the eviction or to prove its validity, and to the RDC for the retraction of the eviction notice and the provision of damage compensation through a lawsuit supported by official reports.”

The issue of raising rent is another case frequently handled by RDC. This is based on the law that allows the landlord to raise the rent legally after resorting to the real estate calculator, and to ascertain the value of the permitted increase according to state, age and location of the property, as well as the services it provides. Law No. 43 for the year 2013 defines the increase criteria in certain percentages, allowing the rental calculator to work out the increase easily.

Transparency Spreads Stability Thanks to the transparency of its procedures, RDC plays an important role in helping all parties to work and live in Dubai harmoniously, in an environment governed by clear laws that define the duties and responsibilities of both landlords and tenants. This environment attracts investors to the Emirate’s real estate sector as it creates a climate of reassurance.

RDC is also keen to further the UAE’s national agenda and smart objectives.  In order to achieve its vision of being the international reference point for the resolution of rental disputes, RDC pursues the best international litigation practices to continuously develop its performance. RDC achieved outstanding results for the litigation period, reaching a period of 22 days for litigation in the first quarter of this year.

Continuous Innovation RDC is making every possible effort to continue to upgrade its working mechanisms and achieve happiness and comfort for all relevant parties. One of its most important achievements is the Smart Judge – a contemporary application that enables rental parties to ascertain their legal positions regarding disputes, and guides them in legal proceedings at the various stages of litigation.

The application has many features, such as providing free legal advice over issues involved with leases and operations in Dubai, which results in cost, time and effort savings by helping to prevent rental issues. The Smart Judge application also offers a draft judicial judgment in light of the details and data provided by the interrogator – the first judicial judgment of its kind in both the region and the world.

RDC’s decision makers continue to monitor market developments, identify the most common issues, assess their causes, and formulate solutions that benefit all parties. In this way, RDC achieves its mission of establishing a secure real estate environment that guarantees the rights of all.