Automatic lease renewal if you fail to return keys?

Does failure to handover keys of your rented apartment to the landlord means automatic renewal for a year?

It was, at least, in one case where the Indian expat, who claims to have left the country after serving a proper notice and handing over the apartment keys to the landlord (a developer), was asked on return to the UAE to pay an additional rent for the next year.

JK, an Indian expat, who had left the country in October 2010, returned to Dubai in February 2012, but his passport was withheld and he was asked to clear his bounced rent cheques.

According to JK, he had notified the company, through which he had rented an apartment in Discovery Gardens, that he was leaving the country due to some family problems.

“But when I came back, my passport was taken away and I was told to pay the dues of bounced cheque. When I went to clear the dues, I was told that my lease had been automatically renewed and that I had to pay another Dh30000 for the one year.”

According to legal experts, the laws, however, are silent as to whether a failure by the tenant to return the keys to the leased property to the landlord is deemed to mean that the tenant takes the lease for a further year.

“However, if the tenant previously notified the landlord that he was vacating the leased property and did not want to renew, and the tenant can produce evidence to this effect, it is difficult to justify the landlord's position,” says one lawyer.

Dubai's two main landlord and tenant laws are Law No. 26 of 2007 and Law No. 33 of 2008. Law 33 amends various provisions of Law 26.

As per a legal expert, a tenant is not required to give to give notice under the law if lease contract otherwise provides for.

Under Law 26 of 2007 regulating relationship between landlords and tenants in the emirate of Dubai, if a tenant did not wish to renew a lease at the end of the term, he had to give written notice to the landlord at least 90 days in advance.

But that requirement was removed by Law 33 of 2008, which amended various provisions of Law no 26.

Accordingly, unless the lease provides otherwise, a tenant may vacate the leased property on expiry of the term without giving notice to the landlord. However, if (without any objection from the landlord) the tenant continues to occupy the leased property after the expiry of the term, the lease is deemed to be renewed for the original term or for one year (whichever is shorter), on the same terms and conditions as the original lease.

When a tenant is vacating leased property, says a lawyer, it is recommended that the landlord and tenant should have a joint inspection to agree on the amount (if any) of the rent deposit should be returned to the tenant. Alternatively, if the landlord is not willing/able to attend the inspection, the tenant should take photographic evidence of the condition of the leased property when he left. The rent deposit could be returned to the tenant at the same time as the keys are returned to the landlord, with each side signing a receipt for the other.

(Image courtesy Shutterstock)


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