We decided to move apartments, and signed a tenancy agreement for an apartment based on the description and photographs from the letting agent. I paid the deposit and handed over four cheques.
But when I visited the apartment, I found it appalling and uninhabitable. I raised this with the agent, who agreed that the apartment was uninhabitable at that time. We asked the landlord for our cheques back as we had not taken possession, but he refused. He did not agree that the apartment was uninhabitable, and said that he had a binding contract and proposes to cash our first cheque. What can I do?
Theoretically, the landlord is correct. A contract is a contract and is binding on all parties. However, if the apartment is uninhabitable, it may render the contract invalid.
If you are confident that you can prove the apartment was uninhabitable (the agent may support you on this point), you will be in a position to file a case with the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (Rera) against the landlord, demanding the return of your deposit and cheques, as well as a declaration that the contract is invalid.
There will be an issue fee, based on the value of the case (i.e. the rental), but this may spur the landlord into settling the case.
Rera will offer a mediation service, though your landlord may maintain what he sees as his contractual right. If the matter proceeds, the Rental Disputes Centre in the Dubai Land Department will do all it can to assist the parties to reach an amicable settlement.
If you do settle the case, a portion of your fees will be refunded. If not, the case would be sent to a judge for a contested hearing. The judge would likely appoint an expert, incurring more fees and taking more time. While you may ultimately succeed and receive compensation for the deposit and the return of your cheques, litigation is always risky and uncertain, and if the landlord insists on contesting your claim, it could prove costly and time-consuming.
If you can settle the claim, it will be the least expensive course of action for you, both financially and in terms of time and stress.