The law is very clear on the rights of landlords and tenants in Dubai and regulation in this area has improved greatly as the property market has expanded and matured. However, given the transient nature of Dubai and volatility of real estate prices, it’s only expected that disputes would arise between tenants and landlords. Complaints related to rents or unjustified eviction notices are some of the most common reasons why a disagreement may turn into a filed dispute.

If you’re stuck in a similar position as either a tenant or a landlord, follow the process given below to seek redressal from the Rent Disputes Center (RDC) at the Dubai Land Department. But remember to weigh the costs and the effort involved against the benefits you may / may not be entitled to.

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When to file a dispute

In the event that a tenant or landlord cannot reach a settlement themselves, either party can file a dispute at the RDC at the Dubai Land Department’s head office in Deira. However, do keep in mind that this should be a last resort and that you use all tools available that can aid you in the negotiating process such as the RERA rent calculator, emails, paperwork or any other documents that can help support your case.

The RDC was established by a decree in 2013 in an effort to streamline a more efficient process to resolve complaints from tenants and landlords in Dubai. The committee can hear any tenancy disputes within Dubai with the exception of disputes involving finance lease contracts (Ijarah) and long-term lease contracts and rental disputes inside the free zones.

[Related: Know your rental rights as a Dubai tenant]

How to prepare

Be aware that you will need to prepare various documents that are required for any dispute case to be filed with the center. These include:

  • Emirates ID
  • Ejari certificate
  • Original blue tenancy contract
  • Passport copy
  • DEWA bills
  • Title deeds (if you are a landlord)
  • Copies of issued checks
  • Any other relevant documents

It’s also recommended that your documents are translated into Arabic.

There is a Rent Disputes Settlement Centre form which needs to be filled out at a typing center (in Arabic and English). Once this is done, the tenant or landlord can take it to the center and file a case.

[Related: 10 things your UAE landlord won’t tell you]

The legal process

The center has the jurisdiction to hear cases and is comprised of four departments that handle different stages in the legal process. The Arbitration Department is the first point of contact which aims to settle disputes amicably within 15 days.

If a settlement is not reached, then a lawsuit would need to be filed with the department of First Instance which will rule on the matter within 30 days. Decisions taken at this stage will remain final unless an appeal is made at the Department of Appeal. In order for this to be done, the annual rent value on the tenancy contract must be worth more than AED 100,000.

After a ruling is made at the appeals stage, it cannot be reversed. The Execution Department is then tasked with enforcing the decisions and judgments taken by the center.

[Related: Renting in Dubai? Costs to keep in mind]

What to expect

It is a good idea that you think about the cost and whether it is worth it in terms of time and money involved.  With your application you will pay a fee of 3.5% of the annual rent of the property. The fee amount must at least be AED 500 and cannot exceed AED 20,000.

You will get a date and a time to go to RERA to present your case.  Be aware that there is a queue and everyone comes in at the same time and this can be up to a few hours wait.  Once you are called in, you will be asked to present your case and the other party will too.  If the case is not straight forward and requires more documents or investigation, you will be given another time and date usually a few weeks down. Depending on the complexity of the case, it can take months to get resolved, so be prepared.

Once the paperwork is processed, a hearing will be scheduled and both the tenant and the landlord will need to appear.