On re­solv­ing a dis­pute over villa dam­age re­port

The National - News - Business - - Front Page - Mario Volpi

qI have an issue with my former land­lord. I moved out of a villa in Al Ain re­cently and I have been fight­ing with the prop­erty man­age­ment com­pany be­cause I do not agree with the dam­age re­port it is­sued to me three days af­ter I moved out. Please see the timeline be­low:

Pre­lim­i­nary main­te­nance in­spec­tion con­ducted on March 12

I phys­i­cally moved out on March 15

Fi­nal main­te­nance in­spec­tion con­ducted on March 16, keys were re­turned to and ac­cepted by the fa­cil­i­ties man­ager (no main­te­nance re­port re­ceived)

Dam­age re­port given to me by the prop­erty man­ager on March 19

Elec­tric­ity/wa­ter clear­ance (AADC) dated on March 22

When I re­ceived the dam­age re­port on March 19, I was very sur­prised be­cause the prop­erty man­ager charged me Dh4,800 for a full set of “kitchen mar­ble coun­ter­tops”. There was no jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for the charge and no ven­dor quote. I dis­agree with the Dh4,800 charge be­cause I did not dam­age the coun­ter­tops and the coun­ters are in per­fectly us­able con­di­tion. The prop­erty man­ager pointed out a very fine hair­line crack in the cor­ner of the counter. Please note that the coun­ters are not even “mar­ble” as stated in the dam­age re­port, the ma­te­rial is Co­rian. And the coun­ter­tops are orig­i­nal to the villa, which means they are 14-and-a-half years old. I lived in the villa for three years and moved out on March 15.

So, does the land­lord have the right to charge me for a full set of coun­ter­tops when the only dam­age is a hair­line crack? And does he have the right to charge me for dam­ages af­ter he ac­cepted the key and I moved out? I have re­fused to sign the mu­nic­i­pal­ity clo­sure form and I won’t sign the dam­age re­port be­cause the land­lord refuses to reeval­u­ate the Dh4,800 charge for the kitchen coun­ters. Plus now he says he is go­ing to charge me one week’s rent be­cause the date of my elec­tric­ity/ wa­ter clear­ance cer­tifi­cate is March 22, six days af­ter I moved out. And he refuses to give me my de­posit back in cash – only di­rect de­posit. He is threat­en­ing me now and telling me that he will im­pose more charges if I don’t sign the forms. Please note he will take the charges in the dam­age re­port out of my Dh10,000 de­posit. Do I have any rights in this sit­u­a­tion? I have filed a case with the rental dis­pute set­tle­ment com­mit­tee. KE, Al Ain

aI’m glad to see that at the end of your email you state that you have filed a case at the dis­pute com­mit­tee. Ul­ti­mately, it will de­cide who is right or wrong in your case. From my side, I would say that un­less a land­lord has signed a doc­u­ment stat­ing that they are happy with the han­dover, they can al­ways counter with “other” is­sues. Hav­ing a signed con­di­tion re­port is be­com­ing vi­tally im­por­tant in de­ter­min­ing ini­tial con­di­tion and there­fore re­spon­si­bil­i­ties when a ten­ant va­cates. The reality is that ten­ants do not in­sist on this kind of doc­u­ment at the start of the ten­ancy as they are ex­cited to move in, but un­for­tu­nately these prob­lems are com­mon as there is noth­ing one can rely upon in terms of de­scrib­ing orig­i­nal con­di­tion. Some con­tracts al­low for wear and tear, but this too can be open to in­ter­pre­ta­tion so it is hardly worth hav­ing this clause in a con­tract. Ar­gu­ments al­ways en­sue at the point of a ten­ant’s de­par­ture, how­ever ten­ants do need to un­der­stand that a prop­erty is re­quired to be handed back in the same con­di­tion as was given in the first place.

With ref­er­ence to the coun­ter­top hair­line crack, be­ing asked to pay Dh4,800 would ap­pear harsh, es­pe­cially as stated that there was no con­di­tion doc­u­ment, so there is no way of know­ing that per­haps this fis­sure was there be­fore but you just did not no­tice it.

So now it is up to the pre­sid­ing judge to de­cide. My ad­vice would be to still of­fer some­thing to the land­lord (doc­u­ment this), as a to­ken to show will­ing­ness to re­solve things on your part. This of­ten works in your favour in the long run.

Mario Volpi is the chief sales of­fi­cer for Kens­ing­ton Exclusive Prop­er­ties and has worked in the prop­erty in­dus­try for over 30 years in Lon­don and Dubai. The opin­ions ex­pressed do not con­sti­tute le­gal ad­vice and is pro­vided for in­for­ma­tion only. Please send any ques­tions to [email protected]­ing­ton.ae

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