On May 4, 2015, the Dubai International Financial Centre (“DIFC”) launched the DIFC Wills and Probate Registry (“Registry”). Following this Registry, DIFC became the first and only, at this time, jurisdiction in the MENA region where non-Muslim foreign nationals with assets in the Emirate of Dubai are able to register their wills under common law principles, whereby a testator has freedom to dispose of their estate, rather than being subject to any specific legal rules regarding distribution or a forced heirship regime such as Sharia inheritance law. The complex battle between applying Sharia law and the law of the foreign deceased, coupled with costly and time consuming Dubai Courts process in relation to inheritance and succession matters, had created legal and practical uncertainties for non-Muslim individuals regarding acquiring and maintaining assets in Dubai. To avoid expensive and lengthy court procedures regarding inheritance matters, and for other benefits, many foreign nationals transferred their real property assets into offshore setups (currently only possible within the Jebel Ali Free Zone Authority (“JAFZA”). The benefits of setting up an offshore company still continue to attract many foreign nationals, especially for structuring multiple assets. However, there can be situations in which an expat’s assets are not protected as the expat’s wishes after he or she is gone. In other words, foreign nationals with assets outside of Dubai are still at risk of being subject to Sharia law. The UAE does not recognize the right of survivorship and thus, even though the ownership of a property continues by way of shares in the property of the offshore company, the shares cannot pass down to the heirs of the deceased shareholder, hence the need for a proper will. In addition, there are certain costs associated with registering and maintaining an offshore company which may be justified in different situations, such as protecting multiple assets. The new DIFC Wills and Probate Rules complement the already established rules and mechanisms in the UAE, for the purposes of safeguarding your assets. The Registry now gives peace of mind for non-Muslim expats who own property in Dubai to protect their families and to assure that Sharia law would not govern the wills if something goes wrong. The Registry entitles these individuals to safeguard their assets in Dubai and have them distributed as their wishes should they die. It is important to note that the laws under the Registry apply only to non-Muslims who own property in the Emirate of Dubai. These individuals can also appoint a guardian, in their wills, for their minor children living in Dubai. The Registry will work with the DIFC Courts for the production of grants and court orders for the distribution of assets. As the grant is issued by the DIFC Court, it will be directly enforceable in Dubai without the need to go through the Dubai Courts.
How to Register Your Will
- Prepare a will by a qualified lawyer or qualified will writing services in Dubai. The Registry may invalidate a home-drafted will. Please note that the cost of making a will in Dubai varies depending on several factors such as the number of years of experience of the lawyer, the complexity of the testator’s assets, etc.
- Should you appoint a guardian in your will, make sure he or she has signed a correct declaration.
- Make an appointment with the Registry.
- Bring a witness and sign the will at the Registry in front of a Registry Officer.
Article 9 – Amended; Law 33 of 2008
- The Landlord and Tenant must specify the Rent in the Tenancy Contract. Should the parties omit or fail to specify the agreed Rent, the Rent must be the same as that of similar Real Property.
- The Tribunal will determine the Rent of similar Real Property taking into account the criteria determining the percentage of Rent increase set by RERA, the overall economic situation in the Emirate, the condition of the Real Property, and the average Rent of similar Real Property in similar Real Property markets within the same area and in accordance with any applicable legislation in the Emirate concerning Real Property Rent, or any other factors which the Tribunal deems appropriate.
RERA will have the authority to establish criteria relating to percentages of Rent increase in the Emirate in line with the requirements of the prevailing economic situation in the Emirate.
Unless otherwise agreed, the Rent will cover use of the Real Property amenities such as swimming pools, playgrounds, gymnasiums, health clubs, car parks, and other amenities.
The Tenant will pay the Landlord the Rent on the dates mutually agreed upon. Where there is no agreement or where it is impossible to verify the payment dates, the Rent must be annually paid in four (4) equal instalments to be paid in advance.
Article 13 – Amended; Law 33 of 2008
For the purposes of renewing the Tenancy Contract, the Landlord and Tenant may, prior to the expiry of the Tenancy Contract, amend any of the terms of the Tenancy Contract or review the Rent, whether increasing or decreasing it. Should the Landlord and Tenant fail to reach an agreement, then the Tribunal may determine the fair Rent, taking into account the criteria stipulated in Article (9) of this Law.
Article 14 – Amended; Law 33 of 2008
Unless otherwise agreed by the parties, if either party to the Tenancy Contract wishes to amend any of its terms in accordance with Article (13) of this Law, that party must notify the other party of same no less than ninety (90) days prior to the date on which the Tenancy Contract expires.
Article 15 – Amended; Law 33 of 2008
The Landlord will be bound to hand over the Real Property in good condition, which allows the Tenant full use as stated in the Tenancy Contract. However, the parties may agree upon renting an unfinished Real Property provided that the Tenant agrees to complete the construction of the Real Property in a manner to render it suitable for use as intended. The identity of the party who will incur the costs of completing the construction will be determined in the Tenancy Contract.
Unless otherwise agreed by the parties, the Landlord will, during the term of the Tenancy Contract, be responsible for the Real Property’ maintenance works and for repairing any defect or damage that may affect the Tenant’s intended use of the Real Property.
The Landlord may not make to the Real Property or any of its amenities or annexes any changes that would preclude the Tenant from full use of the Real Property as intended. The Landlord will be responsible for such changes whether made by him or any other person authorised by the Landlord. Further, the Landlord will be responsible for any defect, damage, deficiency, and wear and tear occurring to the Real Property for reasons not attributable to the fault of the Tenant.
The Landlord must provide the Tenant with the approvals required to be submitted to the competent official entities in the Emirate whenever the Tenant wishes to carry out decoration works or any other works that require such approvals, provided that such works do not affect the structure of the Real Property and that the Tenant has the official documents requesting such approvals.
The Tenant must pay the Rent on due dates and maintain the Real Property in such a manner as an ordinary person would maintain his own property. Without prejudice to the Tenant’s obligation to carry out the restorations that have been agreed upon or which are customary for Tenants to undertake, the Tenant may not make any changes or carry out any restoration or maintenance works to the Real Property unless so permitted by the Landlord and after obtaining required licences from the competent official entities.
When entering into a Tenancy Contract, the Landlord may obtain from the Tenant a security deposit to ensure maintenance of the Real Property upon the expiry of the Tenancy Contract, provided that the Landlord undertakes to refund such deposit or remainder thereof to the Tenant upon the expiry of the Tenancy Contract.
Upon the expiry of the term of the Tenancy Contract, the Tenant must surrender possession of the Real Property to the Landlord in the same condition in which the Tenant received it at the time of entering into the Tenancy Contract except for ordinary wear and tear or for damage due to reasons beyond the Tenant’s control. In the event of dispute between the two parties, the matter must be referred to the Tribunal to issue an award in this regard.
Unless the Tenancy Contract states otherwise, the Tenant must pay all fees and taxes due to Government entities and departments for use of the Real Property as well as any fees or taxes prescribed for any sub-lease.
Unless otherwise agreed by the parties, upon vacating and surrendering possession of the Real Property, the Tenant may not remove any leasehold improvements made by the Tenant.
Unless otherwise agreed by the parties to the Tenancy Contract, the Tenant may not assign the use of or sub-lease the Real Property to third parties unless written consent of the Landlord is obtained.
Article 25 – Amended; Law 33 of 2008
The Landlord may seek eviction of the Tenant from the Real Property prior to the expiry of the term of the Tenancy only in the following cases:
- where the Tenant fails to pay the Rent or any part thereof within thirty (30) days after the date a Notice to pay is given to the Tenant by the Landlord unless otherwise agreed by the parties;
- where the Tenant sub-lets the Real Property or any part thereof without obtaining the Landlord’s approval in writing. In this case, the eviction will apply to both the Tenant and Sub-Tenant. However, the Sub-Tenant’s right to claim compensation from the Tenant will be preserved;
- where the Tenant uses the Real Property or allows others to use it for any illegal purpose or for a purpose which breaches public order or morals;
- where the Tenant of commercial Real Property leaves the Real Property unoccupied for no valid reason for thirty (30) consecutive days or ninety (90) non-consecutive days within the same year, unless agreed otherwise by both parties;
- where the Tenant makes a change to the Real Property that renders it unsafe in a manner that makes it impossible to restore the Real Property to its original state, or damages the Real Property wilfully or through gross negligence, by failing to exercise due diligence, or by allowing others to cause such damage;
- where the Tenant uses the Real Property for a purpose other than that for which the Real Property was leased, or uses the Real Property in a manner that violates planning, construction, and use-of-land regulations in force in the Emirate;
- where the Real Property is condemned, provided that the Landlord must prove this by a technical report issued by or attested to by Dubai Municipality;
- where the Tenant fails to observe any obligation imposed on him by this Law or any of the terms of the Tenancy Contract within thirty (30) days from the date a Notice to perform such obligation or term is served upon him by the Landlord; or
- where competent Government entities requires demolition or reconstruction of the Real Property as per urban development requirements in the Emirate.
For the purposes of paragraph (1) of this Article, the Landlord will give Notice to the Tenant through a Notary Public or registered post.
- Upon expiry of the Tenancy Contract the Landlord may request eviction of the Tenant from the Real Property only in any of the following cases:
- where the owner of the Real Property wishes to demolish the Real Property to reconstruct it, or to add any new constructions that will prevent the Tenant from using the Real Property, provided that the required permits are obtained from the competent entities;
- where the Real Property is in a condition that requires restoration or comprehensive maintenance that cannot be carried out in the presence of the Tenant in the Real Property, provided that the condition of the Real Property is verified by a technical report issued by or attested to by Dubai Municipality;
- where the owner of the Real Property wishes to take possession of it for his personal use or for use by any of his first-degree relatives, provided that the owner proves that he does not own another Real Property appropriate for such purpose; or d. where the owner of the Real Property wishes to sell the leased Real Property.
For the purposes of paragraph (2) of this Article, the Landlord must notify the Tenant of the eviction reasons twelve (12) months prior to the date set for eviction, provided that this notice is given through a Notary Public or registered post.
Article 26 – Amended; Law 33 of 2008
If the Tribunal awards the Landlord possession of the Real Property for his personal use or for use by any of his first-degree relatives in accordance with sub-paragraph (c) of paragraph (2) of Article (25) of this Law, the Landlord may not rent the Real Property to a third party before the lapse of at least two (2) years from the date of possession of the Real Property by the Landlord in case of residential Real Property and three (3) years in case of non-residential Real Property, unless the Tribunal, in its discretion, sets a shorter period. Otherwise, the Tenant may request the Tribunal to award him a fair compensation.
Disclaimer: The following text comes from the Dubai Land Department’s RERA Law.
Article 4 – Amended; Law 33 of 2008
- The contractual relationship between Landlord and Tenant will be regulated by a Tenancy Contract detailing, in a manner allowing no room for uncertainty, a description of the leased Real Property, the purpose of the tenancy, the term of the Tenancy Contract, the Rent and payment method, and the name of the owner of the Real Property, if the Landlord is not the owner.
- All Tenancy Contracts or any amendments to such Tenancy Contracts related to Real Property which are subject to the provisions of this Law will be registered with RERA.
Term of Tenancy Contract
The term of a Tenancy Contract must be specified. Where the term is not specified in the Tenancy Contract or where it is impossible to prove the alleged term, the Tenancy Contract will be deemed valid for the period specified for payment of the Rent.
Where the term of a Tenancy Contract expires, but the Tenant continues to occupy the Real Property without any objection by the Landlord, the Tenancy Contract will be renewed for the same term or for a term of one year, whichever is shorter, and under the same terms as the previous Tenancy Contract.
Where a Tenancy Contract is valid, it may not be unilaterally terminated during its term by the Landlord or the Tenant. It can only be terminated by mutual consent or in accordance with the provisions of this Law.
The term of a sub-Tenancy Contract entered into between the Tenant and Sub-tenant will expire upon the expiry of the term of the Tenancy Contract entered into between the Landlord and Tenant, unless the Landlord expressly agrees to extend the term of the sub-Tenancy Contract.