Dubai resident Jan Alabastro was reluctant to vacate his one-bedroom apartment in Jumeirah Village Circle (JVC), but he received an eviction notice a year ago, stating the flat was to be sold. Subsequently, he found out it was being rented again at a significantly higher rate than his previous rent. 'Is that even legal?' questioned Alabastro, who wished to remain anonymous as he was considering legal action. 'What's even more absurd is that they asked if I wanted to rent it again at the new, inflated rate.'

Dilip Daswani, a real estate expert in Dubai, confirmed that such practices by 'extremely unscrupulous individuals' do occur, primarily to circumvent Rera regulations that restrict rental increases for renewals. 'This is unquestionably illegal and those involved could face penalties. My own son faced a similar situation,' she noted.

With the booming real estate market, some residents feel landlords are becoming 'greedy', demanding excessive rates. Alabastro, who leads a marketing agency, used to pay Dh46,500 annually for his one-bedroom flat. According to the Real Estate Regulatory Authority's (Rera) calculator, the average rate for a similar unit in his area ranged from Dh54,000 to Dh66,000. However, the maximum increase the landlord could legally impose upon renewal was only Dh4,650.

'If I hadn't been evicted and was allowed to renew, I should only pay Dh51,160, which is the maximum according to the calculator,' Alabastro told Khaleej Times. A few months before his move, he was surprised to receive a new contract offer for the same flat via WhatsApp, priced at Dh55,000, which was claimed to be the lowest possible.

Alabastro was perplexed, as he believed the flat had been sold, based on the eviction notice. 'I have a friend in the building who also received the eviction notice but wasn't given the option to rent again at a higher rate. Something seemed amiss,' he said.

According to Galadari Experts and Legal Consultants, landlords can evict tenants upon contract expiration in specific cases, provided a notice is issued at least 12 months prior. Selling the property is a valid reason for eviction. However, issues arise if the landlord evicts under these pretenses but does not sell or use the property personally.

Taha Ramadan, senior counsel at the firm, explained that landlords must not rent the property for at least two years for residential and three years for commercial properties after reclaiming it. A tenant can claim compensation if the apartment is re-rented before this period, including costs for relocation and searching for a new property, and any difference in rental value.

A case can be filed with the Rental Disputes Settlement Centre, detailing all relevant information, including that of the new tenant. If the tenant proves the property was rented to a new tenant, the centre will award appropriate compensation. Legal action involves a fee of 3.5% of the compensation sought, with a minimum of Dh500 and a maximum of Dh15,000.