I know that rent issues can be of major concern for my clients and readers, and therefore I like to write about the issue from time to time. But before I answer your questions, I want to make a few things clear. If you have a case against you at court, or if you end up paying your rent at court, then expect a case to be filed against you, and this means that you will need to either be prepared to write your defense in Arabic or to hire a lawyer; which would be the more logical step. My suggestion is to always be prepared and have a ‘Plan B’ should issues arise.
Question: I have been living in an apartment for 12 years and I renewed my tenancy agreement with the landlord in 2015. Can the landlord increase the rent before the five-year period is complete?
Fajer: Generally, rent for private or residency (non-commercial) properties can only be increased once every five years. With that said, your landlord can increase the rent if you agree to the proposed increase in rent. So if your landlord brings in a contract with an increased rent amount and you sign it, then you have agreed to the amount, or if your landlord processes an amount and you pay it, then you have agreed to the increase. Let me give an example.
Your rent is KD 200 and five years have not passed for you as a tenant in the flat. Your landlord requests an increase to KD 300. You feel pressured. You end up paying him the KD 300. Your payment can be seen as proof that you agree to the proposed increase in rent.
Your landlord can also by law increase the rent before five years, if you are paying 50 percent less than the market price. Let me give another example. You are paying KD 200. Your neighbors are all paying KD 450 for the same apartment. Than your landlord has the right to increase the rent. This can also be tricky, because sometimes it is not so clear if someone is paying 50 percent less than the market price. The court has the final discretion in such matters.
Question: I have been living in an apartment for 18 months, but only had a one year contract. Does that mean that my contract automatically renewed itself for a year? And if so does that mean I cannot leave till the remaining six months are over?
Fajer: If the term of your rent’s contract ends, yet you continue to occupy the space and pay the rent in a timely manner, then your contract is renewed for the period of your rent payment. For example, if you pay monthly, then your contract is renewed month by month even though you initially had a one year contract. To put it in simple terms, anything beyond the initial term of your contract is renewed according to what you are paying for.
Question: My question to you pertains to the raising of rents by landlords. What is the criteria that landlords use to raise the rents? Is there any law stipulating the maximum percentage that a landlord can raise the rent to, or does the law leave it to his discretion?
Fajer: Well, if the landlord is raising the rent (after five years of you occupying the space, as mentioned above), then he can only raise it if it is 50 percent less than the market price and can only raise it up to the average market price. How do you calculate the average market price? You see how much a place with the same standards as your building in the same location is going for. That might not be so easy to determine as places differ all the time.
Paying at court
Question: I keep reading from you and hearing from friends as well that if I am having disputes with my landlord I can pay rent at court. Is this true? And how or where do I go?
Fajer: Yes, it is true that you can pay your rent at court. There are different court buildings in Kuwait, with the major court ‘the Palace of Justice’ being located in Kuwait City. You should check the nearest court to your residential area; there is one main court building in every Kuwaiti governorate. Once you find the building, you will need to speak some Arabic and ask for directions to the rental court. Take with you your rental agreement and civil ID and deposit the money at court; you will get a receipt instantly.
For any legal questions or queries, email [email protected].
By Attorney Fajer Ahmed