AhmedA large part of living a stable life in a new country is finding a place to comfortably live in. Kuwait, unlike other neighboring countries has pretty easy going norms when it comes to rent-related issues. Newcomers are not asked for a year’s rent in advance and there are no segregated areas for expats/Kuwaitis, yet there’s a lot of things that can be changed to make the experience of living in Kuwait easier and there are still lots of common concerns, that I shall answer in this week’s column.

Rental rate increases

Q. I have signed a one year contract, a year ago exactly when I first moved to Kuwait. The agreed rent amount was KD 200. Now a year later the landlord has provided me with a new contract to sign for KD 250. Can he raise the rent without giving me notice?
A: According to Kuwaiti law no 35 promulgated in 1978, your landlord has no right to raise the amount of rent unless five years have passed since you signed the rental agreement and moved in (regardless of how long the term of your contract is) or if you have both agreed to the mark up in the price! So my advice is do not sign the proposed contract. If your landlord threatens to evict you, or declines to accept the rent, I suggest you pay your dues at court. There’s a department designated for rent disputes and therefore you can deposit the amounts there accordingly.

Q: 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 or does the law leave it to his discretion?
A: 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’s 50% 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.

Who pays for repairs?

Q. I have had a leak in the ceiling of a bedroom in my apartment since June which the landlord has failed to repair until this week. There is still a hole in the ceiling with the water damaging my furniture and the lights too. I have not paid the full rent of KD 650, instead I am paying KD 600 every month until it was repaired. They are refusing and have threatened to pass it on to their lawyer. Can you tell me where I stand?
A: Even though the landlord is responsible for the maintenance of the unit, and is responsible for repairing issues such as water leakage, that doesn’t give you the right to deduct KD 50 every month from the rent until they fix the problem. If the tenant refuses to fix any damages happening to the unit (that you are not responsible for), then let them know and wait a few weeks, if the landlord refused to repair the damage, then let him know in writing that you shall fix the damage yourself and include the cost of the damage and then deduct that from the rent. You can’t just deduct KD 50 x six months because of some water leakage, you could have removed your furniture out of the way the first day and fixed it and asked for reimbursement. Things have to be balanced for both parties.

Late rent payments

Q: Hello, I am an expat living here in Kuwait with my family. I have fallen behind two weeks on paying rent. My question is can the haris or landlord turn my lights off? And what law states that they can or cannot?
A: This is a tough one. Technically yes, the landlord can refuse to pay for your amenities if you have not paid for your rent. In fact, according to the rent law mentioned above your landlord can even evict you if you are late in paying your rent. If you are having an issue this month I suggest you talk it out with your landlord and allow him to give you a grace period or just negotiate with him according to your financial needs.

Q: I have been living in a space 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 can’t leave till the remaining 6 months are over?
A: If the term of your rent 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.

By Fajer Ahmed

I hope the answers above help with the common concerns for landlords and tenants, if you have any further questions regarding rent or any other legal issues, please feel free to email me on ask@fajerthelawyer.com