Kuwait’s population increased by 100,000 families in the past 10 years, not counting the thousands of people that are coming to Kuwait to work. Therefore, it is no surprise that Arabic newspapers had headlines yesterday about government plans to increase housing units in Kuwait, with an estimated 28,300 units set to house more than 40,000 people being built right now in South Mutlaa.
Until then though, there seem to be many complaints on the rental situation in Kuwait by both Kuwaitis and expats alike. Issues such as hiking up rents without notice, renewal of contracts, maintenance disputes and so on. I have gathered repeated questions by my readers and have answered them in general, hoping that they will help as many people as possible.
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 speaking, 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. This is very tricky. 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 am staying in a flat and I think I have an expired contract. My flat rent was KD 200 but it suddenly increased by 60 percent. I have only been living here for a year. The landlord would not agree to provide me with a copy of the new contract. He has threatened me by claiming he will cut off my electricity and water. Recently, he has threatened to evict me from the flat by sending his sons over late at night to create trouble. Yesterday, his sons arrived with an intention to fight! Is this right? What can I do?
Fajer: Generally speaking, I do not give advice on such issues without reviewing contracts and other documents, because what is written is highly important and can make a difference. So assuming your contract has ended, (although it is worth mentioning that rental contracts do renew automatically), your landlord has no right to behave this way. I suggest you start paying the rent at the court, and if he is violent or tries to create trouble again, do not hesitate to contact the police.
Question: Please I want to ask a question that is disturbing my mind about rent. I rented a room five months ago for a year and the owner of my flat is telling me to move out. I told him that how can you ask me to move out on the 23rd of the month? How many days or months as grace does the landlord need to give me? And is the grace with payment or without payment of the rent?
Fajer: First of all, your landlord cannot ask you to move out without a reason! There should be a solid reason for him/her to ask you to move out. The only way your landlord can kick you out without a grace period is if you have done any of the following:
1) If tenant has not paid rent.
2) If the tenant rents out the residency to a third person without permission.
3) If the residence is being used for illegal activities.
4) If the building is no longer safe.
Another common reason might be that the building will be demolished or if the building violates any health and safety regulations. The grace period usually is six months. Has your landlord given you a valid reason? If not, then I suggest you pay the rent at the court and not to him directly, and don’t leave the building.
Question: My contract has ended and my landlord is asking me to leave, which I understand, but shouldn’t I be entitled to a grace period?
Fajer: Your grace period by law depends on how often you pay rent. If you pay rent monthly, like most of Kuwait, than your grace period is 15 days.
By Attorney Fajer Ahmed
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