This morning Colin had to go to the Muncipality to collect the documents which were all in Arabic so we didn't know what the charges were until the letter came back from the translator at about 3:30pm.
We arrived at the Tribunal at 4pm and after a 3.5 hour wait our case number was called. First the Tribunal saw the Rocky Real Estate guy and heard his side of the story, then the Rocky guy came out and we went in. Contrary to what I had been told, the proceedings were 99% in Arabic but the really interesting part started when the Chairman said to Colin in English "Mr Rocky wants his money, you terminated on 19th May that is less than 2 months from the end of the lease…"
Colin replied, "Not true, we wrote to Rocky on 28 February, more than 2 months from the end of the lease."
"Where is this letter?" the Chairman demanded and Colin showed him the copy in the litigation file I'd prepared with photos, an index and numbered tabs.
"Did Rocky reply?" asked the Chairman.
"Yes" said Colin "They replied twice."
"Show me" said the Chairman, which Colin did and, by the look on the Chairman's face, he hadn't seen these letters and he wasn't pleased.
Thank you to Dunhill Madden Butler of Sydney for their training in preparing litigation files. I was able to show copies of all the correspondence between ourselves and Rocky starting from 28 February and it was quickly apparent that the Tribunal had not seen 4 of these letters. The Chairman did not appear to be at all impressed that Rocky Real Estate had led him down the garden path and almost into the potting shed.
In one corner of the room there was a man perched on a chair with his back against the photocopying machine. He sat there drinking coffee thoughout the whole proceedings looking completely disinterested in his surroundings while everyone ignored him. Who he was or why he was there I cannot tell you.
We were sent out of the room to wait while the Tribunal discussed the whole thing, we could hear raised voices coming from the Tribunal room (though of course they could have been discussing what to have for dinner) then we were called back in. Unfortunately language limitations meant that the correspondence, which was all in English, was taken at face value by the Tribunal (and even then with some difficulty) and there was no examination of intent. Rocky were seeking two months rent penalty, demanding that we continue to pay rent until the 'end of the case', plus court costs, plus an amount of AED9,137, a figure they have plucked out of the air and is unrelated to anything. After being given a lecture from one of the Tribunal members on how to write letters in English to landlords, apparently letters which must include the specific word "terminate" (forget the words leave, move out or end the lease) they ordered that we pay one month's rent as a penalty plus court costs.
We left the Court at the same time as the landlord's representative and he got into the lift with us. As the lift headed down he leant over and said to Colin in a very hushed, confidential tone "Don't worry Sir, I can help you."
Don't worry Sir, I can help you?? What does that mean? I thought for an instant that I'd been transported into an episode of the Sopranos. "Don't worry Sir, I can help you."? What do you think he meant, did he mean something like, "I can get your satellite tv hooked up for free" or possibly "For AED5,000 I can make all this disappear" or even "I can have somebody whacked". Who knows?
We'll pay the money as instructed by the Court and khallas, the matter is over and done with."Don't worry Sir, I can help you". Good grief.
Lesson: be specific when writing letters to Dubai landlords: don't try to be reasonable, don't say 'Dubai rents have plummeted, we're good tenants and we want to stay in the house, but not at the exorbitant rent we're currently paying, can we negotiate?' You have to say, 'Mate, we're outta here, khallas, that's it, we're gone'. Then go.