The courts system in Dubai can be bewildering for expats – not least because the proceedings are in Arabic.
Dubai has efficient and effective courts, but navigating the system is complicated if you cannot speak Arabic and have little or no understanding of local law.
Dubai has three levels of law – federal rules that apply through the United Arab Emirates, local laws that apply only to Dubai and Islamic or Sharia’h Law.
Non-Muslims are expected to obey Sharia’h Law.
For expats taking a case to court, choosing the right lawyer is a must.
Just like any other country, lawyers in Dubai have their specialities, so finding a lawyer with the skills and experience to match your case is important.
The British Foreign & Commonwealth Office has a list of English-speaking Dubai lawyers together with details of their skills and areas of expertise. The 26-page list can be saved or downloaded as an Adobe Reader document.
The easiest way to find the right lawyer for your requirements is to search through a professional listing website, for instance Profezo.
Read more: Finding a lawyer in the UAE
Once you have a list of possible lawyers, ask each a short checklist of the same questions – such as:
Ask for a brief appointment to meet the lawyer and to discuss your case. In most cases, this will be free and last about 30 minutes.
This gives you an opportunity to sit down and chat with your prospective lawyer. The meeting will give both sides a feel of how they might work together. You can also learn a lot about a lawyer from their offices and how the interact with other staff.
For landlords and tenants who cannot settle a dispute, Dubai Land Department runs a Rent Disputes Settlement Centre.
The most common complaint is about landlords raising rents, although landlords can also sue tenants for non-payment of rent and damage to property.
The service has a fee depending on the annual property rent and some fixed court admin charges.
Dubai has no criminal legal aid, but some defendants qualify for a court appointed lawyer if they cannot afford to appoint a lawyer:
Parties on low incomes can find pro bono help from Dubai International Financial Centre for civil or commercial disputes involving companies in the zone.
Dubai Police have an online legal helpline in English and Arabic – but replies can take up to five days.
For more information about the courts and an overview of the legal system, try the Dubai government web portal
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