In the generic post I wrote about Dubai, I touched upon the topic and the issues I faced renting my apartments. In this post I’m going into more detail using not just my experience, but those of my friends too. It might be long, but hopefully it will be of some use to anyone planning on relocating to the UAE.
If you are being transferred to from your current company to a branch in the UAE, the chances are some items will be taken care of, but I would suggest that you that you ask the following questions:
- Is the company giving you housing or are you expected to find it yourself?
- If the company is not, are they willing to advance you money to pay the rent?
- Can your colleagues in Dubai recommend a good real estate agency?
Before you can rent anything, you need to have a UAE bank account. Once your work permit is in place, you should be able to open one easily. So let’s assume you have been offered a job in Dubai. The pay is decent, you are excited about the prospect of living abroad in the perpetual sunshine. What do you need to know?
Well, the first thing you should be aware of is that the minimum amount you will have to pay is more than likely to be three months rent. Landlords take post-dated quarterly cheques, or bi-annually or the entire rent for 12 months upfront. The quarterly cheques usually mean that overall, you are paying more annually in rent as the rent is calculated higher if you are paying in instalments.
The second thing to know is that you need to go through a real estate agent and they charge about 5% of the annual rent. To be honest, this amount as far as I can tell is just for ensuring you signed the lease. Thereafter, a lot of issues that may arise later, you will be lucky if the agent returns your calls quite frankly. At least that was my experience, which was not either of the real estate agents whose images I have used for the post. You also (unless the electricity and water are in the landlord’s name) will need to connect your DEWA and there is a security deposit you pay in advance – approximately AED1,500. This is refunded when you move and close your DEWA account. You can use a currency converter to figure out that amount in your own currency.
Finally, the refundable security deposit to the landlord. In all, when I moved, I needed approximately £5,000 upfront to pay for all my costs, including the first three months of rent and hiring of a moving van. Oh, by the way, some buildings now charge a moving in and out fee, this is refundable though and should be given back straight away. It’s basically a guarantee that you do not damage the communal areas such as the elevator, glass doors et cetera.
Do not sign the lease unless you are sure you want to take the property; if you do and you break the lease straight away, you will lose at least the security deposit. I lost £1,000 this way. I decided not to take the property, as I was not sure that a company I was working for at the time would come through with the advance. As it turned out, their HR personnel (who was also the accountant), was busy stabbing me in the back, so my concerns about them were actually justified.
A lot of properties are unfurnished, those that are will be more expensive rent-wise.
So where can you start looking for places? Well Dubizzle (a classifieds site), is a great starting place. You can also literally walk into any building and ask the security guards if there are any vacancies. They will let you know who the agents for the various apartments are and if they have the key, will allow you to have a look at the unit.
I found this strange, but it is not uncommon for landlords to state which nationalities can rent their property. My first apartment I was asked upfront which passport I hold (British) because the landlord was not renting to anyone from India or Pakistan. I found that weird considering he is Indian, but he had his reasons I guess.
The areas that I consider expensive are:
- Dubai Marina
- Jumeirah Lake Towers (JLT)
- Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR)
- Downtown Dubai
- The Greens
To give you an idea, in two years, the rent in these areas more than doubled annually. Actually, prices have gone up by that amount in most areas of Dubai. You will need about AED90,000 p/a for a One-Bedroom Apartment for instance in JLT and if you have to pay that upfront…well, you do the math.
Once you have signed the lease and moved in, you should register your tenancy with EJARI. This basically legalises and records your tenancy. It doesn’t cost a fortune to do this and apparently, you can do it online. I did mine at a Typing Centre and there are many all over Dubai. It takes a while depending on the queue and speed of the people logging the information. Make sure you take all your documentation including your passport and tenancy. I think you also need a copy of the landlord’s Title Deed.
If you are worried that you might be overpaying on rent, or your landlord increases your rent after 12 months (the law recently changed but prior to Dubai winning the Expo 2020, landlords could not increase the rent for two years and thereafter only by 5%. I’m not sure what it is now), there is a RERA calculator which will inform you of the rent you should expect to pay based on area and property size.This site also gives you a bit more info about the current rent laws in Dubai.
If towards the end of your first year you receive an email or text telling you to move out or that the rent is increasing, first things first, call RERA or even better, visit them. The law is pretty clear, first if the landlord wants to take back the property he must give 12 month’s notice and also notifications are supposed to be notarised by the court. Not an email. In fact, I would even say, ignore the email and say you never received it. Probably not the best advice though. Any rent issues contact RERA immediately. A friend of mine received an email from her landlord last year telling her to move out. She went straight to RERA and the case was taken up. The long and short of it is that she won the case and the landlord had to pay the expenses she incurred when RERA took up the case as there is a fee. She also stayed in the property rent-free until the case was solved. Please note that she had to go to RERA several times but in the end, it was worth it.
If you are moving from one property to another, and the DEWA bills are in your name, you have to go to DEWA to close the account for one property and ask for the Final Bill. This is generated within a few days and you are notified via text/email that it is ready for collection. You will need to provide this to your landlord when moving out, to prove that there are no outstanding bills on the property.
I warned you that this post would be long! But hopefully, you found the content useful. If you have any questions that I have not covered here, drop me a message and I’ll do my best to answer.
Disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer nor qualified to give legal advice. This post is based on my experiences, as well as friends in Dubai who faced similar issues. If you are planning to relocate to the UAE, it is good to keep these points in mind and also make sure to contact the necessary bodies and organisations for advice if you do encounter issues.