Renting in Dubai - what you need to know

Renting in Dubai - what you need to knowImage Credit: Supplied

Finding a home to rent in Dubai is one of the most important decisions you will make as an expatriate in the UAE. It will affect your financial status for the whole year since rent here is paid in advance and takes a huge chunk out of your year's pay. It will also impact your time spent on the road commuting.

Through this list, you get the lowdown on what to do before and after finding your prospective home and how to avoid or resolve issues that come along it.

Awareness is key. Tenants and landlords must familiarize themselves with at least three laws covering renting property in Dubai to know their rights and responsibilities.

Make sure to read Law No (33) of 2008 that amended Law No (26) of 2007. Both regulate the relationship between landlords and tenants. Landlords can't increase your rent on a whim according to Decree No (43) of 2013. If he does so, you can file a case on this or any other dispute with the Rent Committee based on Decree No (26) of 2013.

Brokers or agents you are dealing with must be registered with the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (Rera) within the Dubai Land Department. If your broker cannot show you his Broker ID card before the transaction, find someone else. An 'under-process ID' is no excuse, according to Rera. Gulf News has reported numerous cases of fly-by-night brokers who duped unsuspecting tenants of thousands and up to millions of dirhams in rent.

Contracts of lease must be registered with Ejari (Arabic for 'my rent'). Do not rely on the tenancy contract (blue sheet) issued by brokers. Registering with Ejari gives you a legalised tenancy contract, the ability to safeguard your rights and to fully audit transactions when disputes arise. To register, go to any typing centre with your documentary requirements and pay Dh195.

Deposits such as security deposits should be stated both in your blue tenancy contract and in your Ejari. It is usually the equivalent of four weeks' rent. It is refundable when you leave the property. Some landlords deduct a certain amount from the deposit for the repainting of the flat and minor repairs. But you can hire someone on your own terms to do this beforehand so you can return the property in its original state and get your full deposit.

Eviction - You may be evicted after your contract expires, but only if the owner wants to demolish or sell the property, if he needs to make comprehensive maintenance, which makes it impossible for you to stay there, or if the owner or his first-degree relatives need to live there. Note that all these require a notice from a notary public or registered post 12 months in advance. All evictions have to have a reason by law, according to Rera.

Families cannot share a villa in Dubai. Overcrowding is also prohibited in flats. According to Trakhees, the regulatory agency that supervises freehold properties like International City, only one person per 200 square feet is allowed to occupy an apartment — or a maximum of three tenants per studio, five per one-bedroom flat and seven in a two-bedroom apartment.

Go to different property sites and broker houses before making the deal, don't stick with just one. Chances are deals vary from one broker to the next. A resident told Gulf News she got two different offers from two different brokers for the same flat. Obviously, she picked the more reasonable one.

Home or contents insurance is an important investment that you need to make right after moving in. In emergency cases such as fire or floods that could damage your property, the landlord is not responsible for the damages unless stated in the contract, which isn't usually the case. The main structure of residential buildings in Dubai is commonly insured, not its contents.

Increase in rent must follow the Rent Index set by Rera, which is updated quarterly. If your rent is up to ten per cent less than the average rental value of similar units, your landlord cannot increase your rent. If your rent is 11 to 20 per cent less than the average rent of similar property in the area, the landlord can increase your rent by five per cent. He can hike your rent by 10 per cent if your current rate is 20 to 30 per cent lower than the going rate. A 15 per cent increase can be made if your rent falls short by 30 to 40 per cent of the average rent. Lastly, he can increase your rent by 20 per cent if your rent is more than 40 per cent less than the average rental value of similar units.

Judges who comprise the tribunal at the Rent Disputes Settlement Centre usually give the two opposing parties — landlord and tenant — a chance to discuss the matter and resolve the case amicably before them within 15 days. Fifty per cent of the fees paid will be refunded if both parties reach an agreement. If the dispute is not resolved, it moves on to trial until the judges reach a decision.

Keep records of all your transactions. Agreements made verbally are not accepted as evidence in court in case of disputes. While this may seem common sense, many residents still fall prey to people promising them all sorts of things verbally.

Landlords have rights, too. They may evict tenants before their contract expires if the latter committed specific violations based on Law No (33) of 2008. These include failing to pay the rent within 30 days after the notice is given to him, subletting the property without the landlord's written approval, using it for illegal purposes, damaging the property and making it unsafe for its users. Early eviction can also happen if government authorities decide that the building has to be demolished.

Multiple Owners or landlords often mean erratic rent increases. Some tenants of single-owner residential buildings told Gulf News the reason why they live for many years in their flat is because their landlords don't increase their rents unjustly. A building with rented flats owned by many sees more turnover yearly than that of a building owned by an individual or by a company.

Newspaper announcements in the form of advertisements are needed if the person you are complaining against fails to show up in court at the Rent Disputes and Settlement Centre. If the defendant is Arabic speaking, you will be asked to pay for ads in Arabic newspapers, and if he or she is a non-Arabic speaker, it should be with an English daily. Both newspapers should have a wide reach.

Online Services are available on and For example, you may register your tenancy contract through an online Ejari system, if typing centres are out of the way. You may follow the eight-step full e-service process to get your final tenancy contract. Make sure though that you have soft copies of required documents on hand. Payment is done online as well.

Power of Attorney is needed in order to transact with representatives of landlords based abroad. We cannot stress this enough as many tenants have been scammed in Dubai by transacting with bogus landlords only to learn that the property is actually owned by someone else. Also, make sure the power of attorney has been signed and stamped by Dubai courts.

Question additional conditions at the back of your blue tenancy contract. If there are clauses that seem phony, don't agree. Some contracts may contain a clause stating that the contract serves as a 12-month advance notice of eviction. This eviction clause goes against Article 25 of Law No (33) of 2008 and is therefore not valid.

Rent Disputes Settlement Centre was established in November 2013 to replace the earlier Rent Committee by Dubai Municipality. The centre, however, is still located in the premises of the municipality along Baniyas Road. Their regular working hours are from 7.30am to 2.30pm on weekdays.

Schedule your hearings at the centre according to your free time. Be there at least five minutes before the scheduled hearing as they usually start on time. If you have work in the morning, you may book your hearings for the evening sessions from 4.30pm. For more information, call 800-4488.

Tenants need to have a valid residence visa before signing a lease contract. If it is still being processed, they must obtain a letter from their company saying this. The tenant also has to accomplish an application for tenancy, provide copies of his passport and Emirates ID, plus the cheques for the rent payment. Salary certificates are not a requirement according to Mohammad Khalifa Bin Hammad, senior manager at Rera, in an earlier interview.

Utility Services such electricity, water, phone and internet service can be connected once your deal is sealed. You may apply online for a Dewa (Dubai Electricity and Water Authority) connection or you can visit their office. You will be required to pay a refundable deposit of Dh1,000 for a flat or Dh2,000 if you're renting a villa.

Vacate the property in its original condition. Tenants have no right to alter or renovate the property unless the owner agrees. For your own protection, document how the flat looked like before moving in so you have a reference when you move out.

Watchmen are not allowed to receive payments on 'behalf of owners'. They usually keep the keys to a vacant flat that's up for lease so that anyone can come and see it. But never make any payments on the spot even if the person is issuing a receipt.

Exercise your right. Many tenants simply move out when their landlords ask for an unjust rent increase. If your landlord did not give a 90-day advance notice, then he is not entitled to one. Also, before moving to another flat, consider the expense of the whole process and compare it with the demanded increase to see which is the better option.

You do not need a lawyer when appearing at the Rent Centre. Personal appearance is accepted even if it is a courtroom setting. Should you wish to have someone represent you, issue a notarised Power of Attorney in favour of your representatives.

Zones or areas that fall under the Rent Committee and the Rent Increase law include the whole emirate, even free zones. But it does not cover the Dubai International Financial Centre because it has its own courts.

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Source: Janice Ponce de Leon, Staff Reporter,


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