Leasing your first home in Dubai?

Leasing your first home in DubaiImage Credit: Supplied

Finding a property for rent can be tough if you are new to Dubai, with hundreds of agents to choose from and even more advertisements offering the same property at different prices and different agents offering contrasting advice. It's a nightmare and you need to have your wits about you.

The first question you should ask yourself is: are you eligible to rent a property in Dubai? Any person of any nationality with a valid UAE residency visa and current bank account with a personal cheque book is eligible. If your visa is under process, a letter from your company's HR department will suffice. Although it might take a little longer, especially if you are waiting for the all-important bank account and cheque book, some landlords are happy to accept bank transfers as long as all the other paperwork is in order.

If you are renting a property through your company, speak to your HR department about the process so you are clear. It's not always as simple as putting in an offer and waiting for the company cheque and can be very frustrating when your company starts to ask for several other bits of information before releasing the deposit. In turn, landlords need to be made aware that it is a company and not a private lease. Companies will have to provide trade licences and passport copies of company signatories prior to completing a company lease.

The right agent

So where to begin? Choosing a reputable agency is the first step towards finding your ideal home in Dubai. Check how many listings the agent has and how up to date they are. Ask the agent about the step-by-step process prior to going out on viewings; if the agent cannot answer a few simple questions, this is not a good sign. Ensure the agent or agency is registered with the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (Rera) and ask for a Rera-issued card.

Once you are happy with the agent you have chosen, provide a good brief on the type of property you want. If being close to a main road is important, let the agent know. Alternatively, if you want good access to and from a main highway, then it is also a good idea to let the agent know this. Take note that if you're in the wrong location within some of Dubai's big developments, it can take up to ten minutes to drive out. A good agent will ask several questions about your requirements, so it is worth taking your time to think the answers over.

If your real estate broker is doing a good job, he or she should be able to find you several properties that fit your criteria and hopefully save you a lot of time from driving around and viewing different locations. Once you find the property, you need to secure it. In general an offer letter or letter of intent would be the normal procedure. Some agents will ask for a security deposit cheque; this is acceptable as long as it is agreed it is fully refundable. It is usually 5 per cent of the rental amount of the property.

The security deposit will be refunded at the end of the tenancy agreement. However, be aware that your landlord will inspect the property and should there be any damage, he or she has the right to retain all or part of the deposit.

Check prices

The offer you submit to a landlord is entirely up to you, but remember this first offer may well have an impact on your relationship with your landlord should you eventually negotiate an agreement and sign a contract. It is worth doing a little bit of homework and checking out the price of properties in the area prior to putting in an offer. Use the Rera rental calculator to check out the average prices for the development and type of property you are looking at.

Once your offer has been accepted, the next stage is to sign the contract — an agreement that your estate agent will draw up between yourself and the landlord. It normally lasts for one year, although it can be two years if both parties agree. This contract should include an addendum that explains all the terms and conditions you will be bound to while renting the property. This addendum should be agreed upon by both parties before signing.

It is not uncommon for landlords and tenants to ask for specifics in an addendum, so long as these are agreeable to both parties. These additional terms should not contradict with UAE law and your agent should be able to advise you on this.

Here are a few other points to cover before signing a contract:

- Does the property need to have a title deed for a tenant to rent it?

Yes. It is becoming more and more common in Dubai that various government departments ask for title deeds before you process paperwork for anything from utilities to a maid's visa.

- Does the tenant have to pay any maintenance charges?

No. The maintenance of a property is the landlord's responsibility. A clause stipulating this should be written into the contract.

- How do I connect electricity and water?

In some cases your agent will arrange this service for you normally for a small fee or your employer may take care of it for you. But it can be done by visiting any Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) branch. A deposit will be required, but it is a fairly straightforward process. In all cases your agent should be able to assist and point you in the right direction. Your Dewa bill will be payable monthly and includes a 5 per cent municipality fee, which is often referred to as the housing fee.

- If maintenance problems occur, should I contact the agent or the landlord?

This depends on whether your property has a maintenance contract set up by your landlord. After receiving the keys of the property from the agent, a tenant should report any maintenance problems to the landlord or a representative of the landlord. Unless the property is being managed by the agency, then the landlord is your direct contact. Not all properties would have a maintenance contract and you should check this with your agent before renting to see what arrangement is in place for maintenance issues. If you lease a property with a pool and private landscaped garden, then the day-to- day upkeep of these will be your responsibility. A good gardener will cost approximately Dh300-Dh450 per month and day-to-day upkeep of the pool, cleaning, chemicals, etc, can be arranged for about Dh400-Dh500 per month.

- Will the landlord clean and paint the property prior to handover?

Not all landlords agree to this. However, it is always worth asking and your agent should be able to recommend a professional cleaning service.

- What happens at the end of the first year when my contract is up for renewal?

If you haven't been given notice through the correct channels and you have informed the landlord of your intentions to stay in the property, then a renewal contract will be drafted, normally by the original agent and for a small fee. The landlord can only increase the rent if the rental income is lower than the market index for that area. Should you wish to vacate at the end of your first year, you must give the landlord a 90-day notice prior to the end of the contract.

- Should I get insurance?

It is recommended that you are insured against fire and theft. It is also worth checking that your landlord has insured the property.

Get a glimpse on security deposits for residential properties

Source: Mark Wellman-Riggs, Special to Property Weekly

The writer is General Manager of Crompton Partners. He has 30 years of experience in the UK and UAE, eight of these spent working exclusively in the Dubai real estate industry


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