Finding a home in Dubai

Time Out Dubai is your guide to living in Dubai. As part of residents' guide we have a useful guide to finding a home/apartment for rent or buy.

Area Guides, Community, Living in Dubai

Navigating the rental scene in the city can look like a minefield at first sight. We’ve compiled this handy guide to help you find a place to call home.

Dubai recorded another year of steady growth in 2014, with long-forgotten projects restarted and new ones launched. Employment prospects also continued to look bright among the city’s now more than two million residents.

While in the past this kind of activity has resulted in rent hikes (always felt hard in a city where approximately 70 percent of the population rent), the data towards the end of 2014 was suggesting a different story. Third quarter figures revealed that rents were stabilising around the city, with average apartment rents falling two percent during the three months to the end of September.

However, there’s no getting around the fact that renting is still expensive in the city. To ensure you get the best deal, here’s our guide finding your perfect home.

Cheques
Unlike in many other countries around the world, the majority of Dubai landlords will not let you pay your rent on a monthly basis. In fact, at the time of writing, the average was two cheques to cover the cost of your annual rent – which can prove tricky, especially if you’ve only recently arrived in Dubai. That said, there is no set rule on the number of cheques, and you’re free to negotiate with the landlord. Paying quarterly or even every two months is not unheard of, but it’s worth noting that many landlords will increase the overall rent depending on the number of cheques – you’ll get the best deal if you can pay upfront for the full year.

Deposit and fees
Most places require a tenant to pay a security deposit once they move in – generally, this is five percent of your annual rent. Regardless of the amount, the security deposit ensures you give back the property in the same condition as when you moved in. Note that you are fully within your rights to demand your deposit back and seek legal recourse should the landlord be evasive when it comes to returning this sum. The commission paid to the real estate agent is normally in the same region – around five percent of your rent. Recent reports suggest that some agents have also started asking for deposits simply to view an apartment. While at the time of writing there was nothing in the law that prevents an agent from doing this, our advice – and that of most agencies – is to refuse and/or walk away. Ejari (tenancy registration) charges are normally paid by the landlord, but sometimes tenants are asked to pay these as well.

Repairs and maintenance
Unless you have agreed otherwise in the lease, UAE law states that landlords are responsible for maintenance works as well as repairs of any defect that affects the use of the property during the term of the lease. It’s common for rental contracts to state that the tenant is responsible for minor maintenance, with the landlord responsible for major repairs, but make sure these are defined – for example, repairs under Dhs200 may be considered minor, with anything above deemed major.

Breaking contract
A landlord can only evict a tenant in the event that rent has not been paid or you have broken the terms of your contract. If necessary, seek the advice of RERA (the Real Estate Regulatory Agency; www.dubailand.gov.ae). If the tenant wishes to vacate the property, your contract may have favourable terms – typically 60-90 days’ notice. If the lease is silent on early termination, you are bound for the full term and cannot make changes to the lease – unless you reach an agreement with your landlord.

Cohabitation
A common belief is that it’s fine to live with someone of the opposite sex to whom you’re not married (and that the government turns a blind eye to it). It’s the total opposite, in fact. Sharia Law prohibits two unmarried and unrelated persons of the opposite sex living together under Article 356 of the UAE Penal Code, and doing so can lead to a minimum jail term of one year.

Resolving disputes
The Dubai Rental Disputes Committee (DRDC), located at Dubai Land Department, opened towards the end of 2013, replacing the Dubai Municipality Rent Committee. The DRDC should be your first port of call in the event of rental disputes, but you can also report the landlord to RERA or, if the property is managed, contact the agent.

Contract renewals
With Dubai’s property and rental markets on the rise, it’s common for landlords to try to hike up rents. However, increases are restricted and based on RERA rentals caps or what you have agreed when signing the tenancy contract. A good starting point when determining how big an increase to expect is the RERA rent calculator (www.dubailand.gov.ae).

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