Moving to a foreign country can be intimidating and finding the best place to rent can be daunting. Dubai’s expatriate population is steadily increasing and demand for rental properties is high. Unfortunately for tenants, this has resulted in skyrocketing rents. Approximately half of UAE residents spend about 30% or more of their salary on accommodation expenses. Despite the costs, most expats, mainly in the UAE for short-term work contracts, opt to lease rather than invest in the real estate market. To the relief of many of those looking to rent property in Dubai, the government has imposed legislation stipulating that any rent increase shall not exceed 7% of the annual lease price. There are also several new property developments underway that should take some pressure off the market in the near future.
Housing allowances are typically part of the expat package. Although in the past companies would cover the bill for the entire rental amount, the trend now is for expats to be allocated a certain percentage of the total yearly accommodation cost, with the rest being paid for out of their salary. Other fees to bear in mind when renting include a security deposit (refundable at the end of tenancy if the rental is deemed to be in good condition by the landlord), possible car parking fees, monthly utilities, municipality charges (typically 5% of the lease), and a 5% commission fee if the services of a real estate agent are used. Maintenance and repairs of the property are covered by the landlord. Tenants are not allowed to make changes to the structure of the property inside or out without the permission of the landlord.
The lease will often be drawn up between the landlord and the tenant’s company / sponsor. If an expat signs the lease himself he must have a residence visa or at least a letter from his employer stating that a visa is in process. The normal duration of a lease is one year. Unlike in many countries where rent is paid on a monthly basis, in Dubai the entire year’s rent is paid upfront, most commonly with 2 or 3 checks. For example, in the case of bi-annual payment, the first 6 months of the lease are paid for immediately with a current dated check, while the remainder of the year is paid for with a post-dated check. (Short-term furnished monthly accommodation in Dubai is available but it is often more costly.) It is important to understand that once the lease is signed, the tenant is tied to the contract. In order to terminate the lease the tenant would need permission from the landlord. That being said, the rental laws in Dubai actually favor tenants. Landlords cannot force a renter to leave without a very good reason (such as wanting the property for their own personal use). Even if the lease is only for a year, as long as the tenants do not break any aspects of the contract, the lease is presumed to be renewable. The Municipality has a special section set up, the Dubai Rental Committee, to oversee any disputes between landlords and tenants.
After cost, location is probably the biggest factor in determining where to rent. Dubai is split in two by the Creek with Deira (or “Old Dubai”) on one side and “New Dubai” on the other. The decision for where to rent is based on factors including accessibility to work, schools, shops and hospitals. Some of the most popular locations to rent include:
- Garhoud: located near Dubai International Airport and offering low-rise apartments and townhouses at reasonable rents.
- Mirdiff: a newer development consisting mainly of villas located past the airport.
- Bur Dubai: located near Bur Juman Shopping Center and offering reasonably priced apartments.
- Downtown Deira: reasonably priced low-rise apartments are readily available in this neighborhood, although if work or schools are located on the opposite side of the creek the traffic can be a nightmare.
- Satwa: a nicely located area situated between Sheikh Zayed Road, Bur Dubai and Jumeirah, offering low-rise apartments and reasonably priced villas. It is believed that zoning regulations will change for Satwa in the near future allowing development of high-rise buildings.
- Jumeirah / Umm Suqueim: ideally situated near parks, the beach and schools, this is probably the most popular area for the European and Local communities, offering upscale villas and townhouses.
- New Dubai Developments: including The Greens, Arabian Ranches, The Lakes, The Meadows, Emirates Hills, and Dubai Marina and located near Dubai Internet City. Many offer gated, family friendly communities with access to swimming pools and other recreational amenities.
Those searching for Dubai rental property can find extensive listings in the local classifieds or direct from property developers such as Alpha Properties, Arenco Real Estate, Cluttons UAE, Better Homes, or Century 21. The search for the perfect place to lease can be time-consuming and may seem overwhelming. Understanding UAE rental laws, using only a reputable real estate agent, and investigating the best possible locations are all part of making the hunt for an apartment or villa in Dubai successful.