Whether you're planning a move to Dubai or just moving homes, we know that renting can be a very overwhelming experience. There are so many moving parts and not a lot of clear-cut answers. Hopefully, this handy guide will supply you with everything you need so you can feel confident and knowledgeable during your next move.
Finding a home
Looking for a cozy little studio or a four-bedroom villa? The first step is narrowing down your options and deciding what it is exactly that you want. Here are a couple of questions you should consider:
- What kind of home are you looking for? An apartment? A villa?
- How many bedrooms do you want?
- How many bathrooms do you want?
- What's your budget? How many payments do you want to make?
- What neighborhoods will you consider? Do you want to live close to work? Close to restaurants? Shopping?
- Do you want furnished or unfurnished?
- What amenities are a must-have?
Jotting down your answers to these questions goes a long way in making things feel less overwhelming. Once you’ve done that, it’s time to start browsing.
Looking for a home
So you're ready to start looking for a home. There are bunch of listing sites in Dubai that you can use to narrow down your options.
Some sites we like:
- Urban (we’re a bit biased)
- Property Finder
Before you proceed, it’s good to know the landscape. In Dubai, you rent a home through a landlord or a broker. Property Finder and Bayut connect you to brokers, while Dubizzle connects you to brokers and landlords.
We recommend you narrow down your choices to ten. If you save too many options, you’ll find yourself unconsciously postponing your move.
Throughout your search, be sure to set up saved alerts so you can get notified every time there are new options that match your preferences. New homes are popping up every day in Dubai!
Urban tip: Look for virtual tours when browsing. Pictures don’t often reveal everything, while taking a virtual tour lets you explore every single inch of the place to your heart’s content.
Booking a visit
Before you book a visit to a home, it’s a good idea to make a list of all the available hours you have throughout the week. You really want to commit a few hours so you can visit a bunch of homes without rushing the process.
Next up, get yourself a notepad (or use your phone since this isn’t the 90s) and write down all the things you want to look out for during your visit. We’ve all been there – struggling to remember what you wanted to check when you're actually there.
Things to watch out for:
- Any off-putting smells. Mold (the smell of wet socks) and cigarette smells (which often clings to walls). Watch out for excessive use of fragrances which might mean someone is trying to mask a certain smell.
- Serious cracks in walls and floors which could point to foundation issues and water damage
- Exposed wires
- Ask about electricity and water since DEWA (Dubai Electricity and Water Authority) won’t be connected until you move in.
- If you’re visiting a villa, pay attention to the lawn. Wet spots with a bad odor are a definite red flag and could signal a sewage problem.
- Open and close the windows to make sure they’re working properly.
Next, start contacting the agents listed on the properties you’re interested in.
Urban tip: If you’re visiting an apartment building, try to check out as many apartments as possible to see the layout (and view) that work best for you. Different layouts make a world of difference.
Visiting a home
We know that sometimes you won’t feel too comfortable checking out a home with an agent breathing down your neck. Try to relax and remember that this is your time to explore the home and ask as many questions as you want. If you feel like visiting a home on your own, you can totally book a visit through Urban. #Justsaying
Urban tip: Often when you visit a home in Dubai, the agent might tell you to go right into the house (it’s often unlocked) and take the tour yourself. We call this a pleasant surprise.
Questions to ask when you’re there:
About the building:
- Do you get a parking spot? If yes how many?
- Is there a concierge 24/7?
- What are the building amenities? Gym? Swimming pool? Ask to see them.
- Are pets allowed?
- Is there a lot of noise from the street (especially if the apartment is overlooking Sheikh Zayed). Check for proper sound-proofing so your sleep is unaffected.
About the neighborhood:
- Is the neighborhood noisy?
- Are there any construction sites nearby?
- Is there any public transportation close by? Bus? Metro?
- What about supermarkets? Laundry? Pharmacies?
Urban tip: If you run into a tenant in the elevator or as you’re entering/leaving the premises, try to strike up a conversation and find out what it’s like to live in the building/neighborhood. You can get some really priceless insights by just chatting up someone who’s lived there for a while.
Renting a home
Making an offer
So you’ve chosen your home. Time to make an offer and start the negotiation process.
Urban tip: Don’t make more than one offer on the same property with a different agent. Otherwise the landlord will think their property is in higher demand and will be less likely to accept your offer.
Typically, listings get rented at 5-8% lower than the listed price. We recommend that you start by making an offer that's 10-15% lower than the listed price. You don't want to lowball it because you do want to be taken seriously by the landlord or their representative. This will open up the line of negotiations between you and your landlord so that both of you can settle on an appropriate figure. It’s an awkward process, but remember: you're the tenant, and you have a lot of choices.
Urban tip: You want to make sure everything’s legit so check that your real estate agent is registered with RERA (the Real Estate Regulatory Agency in Dubai).
Once the offer is approved, it’s time to pay the security deposit which typically amounts to 5% of the rent amount.
Your agent or landlord will ask you for:
- Passport copy
- Residence visa copy . If you don’t have your residency yet, you’ll have to supply an official document from your employer or sponsor stating that your visa is being processed.
Urban tip: Ask for a receipt when you pay the security deposit. Always keep a log of any payments related to your new home.
Some things you can do to get your security deposit back when you move out:
- Repair and repaint the walls
- Make sure you leave furniture in good condition if it's a furnished home. If it's unfurnished, make sure you remove all your belongings.
- Finalize any outstanding bills (DEWA, Etisalat, du)
Be sure to carefully review the contract and all its terms. If you can, try to find a lawyer to look through it. You can make changes by discussing with your agent who will negotiate with your landlord and add an addendum to the contract with any of your requests. Since you haven't signed the contract yet, this is the time to try and get those items on your wishlist. Remember it's a give and take so you won't get everything (try to ask for an extra month for free).
Some things to watch out for:
- Does your home have a pool? If it does, who is responsible for maintenance? What about a garden? If yes, what about the landscaping?
- Is the home "chiller free"? If that's the case, you won't have to pay for air conditioning. Many homes in JLT for example require you to pay a cooling provider (such as Empower or Emicool) on a monthly basis.
- Ask for an extra cleaning service and pest control before you move in. It makes a difference.
Urban tip: Ask your agent to make sure the landlord has covered the service charges. What’s a service charge? Recurring fees that are paid by the homeowners for the maintenance and upkeep of residential buildings or communities.
If you've identified anything that needs to be fixed, make sure it's done before you move in. Once you’re fine with the contract, sign it and meet with your agent to hand it over along with the agreed-upon post-dated checks. Why the post-dated checks? Landlords in the UAE often expect you to pay rent through a specific number of checks (1,2,4,6 or 12) to give them a sense of security. Some landlords accept payment online; all of them on Urban do.
Urban tip: How do you decide on the number of payments? Remember that the bigger the number of installments, the more expensive it gets. On the bright side, it gives you the ability to manage cash better if you're in a crunch.
After the landlord signs the contract, your agent will give you a copy and a receipt. You’ll get the keys and access card to the building soon after.
Urban tip: Make sure your contract includes what maintenance the landlord is responsible for. Typically, the landlord is responsible for all fixes above AED 500. Confirm who you're supposed to contact if something goes wrong.
Hidden costs to watch out for:
- Agency fees: Usually 5% of the first annual rent, paid upfront
- Ejari fees: Approximately AED 230
- Housing fee: 5% of annual rents added to DEWA bills
- Security deposit: 5% percent of the annual rent, refundable at the end of your tenancy
- DEWA deposit:
Dh 2,000 (deposit, refunded at the end of your tenancy)
Dh 110 (activation fee, non-refundable)
Dh 4,000 (deposit, refunded at the end of your tenancy)
Dh 110 (activation fee, non-refundable)
- Chiller (air condition) deposit/gas deposit: varies according to the provider, sometimes included in the rent
Ejari is a contract registration service that ensures a smooth relationship between tenants and landlords and helps solve any disputes. All tenancy contracts in Dubai must be registered via the Ejari platform; in fact Ejari is a requirement before setting up Water and Electricity (DEWA). The fee costs approximately AED 230. You’ll need the following documents to register:
- Original tenancy contract
- Title deed (from landlord)
- Tenant and landlord’s passport copies
- Copy of tenant’s Emirates ID
Urban tip: You can register (and renew) your Ejari through the Dubai Rest app. If you’d like to do it in person, be sure to get there as early as possible (the center opens at 9 am).
Water and electricity (DEWA)
Now that you’ve got your tenancy contract and you’ve registered your home with Ejari, it’s time to set up water and electricity for your new home. To do that, you’ll have to activate DEWA (Dubai Water & Electricity Authority) .
Urban tip: Remember to check for outstanding DEWA or air-conditioning bills from a previous tenant. Your agent can find this out and make sure it is paid before you set up your own DEWA account.
You’ll need the following documents:
- DEWA premise number (usually found on the door)
- Ejari number
- Landlord’s passport copy
- Your passport copy & Emirates ID
- Completed DEWA form (collected at DEWA)
- Security deposit payment
Urban tip: Downloading too many apps? Check out Dubai Now, a government application that lets you pay all your bills in one convenient place.
DEWA fees: AED 110 plus VAT
Refundable DEWA deposit: AED 2000 for apartments, AED 4000 for villas
Some communities in Dubai might ask you to obtain a move-in permit before moving in. You can usually find the form on the developer’s website. Make sure you ask your real estate agent or landlord if this is required and apply for the permit on time to avoid delays.
Some communities that require a move-in permit include Dubai Marina, The Greens, Arabian Ranches and Emirates Hills.
To obtain this move-in permit, you may be asked to provide the following documents:
- Passport copy / Emirates ID
- Certificate of completion of payment
- Copy of the tenancy contract
- Copy of the unit’s most recent service charge receipt (paid by the landlord)
After your move-in permit comes through, you’re all set to move into your home and start a new chapter in Dubai!
Some moving companies we recommend to lessen the hassle:
We recommend you hire your own cleaning crew and pest control so you move in and feel 100% at ease in your new home.
Pest control services:
Living in your new home
Your landlord has a number of obligations according to Dubai law. They include:
- No alteration to the premises or its services (for example utilities or facilities). If so, the landlord is liable for any damage caused, faults or shortages to the premises.
- On handover, the landlord must provide the premises in good condition.
- The landlord is responsible for maintaining the premises and must rectify any defects or faults that affect the your right to occupation and enjoyment.
- The landlord is prohibited from disconnecting services or obstructing you from occupying the premises. If so, you have the right to file a police report, in addition to filing a case with the Rental Dispute Settlement Centre (RDC).
As a tenant, you have a number of obligations according to Dubai law:
- Pay the rent on the due dates.
- Pay the security deposit to guarantee and/or cover the condition of the premises at the end of the lease.
- No alterations, renovations or performing maintenance work without the landlord's permission and, if required, any approval from relevant authorities.
- Return the premises to the landlord in good condition, with only reasonable wear and tear. Any dispute over the condition is decided upon by the Rental Dispute Settlement Centre if no agreement is reached.
- Pay all fees and taxes due for to the utility authorities that benefit the premises, unless otherwise agreed.
- Not remove any fixtures, unless agreed otherwise by both landlord and tenant.
- Not assign the benefit to sublease the premises, without obtaining the landlord’s written consent.
Urban tip: Never pay anyone rent other than the name on the title deed unless your agent has a full property management license. A property supervision license doesn't allow agents to receive rent on behalf of landlords.
You might think that your landlord can increase rent every year according to his own whims, but Dubai has rent caps on the amount of rent that can be charged when renewing a lease. Renewal rent caps are determined based on the rent you paid in the initial lease term, compared to the average similar rent of a unit (with the same amount of bedrooms). This is determined by the RERA Index.
If you are paying:
- 10% or less than the average similar rent – your landlord can not increase rent
- 11-20% less than the average similar rent – your landlord may increase rent by up to 5%
- 21-30% less than the average similar rent – your landlord may increase rent by up to 10%
- 31-40% less than the average similar rent – your landlord may increase rent by up to 15%
- Over 40% less than the average similar rent – your landlord may increase rent by up to 20%
In addition, a notice of rental increase must be given to you at least 90 days prior to the expiration of the lease. If your landlord misses the 90-day notice deadline, he or she can not increase rent during the next renewal period.
Your landlord can send you the rental increase notice formally (through Notary Public or Registered Mail) or informally (email or letter) with proof of receipt.
Urban tip: If your landlord tries to increase your rent beyond the legal limits, you can file a complaint with the Rental Dispute Settlement Centre.
Disputes & evictions
We know that getting along with your landlord can be a bit tough sometimes. If you find yourself unable to settle a dispute, we recommend that you file an official complaint with the RDSC (Rental Dispute Settlement Centre).
To file a complaint, you’ll need to take the following documents to the RDSC:
- Your passport and visa
- Your Emirates ID
- Title deed
- Passport copy of your landlord
- Ejari certificate
- Recent DEWA bill
- Original tenancy contract
- Copies of checks issued to your landlord or proof of payment if you paid by bank transfer or credit card
- Copies of correspondence between you and the landlord relating to the matter
The cost of filing the complaint is 3.5% of the annual rent of the property and must be a minimum of AED 500 AED and a maximum of AED 20,000. You’ll also have some typing costs (approximately AED 210) and admin costs (approximately AED 110).
Once you fill out the application and claim form, the arbitration department will try to amicably settle the dispute within 15 days. If that’s not possible, you can file a lawsuit through the Department of First Instance. This would be settled within 30 days.
If parties wish to appeal, the Department of Appeal will issue a final verdict within 30 days (only on cases over AED 100,000, under certain conditions, with a fee of 15% of the dispute amount).
The number of the RDSC helpline is 800-4488.
As a tenant in Dubai, you have automatic right of renewal of your lease. Your landlord can only evict you with prior 12-month notice for the following reasons
- If the landlord wants to sell the property
- If the landlord wishes to use the property for his own personal use or for first degree kin (requires proof that landlord has no other properties to live in)
- If the property requires demolition or major renovation that can not be completed while occupied by you (requires Technical Report from Dubai Municipality)
If you are not paying rent, your landlord must give you 30 days notice.
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