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Housing in Dubai

Although Dubai’s property boom is definitely over, with Deutsche Bank indicating that prices fell 55% between mid 2008 and mid 2011, the city still has an abundance of extremely attractive property for sale and rent.  Property prices have largely stabilised following the emirate’s economic contraction, although rental rates in Dubai remain exceptionally high.

If you base rental rate comparisons with those in London you’ll suffer less of a nasty surprise.  Note, you need to have your residency visa in place in order to secure everything in Dubai from a bank account to a long-term rental agreement, which is why newly arrived expats often live short-term in a serviced apartment or apart hotel.

The first thing you need to know about securing rental accommodation in Dubai is that some expats have an accommodation allowance as part of their contract’s remuneration terms.  This may include a certain amount being paid towards rent each month, or having your agency fees covered when looking for a place to live for example.  These fees are usually 5% of the annual rental fee of the chosen property.

The next thing you need to know is that you must only use agents who are RERA (Real Estate Regulatory Agency) registered.  RERA is the land department of the government of Dubai, and if you want any sort of peace of mind when signing a tenancy agreement you need to use a RERA registered agent.

In January 2008 RERA set a rental rate cap on rent increases – this remains at 5% which means that landlords cannot increase your rent by more than 5% of the existing rental agreement for a period of 2 full years starting from the date of the commencement of your lease.

Tenants and landlords are governed by Law No. 206 of 2007 when it comes to rental agreements, and this details the obligations of both parties.  You can find full details of the law on RERA’s website.

You can begin looking for a rental property if your residency visa is being processed, as long as you have a letter from your employer stating that this is the fact.  You will need the following documentation when you’re ready to sign a lease: –

  • A copy of your passport
  • A copy of your residency visa
  • A statement of income from your employer (this is to show both affordability and the terms and duration of your employment)
  • A signed official application for the tenancy with all information provided
  • A security deposit (this is usually equivalent to 4 weeks rent).  Note: this is refundable when you leave the property providing it is returned in the same condition as when you entered it.  Your deposit along with your lease agreement will be lodged with RERA.
  • A year’s rent in advance which is usually given in the form of 4 cheques.  The first cheque is for the first three months and dated immediately, the rest are forward dated covering 3 monthly intervals each.  To bounce a cheque in Dubai is to break the law.

Once you have your tenancy agreement in place you can get your utilities connected.  Your agent will be able to give you the most up to date contact details and procedures to follow.

In terms of where to live in Dubai that is absolutely a personal preference.  It will depend in part on where you’ll be working, and if you have children for example, it may depend on where you want them to go to school.  Traffic during rush hour in Dubai can be truly a nightmare – therefore you’re unlikely to want to live on the ‘wrong’ side of the city!

Some areas you may want to look at include the following…but they are certainly not the only appealing areas of Dubai and we include them just to enable you to begin your own property research.  You may also wish to ask on forums and speak to your new colleagues in Dubai to determine where might be the best place for you to live in Dubai.  Note, some of these developments may only have properties for sale rather than rent: –

  • Green Community – mainly villa based with some apartments and townhouses.
  • Jebel Ali Village – older villas and plush properties, with schools, health facilities, clubs, restaurants, a cinema and shopping malls within easy reach.
  • The Gardens – relatively affordable apartment based development.
  • Dubai Marina and Al Sufouh – apartments in the former and villas in the latter – all with the wow factor you’d associate with Dubai.
  • Emirates Hills – including The Springs, The Lakes, The Meadows and The Greens featuring single family homes.
  • Al Barsha – villas with gardens and apartments.
  • Arabian Ranches – stunning villa homes in a luxurious setting.
  • Umm Suqeim – single family homes close to the beach, ranging from palatial villas to slightly run down houses.
  • Al Safa and Al Wasl – single family homes in a range of styles – not always attractive!
  • Jumeirah – expensive villa-based accommodation.
  • Satwa – well located apartments and some villas in a lively but slightly run down part of the city.
  • The Trade Centre – tower based apartments with good facilities.
  • Bur Dubai and Al Mankhool – very well located, properties of all types.
  • Karama – conveniently located mainly older apartments.
  • Oud Metha and Umm Hurair – low to medium rise apartment blocks.
  • Deira – mainly apartments and popular with singles or couples rather than families.
  • Garhoud – everything from apartments and townhouses to established villas.
  • Mirdif, Al Warqa and Rashidiya – fairly well landscaped area containing mainly villa based accommodation.
  • Al Qusais – mainly apartment living.
  • Sharjah – this is actually an emirate in its own right rather than a residential district of Dubai City, however it’s considered a suburb by many of the expats who live there!  All accommodation types and often more affordable than Dubai – but note Sharjah is 100% alcohol free!

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