Dubai offers some amazing options on where to live. Most of them will be expensive and will come with a one year lease. So before renting an apartment in Dubai make sure you read this.
This article is written by Emma Bennett. Emma Bennett loves a good story. Fortunately, she has plenty of inspiration living life as an Aussie expat in Dubai and traveling the world with two young kids. She loves to tell the real stories about what can happen when you are completely out of your comfort zone and those funny, quirky moments that form long lasting memories.
Tips for renting an apartment in Dubai for expats
It’s important to understand some key points about renting an apartment in Dubai. There are some amazing options for where to live. Most of them are expensive and they will usually come with a one-year lease. So making a decision is something not to be taken lightly.
Among the minefields of real estate agents and online rental sites there are some common themes that are important to understand before being locked into a contract.
Pick your location
The key to being a happy Dubai expat is to make sure you enjoy coming home every day. Especially during the summer months when it’s harder to summons the energy to leave the house, it’s important to make your house as much of a sanctuary as you can.
That means you need to be careful when renting an apartment in Dubai that you choose the right location.
Dubai is a decentralised city meaning that rather than having one city centre, it’s a combination of smaller, almost satellite cities linked together by enormous multi-lane highways.
So when you are deciding on your location you need to take into account the following questions:
- How long will it take me to get to and from work each day?
- Am I comfortable driving on massive busy highways?
- Am I prepared to accept sitting in traffic for large periods of time during the week?
- Do I want to be near the beach?
- Do I need to be close to public transport?
- Can I sleep through the call to prayer if there’s a Mosque nearby
- What facilities do I want to have close by e.g. shops, restaurants, doctors, coffee shops etc.
These questions are important to consider before you commit to a property as once you are locked in, it’s hard to break a lease.
And no-one should underestimate the traffic here. It can be utterly horrendous. If traffic bothers you, make sure you don’t land in an area that only has one way in and one way out!
Decide the lifestyle you want
There are generally three types of areas you can consider as an expat renting an apartment in Dubai. There are pros and cons to all of the options and it really depends what type of lifestyle you want.
Estate living is very popular here, especially with expats. Estates such as The Springs, Arabian Ranches and Mudon are normally well manicured, well laid out, and they have gated security.
Each estate will have its own little community centre with shops and other facilities such as doctors and beauty salons. They also will have some form of a shared resort-style swimming pool and other facilities like tennis courts and gymnasiums.
Estate living is very popular with the expat community and you will normally find yourself living amongst many other people from similar cultures. This creates a community feel and you can make friends easily. You also will have a backyard where the kids can play outside during the cooler months.
The downsides of estate living are that they’re often located out in the desert which means longer commutes to work.
I also find most of them have a bit of a ‘Stepford Wives’ feel to them. Everything is perfect and well maintained but there are lots of rules and it’s quite sanitised.
Whilst it’s not as lively as living amongst the chaos in the high density areas, estate living is a nice quiet alternative.
High Density Living:
There is a lot of high density living in the more established areas of Dubai such as downtown, the Marina and Deira.
Apartment living gives you less outdoor space but you will have more access to a wider choice of shops and facilities nearby. The locations are also closer to public transport options if you aren’t comfortable on the roads.
And whilst you won’t have a backyard, you also don’t have the big DEWA (Dubai electricity and water) bills to go along with it. There are a number of great parks you can hang out in during the cooler months.
Be careful that your apartment has dedicated parking and the facilities that you want. Most apartment blocks will have some kind of shared pool facility and gymnasium as well but not all of them so choose carefully.
Villas located in the older areas of Dubai like Jumeirah or Umm Sequim will be similar to a suburb in other parts of the world. You have a private villa on a single block with an individual landlord
The upside of these areas is that you will often get a private garden and/or pool. Parking is not an issue and the streets are very quiet. Mostly you would have to get in your car and drive to access any facilities but there are lots of restaurants, shops, hospitals and best of all beaches close by.
The downside is that you might feel a little isolated. Because you are mixed among expat, local and working families, most people keep to themselves and you won’t have regular interaction with people around your home.
Remember – Everything is negotiable
So you’ve worked out what area you want and the type of lifestyle you’re looking for. The next step is to start inspecting properties.
The number one rule to remember in when you are renting an apartment in Dubai is that everything is negotiable. That includes rents and real estate agents.
When you are ready to look at properties, it’s wise to do some research on typical prices in the area you are seeking so you know a ballpark to aim for on the rent. It also gives you confidence when you try to argue the rent down.
The best site to search for property here is Property Finder as all of the listings are verified. However, a couple of important things to be aware of when looking online include:
- The pictures on the listing will often be of a property other than the one you think you are looking at
- Always inspect in person
- Only deal with registered real estate agents. There are lots of dodgy agents here. Do a quick search with the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA) on the agent’s licence number before you engage with them
- There are furnished options but inspect the contents in person and take photographs of the condition at the start of your tenancy. This will be useful if a dispute arises later on
- Keep records of any transactions or agreements. Verbal agreements will not stand up in court here.
There’s no obligation to stick with one real estate agent when you are looking either. In fact, it’s advised to go with more than one as often you’ll find the same property at different prices with multiple agents. Just make sure you verify their licence first.
Once you find a property you like and you think will work for you and your family, start negotiating with the agent. Go in hard! You can always compromise later but you should never just agree to the price upfront.
If the agent refuses to take your offer to the Landlord, move onto another agent immediately.
Key legalities to watch out for when you renting an apartment in Dubai
The UAE is a very different legal landscape to other countries. There are certain laws here that you need to be aware of that may not exist in other countries.
www.dubailand.gov.ae is a great resource for laws and regulations relating to renting in Dubai. Some of the key things to be aware of include:
- Your rights as a tenant are not legally protected until you register your tenancy contract with Ejari (Arabic for ‘my rent’). It’s easy to do online at ejari.ae
- Security deposit (normally 4 weeks rent) should be written on the contract and in your Ejari. At the end of your tenancy you can choose to do the painting/minor repairs yourself to get your full refund or your landlord might keep a portion to cover the work
- Contents insurance is your responsibility. Make sure you have this cover as things like furniture and jewellery can be expensive to replace
- Landlords cannot increase your rent randomly. There are rules around it stated in Decree No (43) of 2013 that you need to be aware of. If this happens to you file a case with the Rent Committee in court.
This is not an exhaustive list but it covers some of the biggest issues tenants face in Dubai.
There are additional things to be aware of if you want to share with other people as well. Legally, males and females can’t share accommodation without being married so it’s worth doing the research to ensure you don’t get into a sticky situation.
Enjoy your new home
So there you have it. Not an exhaustive list but certainly some key things to be aware of when renting an apartment in Dubai.
There are some amazing properties here with amazing lifestyles to go with them.
The golden rule, as with anywhere in the world, is to be aware of your rights. Make sure you do your research and you shouldn’t have any problems. And ultimately, if something doesn’t feel right, trust your instincts.
If something appears too good to be true, it normally is.
What are your experiences renting an apartment in Dubai? Share your experience for other expats in the comments section below.