Renting an apartment is something everybody goes through in life. But that hardly means it is an easy task. On the contrary, moving in is one of the most stressful events in a person’s life (yes, science has proven it!)
This is especially exacerbated in Dubai where the abundance of choices (and laws!) can make finding an apartment a hectic and unforgiving job. You have to pay deposits to the landlord and multiple government bodies, weed out the shady realtors from the good, and make sure you are paying the market price. Oh, and that is just the tip of the iceberg!
Additionally, renting an apartment in Dubai is a massive commitment, mainly due to a rent cheque structure that requires you to pay a sizable portion of your rent up front. This makes choosing the right apartment extremely important.
There are a number of factors you need to ponder and know about before renting an apartment in Dubai. If you are pulling your hair out over your next apartment move, here is a comprehensive guide of everything you need to know before you sign on the dotted line.
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What do you need to need to assess when apartment hunting
The most important thing to consider when you are looking for an apartment for rent in Dubai is your location. You are forgiven for dreaming of airy rooms with beautiful views of Dubai’s skyline at the mention of a Dubai apartment but a well located apartment will do more for your health and soul than a glittering view of the Palm. Nobody wants to spend hours sitting in traffic or transferring between multiple buses just to get home.
If you don’t have a vehicle, the ideal apartment in Dubai for rent should be easy to access by public transportation, preferably close to a metro station. JLT, Marina, and Deira are some of the neighborhoods very close to a metro station – Discovery Gardens will be on the list too once the Expo 2020 metro project is completed.
The other questions you need to ask yourself are:
- Is the apartment close to my spouse’s and my workplace?
- Are there supermarkets or mini marts close by? Are they open 24 hours?
- What else is close to the apartment? Are there jogging tracks? Movie theatres? Gyms? Coffee shops?
- Is the apartment close to my child’s school?
- If you have a car, does the apartment offer a parking spot? Is it included in the rent or do you have to pay additionally for parking privileges? Most apartments offer a single parking slot for each property so if your household has more than a single car, you might want to see if you can rent another spot or if there are free parking slots on the road.
Questions to ask a real estate agent when looking at apartments
So you have been shopping Dubai apartment rentals for some time and you finally narrowed your list down to a few apartments that really piqued your interest. So how do you figure out which is the better apartment in Dubai? That’s easy, just ask the real estate agent showing you the apartment.
Wait… what do you ask them? Don’t worry, we got you covered!
Is the agent RERA (Real Estate Regulatory Agency) registered? Do not just take the agent’s word but insist on the broker number and ID. Don’t deal with an agent who is not registered with the RERA department.
How much is the deposit you need to pay? It is generally a month’s rent, but some landlords insist on more. Try negotiating it down.
Are there any restrictions included in the contract? For instance, can you sub-let a room if you wish to? Can you redecorate or paint a room to suit your taste and make it more homely? What about the pet policy? Some landlords’ okay pets but ask for a higher deposit.
Quite often, landlords and the tenants have differing ideas on the rights of a tenant in Dubai apartments, especially when it comes to the question of who is responsible for the maintenance of the apartment. Talk to the real estate agent and clearly understand who is responsible for the apartment. Who will be your contact if an issue arises? Is there a plumber or out of hours number you can contact for anything urgent? It is crucial that the tenancy agreement states what you are liable for. Sometimes, a landlord will say that any maintenance task that costs under Dh 500 will be the occupant’s concern while tenants assume that any maintenance issue falls under the landlord’s responsibility.
Is there anything else you need to know about the apartment? The seller must disclose any existing issues with the apartment, but some do not do so, for obvious reasons. Are there any outstanding bills (electricity, air conditioning or service fees) that need to be settled? If they say yes, ask that it be settled before you move in. Regardless of the answer, insist on a signed document that confirms their statement. When you have an idea of the state of the apartment and its appliances, you will be in a position to make a good offer.
Protip; Visit a few apartments in Dubai before making up your mind. Rental contracts in Dubai are generally on a yearly basis (although you can find Dubai apartment rent monthly) so make sure to clearly assess all your options with a level head before making an offer that reflects the current value of the house)
When inspecting the apartment, look for clues that indicate a poorly maintained apartment. For example, mold is a massive no-no. Flaking plaster and bubbling paint are indications of water leaks in the walls which lead to the growth of mold – if you see it, get out of there as soon as possible!
Protip; Once you have decided on an apartment, take pictures of existing issues before you move in and show it to the landlord. This protects yourself and you will not have to try and prove you didn’t cause the said issues.
It would be wise to check the HVAC system too. Is the air conditioning cold enough? Does it feel like it is strong enough to keep you cool through Dubai’s notorious summers? Are the filters clean? Have they been replaced recently? Certain landlords’ throttle down the air conditioning if DEWA (water and electricity) is included in the rent, so this is something you need to look out for.
What are the documents needed?
You will need to pay a refundable security deposit to reserve the unit for yourself after you have decided to go ahead with a particular Dubai apartment. This deposit is quite often 5% of the Dubai apartment rental cost.
The cheque will be made payable to the landlord but the agent usually holds on to it until the deal is closed. Before you give the cheque, ask for a copy of the landlord’s passport and the title deed. Make sure that you get a receipt that confirms you have handed over the initial security deposit. After all, it does not hurt to be on the safe side.
P.S; If you back out after paying the deposit, you can wave goodbye to the deposit so go ahead only when you have completely made up your mind.
At this stage, you have to hand over two documents to the realtor; your passport and a copy of your residency visa.
The realtor will then send the tenancy contract that describes all the information and any special conditions agreed between the two parties. As with all contracts, read through carefully and make sure that nothing is amiss. For example, if you want a room repainted, make sure that it is noted on the contract.
Once you have signed, you will have to pay the rent cheque and agency commission (again 5% of the Dubai apartment rent cost). As with the security deposit, ensure you get receipts.
Protip; When you are given the keys and access cards, give a signed handover letter stating the number of keys and access cards you received.
To obtain the water and electricity connection to your apartment, you will have to submit the DEWA number (you can find it on the door of the apartment’s entrance), copy of your (tenant) and the landlord’s passport, completed DEWA form, a refundable deposit of Dh 2000 along with Dh 110 for the initial setup charges, and the title deed to the Dubai Electricity & Water Authority (DEWA).
Another important document is the Ejari certificate. This legalizes your occupation and your relationship to the landlord. To acquire this certificate, you need the receipt of your DEWA connection, title deed, your passport and the landlord’s, tenancy contract and Emirates ID copy. The application for the Ejari certificate can be done online.
In Dubai, apartments often have a fixed contract, usually for a duration of a year but sometimes have no contract or a contract of less than a year. If it’s the latter, it falls under the Dubai Tourism board’s laws.
Paying a year’s Dubai apartment rent cost with one cheque usually will give you extremely lower rates. On the opposite side of the scale, paying for a Dubai apartment with monthly cheques will cost you the most. In between the two, you can find options for rental cheque payment every three months, every four months or twice a year.
There are many hidden costs one should be aware of when considering a Dubai apartment for rent. The real estate agency generally demands about two to five percent of the total rental fee while the housing fee is another five percent of the annual rent.
To obtain the Ejari certificate, you will have to fork out Dh 195 and as I mentioned above, the security deposit is a month’s rent but is refundable. Securing the DEWA connection adds another (refundable) Dh 2000. Depending on the apartment and provider, you may have to pay for the air conditioning and gas. It is best that you check this ahead of time with the landlord before you decide on the apartment.
So the big day is here. You have everything in order… or do you?
Firstly, check if the apartment building has any restrictions regarding the moving in days. Whether it is a Dubai studio apartment or an apartment in Dubai for holiday, many apartments in the Emirate do not allow moving in on Fridays. To avoid being stranded, confirm this ahead of time. Your landlord will probably know, or you can just contact the building developers.
Additionally, there is a good chance that the apartment building will require you to submit a written form before they can approve you moving in. Along with the form, you may have to submit your Ejari certificate, the tenancy contract, your passport, and visa.
Protip; Find out which is the service elevator. Many Dubai luxury apartment buildings don’t allow furniture and home items into the normal elevators. Inquire if there is a service entrance you can use (generally in the basement) so you don’t have to carry your lamp posts and bed frames through the lobby!
Make sure that you have all the paperwork ready by the time you plan on moving in and keep them at hand when you are moving. The security might want to take a look, so it is easier to have them at hand.
Consider asking the landlord to thoroughly clean out the apartment and keep it in a state that is ready for moving in or (if it is a Dubai apartment rentals long term) at the very least, send a cleaning crew beforehand for a cleanup. You may have to foot the bill for this.
Other than that, just follow the essentials like packing a first night bag that contains all the items you need for the first night. Again, it prevents having to rummage through several bags and boxes just to find your toothbrush.