Apart from securing your new job, getting your accommodation satisfactorily sorted out is probably the most crucial factor in making your move to the UAE a success.
The first question to answer is: to rent or to buy? Most expats opt for renting as it gives you more flexibility, particularly when you first arrive in the UAE and are unsure of the best location to live in. Also, you need to have lived in the country for a minimum of six months before you can apply for a mortgage with a UAE bank, so your first year at least is likely to be in rented accommodation.
Companies are legally obliged to provide employees with either accommodation or an accommodation allowance. This really varies as there are no official guidelines as to how much this should be. Some large organisations have complexes for employees, other companies have arrangements with particular developments and reserve a percentage of their properties for workers. It’s worth checking your job offer though as often the housing allowance is included in your salary, so you won’t get any additional help; your actual salary will only be a percentage of your monthly pay packet. You can use your housing allowance on either rent or a mortgage; if your company gives you the option of accommodation they may let you have the money to find your own place instead. In previous years, Dubai has been home for many people working in Abu Dhabi; since 2013, however, public sector employees working in Abu Dhabi are now required by law to also live in the emirate, or forfeit their housing allowance.
Using a real estate agent is the easiest and often best option to finding a home, although they will charge you for their services, usually around 5% of the annual rent, Dhs.5,000 or whichever is higher. Only deal with a government-registered broker or agent to avoid being the victim of any rental scam; ask the agent for their trade licence number, which verifies that their office is licensed by the government to manage, rent and sell real estate. Alternatively, check out classified adverts in local newspapers or drive around the areas you fancy living in as often there will be ‘To Let’ signs on vacant villas. Once you find a property, ask for proof of ownership of the property being rented out, and demand a receipt for any payments made by cash or cheque.
ADCB offers residential properties for rent in Abu Dhabi, Dubai and Northern Emirates through its subsidiary: ADCP (Abu Dhabi Commercial Properties)
Paying for rental accommodation in the UAE may be very different to what you’re used to. Most landlords demand one cheque, and if you manage to negotiate two or three cheques, expect to pay a slightly higher rent. Some landlords accept post-dated cheques that are cashed on their due date, while some employers will arrange to pay your rent payments directly from your salary, which can save a lot of hassle.
Extra costs to be considered when renting a home include the refundable water and electricity deposit, which can be as high as Dhs.4,100 for a villa in Dubai; if renting in Dubai, you will also be charged a housing fee of 5% of your yearly rent, spread across 12 months.
If living alone, the best option is to rent a room within a villa or apartment: the rental payments are typically monthly, you can usually leave your room with just one month’s notice, and the price will probably include all bills
When renting or buying a property in the UAE, it is important to check that the real estate agent you use is registered with the relevant regulatory department to safeguard and protect your rights. These include Abu Dhabi Municipality, Ajman Real Estate Regulatory Authority (ARRA), Dubai Land Department's Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA), the Real Estate Regulatory Administration of Ras Al Khaimah (RERA RAK), Sharjah Government's Real Estate Registration Directorate (SRERD) or Umm Al Quwain Land and Property Department.
Responsibilities include activities such as: licensing all real estate activities; regulating and registering rental agreements, owners’ associations, and real estate advertisements in the media; regulating and licensing real estate exhibitions; publishing official research and studies for the sector and dealing with property disputes.
Once you find an apartment or villa to rent, you'll usually pay a 5% deposit to secure the property. Then, the next step will be to sign a tenancy contract, which you can only do once you have your residence visa. You'll need your Resident ID or passport copy, a copy of the security deposit receipt, and a fee of around Dhs.195.
Only ever sign a tenancy contract that is registered through Abu Dhabi's Tawtheeq or Dubai's Ejari online service if renting in these emirates; this is required by law to safeguard the rights of both the tenant and the landlord.
Your rental contract will cover the financial terms, the length of the rental and who is responsible for maintenance; since payments are usually made through post-dated cheques, make sure that payment terms are clearly stated. Before signing on the dotted line, you should also check conditions relating to utilities, security deposit, parking, pets and gardening.
Rental contracts are valid for one year, after which they can be renewed for another year or terminated. A tenancy contract does not terminate automatically. Instead, it renews on the same terms until you or the landlord agree to change the terms or end it.
Changes to your contract
If the landlord wants to evict you or increase the rent, he must give you 90 days’ notice before the end of the contract; likewise, if you want to move out of the property you must give 90 days’ notice. There are four circumstances under which a landlord can serve a notice for eviction on expiry of the tenancy contract: to demolish or add to the premises, making it unliveable; for repair or maintenance; to recover the premises for personal use or for a next of kin; or to sell the property.
Buying a property in the UAE is something to consider once you are settled at work. The good news is there are plenty of great places to buy and, while property may be expensive, the market looks set to keep rising.
Regulations prevent new arrivals from purchasing property until they have been resident for six months or more, and until you get to know the UAE and your new lifestyle a little better, you'll probably prefer to rent your accommodation.
The property market in the UAE grew at the fastest pace in the world in the year up to the end of June 2013, financed primarily from cash buyers. Talk of another property bubble has been rejected by those in real estate, and a mortgage cap has been introduced in an attempt to stabilise the market.