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How to avoid rental scams in Dubai
Ambareen Musa says it’s better to be sceptical than sorry.
October 2, 2013 6:42 by kippreport
After the numerous rental scams in Dubai last year, I have become somewhat sceptical of rental agreements in general.
My recent attempts at trying to rent an apartment in Dubai’s Jumeirah Beach Residence (JBR) – which I later turned down – has made me aware of a number of factors I needed to look out for to ensure that the agreement is actually a genuine one.
The one- or two-cheque phenomena in the UAE – where landlords and agents expect tenants to pay the entire year’s rent in one go – certainly doesn’t help the situation. After all, if I’m paying a year’s worth of rent I need to make sure my money is going into the right hands.
Here are the top six things you need to check before renting a property in Dubai:
The title deed
I asked for the title deed and made a trip to the Land Department to check whether the owner of the property is officially registered – which is the best way to prove that the title deed is genuine. It takes five minutes and a trip to Deira, but it’s worth it.
I made a phone call to the developer to make sure that the service charges on the apartment have been paid by the owner – this check is to both verify any changes (such as a sale) that may have happened but are not yet registered and whether the community charges are cleared. Not paying your community fees would generally prevent the access to the facilities of the building or community.
The broker agent
It is important to make sure that the real estate agent is legitimate. You can find the list of the approved brokers on the RERA website. If the broker is not on there, I would ask them why.
Rent, charges and fees
This was the interesting part. I just assumed that the commission would be the standard five per cent and I was shocked when he asked for seven per cent. At that point, I’d already lost faith in the agent.
When I asked to see the contract I was surprised to see clauses that I’d never seen before nor heard of – such as penalty fees of AED1,000 if the cheque was returned for any reason at all. I often receive calls from my bank telling me my signature is mismatched and asking me to re-issue another one. The contract also stated that I should give the landlord a 60-day notice if I did not want to renew, when the norm is generally 30 days.
This was probably the one check that made me give up on the apartment. The landlord lives in the UK and gave the power of attorney to the real estate agent I was dealing with.
The agent asked me to issue the cheques to the real estate broker’s name, which I was not comfortable with, but agreed to once he showed me the legal documents.
Just to be safe, I asked for the landlord to send me an email confirming that the cheques should be made out to the agent. To my surprise, my agent told me that, as part of company policy, no tenant is allowed to be in touch with their landlord and that everything must go through the agent.
I may be more sceptical than most people, but not allowing me to talk to my landlord is not what I’d call transparency.
In conclusion, don’t be afraid to be the kind of customer who asks too many questions – it’s better to know all the facts, do your homework and not regret giving away your money to the wrong person.
By Ambareen Musa, founder of Souqalmal.com