Is it normal for the rental agent to ask for my deposit?

On Your Side My husband and I would like to rent a villa, but the agent is asking for the security deposit to be paid to him personally. How do I verify that this is legitimate?

My husband and I have found a villa we would like to rent, but are unsure about the things the agent is asking for. He has asked for the security deposit to be paid to him personally. I understand that the agency fee could be paid to him, but how do I verify that he is legitimate? Can you also tell me where we stand on maintenance issues? PT Dubai

You should check that the agent works for a company that is registered with the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA); ask to see his broker card. You can get further information from or by telephoning 04 222 1112. Any deposit should be paid directly to the landlord, and you should request a formal receipt. My advice is that you do not pay the deposit until you have established ownership and inspected the landlord's property deed or proof of ownership, together with a copy of his passport. Sadly, anyone can advertise a vacant villa, claim to be the agent and take not only deposits but also the rent, and then disappear.

While the new rules are designed to provide protection, there are still a few people who are not what they seem and renters should be suspicious of any agent they don't know. Generally, the landlord is responsible for maintenance issues, but you should read the contract thoroughly and ensure that it covers who is responsible for what before you sign. You will be expected to keep the property in good order and replace minor items like light bulbs, but the landlord is responsible for larger problems.

I have been reading your newspaper ahead of my move to Abu Dhabi and have a question. I will be on a two-year contract, and rather than buy a car there, and as I really like my current car, can I bring it with me from the UK? My company is offering a generous relocation allowance, which I think will cover the shipping costs. What do I need to do when it arrives, as I have heard of a blue plate scheme for imported cars? JM Aberdeen, UK

Your car is a standard UK model and therefore has right-hand drive. These vehicles cannot be registered in the UAE so cannot be driven here. In addition, a car made for the UK market will not have Gulf specifications and is unsuitable for the climate in the UAE. Blue plates are for vehicle-for-export use only and not relevant in this situation.

I received a text message from Etisalat on January 18 stating that if I renewed my Wasel account on or before January 24 it would cost Dh50, and I would be credited with Dh50 airtime. I went to my closest Etisalat office in Abu Dhabi on January 20 and was told by a very bored and uninterested employee that it would cost me Dh100 to renew my Wasel account, and that there is no free airtime. When I showed the employee my text message stating otherwise, she simply shrugged and said it must be a mistake, and that the computer only had an option for Dh100. After I said that surely Etisalat had to stand by their offer, she conferred with her manager, who simply shrugged and said it was Dh100 - no explanation or apology was offered. I find this incredible for a number of reasons, not least the fact that if a company makes an offer to its customers it is obliged to follow through. Was the aim of Etisalat's text message simply to remind customers to renew their accounts, whereupon they would be told the cost was not as they had stated? CM Abu Dhabi

The reader's query was forwarded to Etisalat, and they have commented as follows: "Etisalat's customer care teams have spoken with CM twice to investigate her complaint and to update her on progress. Our Business Centre supervisor also called her on Thursday to apologise and we have since made amends for her unsatisfactory experience. One of the issues was that CM received the promotional text message on the 18th January, which was also the last day of the promotion. When she arrived at the business centre two days later, the customer service representative correctly informed her that the promotion was over. We have clarified this with Ms M and she is satisfied with this explanation."

This does not quite tally with Ms M's version, especially as the SMS she received stated that the promotion ended on 24th January. Hours before press time, I was advised that Etisalat has decided to credit CM's account with Dh100, which should be a satisfactory (and honourable) solution.

Keren Bobker is an independent financial adviser with Holborn Assets in Dubai. Write to her at Letters can also be sent to