For four years, Benjamin Russell, a British expatriate in the UAE, paid Dh105,000 a year to rent a one-bedroom apartment.
But last December, Mr Russell and his family moved about an hour's drive away to Dubai after negotiating a good rental deal for a three-bedroom apartment on the 50th floor of a high-rise in Dubai Marina. With panoramic views of the marina and Palm Jumeirah, Mr Russell is also paying Dh105,000 a year to rent the more spacious apartment.
"There are a lot of options for tenants in Dubai Marina and because the construction of the Dubai Harbour was ongoing, prices were going down," the theatre director tells The National. "We also moved during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic. There was a good window when there was a glut of properties."
Mr Russell now pays his rent spread across four cheques compared with the single payment for the previous property on Yas Island. His new home comes with two free parking spaces and a maid’s room, while the family also has access to building facilities such a gym and pool and they are five minutes from the beach and a mall.
While average apartment and villa rents increased in Dubai by 1 per cent and 4 per cent respectively in the first quarter of this year, they declined on an annual basis of 10 per cent and 2 per cent, according to Asteco's UAE Real Estate Report Q1 2021.
“If you have the opportunity and the cash flow to pay your rent in fewer cheques, you can negotiate a better price. Also, it helps if you have a family and have been a UAE resident for a long time because the landlord will know you are reliable,” Mr Russell says.
He also suggests tenants look for properties in an area that has a lot of similar units, which will help to negotiate a lower rent.
“If you have stable employment, make that recommendation to the landlord. Also, keep your cheques ready so that once you like a place, you can sign the agreement as soon as possible,” Mr Russell adds.
We spoke to real estate experts in the UAE to compile a checklist to help tenants negotiate lower rents with their landlord or broker.
Do your due diligence
Prospective tenants should do as much research as possible. It is good to know the community and get a clear idea of the area you wish to live in before contacting a broker, real estate experts say.
“Knowing the current local market will help you set your expectations early in the process. This will tremendously cut the time required to find the best fit for you,” Tinicia Perry, head of leasing and development at Betterhomes Group, says.
“Drive around communities, explore different options before narrowing it down to one or two specific areas so your agent can focus on those for you,” she adds.
Compare similar properties in the vicinity in terms of payment terms, size, facilities and access to surrounding amenities and present the findings to your landlord/agent, according to HP Aengaar, chief executive at real estate services company Asteco.
If a tenant needs to renew the rent contract, they are recommended to visit property portals such as Property Finder and Bayut to find out the current rental price for a similar unit before they initiate a negotiation conversation with the landlord.
“Be wary of fake listings on the portals, though. Look at properties that have a verified or trucheck tag, which means that these properties have been validated,” Ayman Youssef, vice president of real estate company Coldwell Banker, says.
Tenants should also check the Real Estate Regulatory Agency’s rental calculator to understand how much of a rent increase they are eligible for. “Use this information while negotiating with the landlord,” Mr Youssef says.
Start looking at properties closer to your move date
If you are ready to move in to the property quickly, you can use it to negotiate with your landlord, Ms Perry says.
“We recommend that you start your search two to four weeks before your move-in date to make sure the property you view is available at the time. The market moves fast, so when you find the property you want, be flexible when you can put the cheques down and sign the contract,” she adds.
Negotiate with fewer cheques
If you can afford to pay for the full year in advance, the landlord is more likely to accept a lower price. If you want to pay in several cheques, the landlord may demand a higher amount depending on their cash flow situation, Emma Main, leasing and property management director at Aqua Properties, says.
Tenants should also have all their documents in order, she adds. “Do you have your visa and Emirates ID in place? If you don’t, the landlord may favour another offer from someone in a position to move faster," she says.
“Also ensure that the agent includes in the contract all the terms that you agree during negotiation, such as painting, cleaning and maintenance.”
It is important for tenants to understand the renewal notice timeline in their rental agreement. Then, ideally approach the landlord or broker at least two to three months in advance before the lease agreement is up for renewal to ensure productive communication and no last-minute decision-making or concerns, Mr Aengaar says.
“If your landlord has not sent you a notice regarding any rent increase at least 90 days before contract renewal, he/she cannot increase your rent,” Mr Youssef says.
If no electronic or written communication is served to the tenant, the Dubai property rental contract will be automatically renewed at the same rental price and based on the same terms and conditions as the previous year.
Also, if a landlord is trying to increase the rent, tenants must check when their rental contract was signed. According to a new draft law proposed by the Dubai Land Department, landlords cannot increase the rent for three years since the date of signing the contract, Mr Youssef adds.
Officials have not yet announced a date for when the law will come into force.
Meanwhile, if a landlord is asking the tenant to vacate the property, they should have served the notice 12 months in advance.
“If the landlord wants to sell or use the Dubai property for his personal use or for his relatives of first degree, he/she must provide the tenant with 12 months’ written notice prior to the eviction date through notary public or registered mail. This is non-negotiable,” Mr Youssef says.
Consider non-financial concessions
If a landlord insists on maintaining the rent they have quoted, tenants can ask for other incentives such as a fee waiver on commissions, rent-free periods, more cheque payments and longer contracts during negotiations, Mr Aengaar says.
“If the landlord is stuck on the price, try asking for other perks, like including appliances or furniture and landscaping,” Ms Main adds.
Find a good agent, be honest with them
It’s important that tenants deal with a good agent from a reputable agency. Many brokers and real estate agencies post “fake” listings online and flood the market with properties that aren’t available or overpriced, Ms Perry warns. Tenants should be careful to avoid fake listings.
“Be honest with your agent regarding your budget. Avoid giving your broker a fake budget, thinking you can negotiate on their behalf when you find a unit you like. It is crucial to set a maximum budget you’d be comfortable with and stick to it,” Ms Perry recommends.
Tips to negotiate rent with your landlord/broker
- Do your due diligence
- Start looking at properties closer to your move date
- Negotiate with fewer cheques
- Have all your documents ready
- Don't procrastinate
- Consider non-financial perks
- Find a good agent and be honest with them