Emaar bans holiday home operators in Downtown as it ventures into short-term rental market

The developer confirmed it asked homeowners to cease letting out holiday homes in the development by September 19

The Burj Khalifa skyscraper, center, towers above commercial and residential properties in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, on Tuesday, July 23, 2019. Like the rest of the city, the business center has suffered from a prolonged real-estate slump brought on by oversupply and slower economic growth. Photographer: Christopher Pike/Bloomberg
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Emaar Properties asked homeowners in Downtown Dubai to stop renting their units out as holiday homes on the same day it launched a digital platform that enables listing thousands of properties within its portfolio of developments for short-term rentals.

Emaar, the biggest listed developer in the UAE, in a notice to all residents of Downtown Dubai, asked them to cease “all holiday home operations” in the development, which boasts the Burj Khalifa, the tallest building in the world as its centrepiece.

The general notice, dated September 4, informed residents that holiday home operations must cease by 19 September.

In its notice to residents, Emaar did not say how many properties in Downtown operate as holiday homes. It also did not specify if the short-term rental properties will be able to resume operations at a later date or allowed to list on its own platform.

“In the following days, necessary steps will be taken to ensure that this change takes place in a streamlined process so that our residents remain unaffected,” the Emaar notice said. “Homeowners operating their apartments and villas as holiday homes are requested to cease such activities before 19 September.”

Emaar on Saturday confirmed its decision to cease short-term rentals in Downtown Dubai from the second week of September.

"This [step] follows several requests from residents regarding the [short-term rental] operations, as several of the holiday homes were used for non-residential and non-family-related activities," an Emaar spokesperson said in a statement to The National. "We are committed to the well-being of our residents and the decision reflects their aspirations to maintain the neighbourhood spirit of our communities."

Last week, Emaar also entered the holiday home market with its own digital platform called Ease by Emaar, which allows owners within its developments to list their properties for short-term rental.

The platform is the first in the country by a developer and provides end-to-end management services and handling of holiday homes on behalf of investors, providing them varying degrees of returns on their investments, depending on the type and location of their property within Emaar’s portfolio, Mr Alabbar said.

“The whole hospitality sector is changing ... [and] short-term rental is a huge business,” Mohamed Alabbar, chairman of Emaar, said at the launch event of the platform in Dubai last week. “We in the Middle East are just at the beginning. You have these short-stay tech companies [operating] and I think we [Emaar] have a lot of space for us [to grow]," he noted.

Dubai’s holiday home market accounts for 2 per cent of the emirate’s total households, the highest proportion of all other key global hub cities, according to Knight Frank’s 2019 review of the Dubai holiday home market released earlier this year.

There are 10,766 active listings in 2018 out of a total of 20,395 properties that have been registered on the Airbnb platform since 2010. The number of listings has also increased substantially in recent years, with total active listings recording a growth rate of 161 per cent since 2016.