If you need change, you look for solutions. If you badly need it, you look for creative solutions. That is the philosophy of Joe Moufarrej, the man behind Dubai-based property management app Happy Tenant, who believes the lives of property renters can be greatly improved through technology.
Founded in January this year, Happy Tenant is a cloud-based property management app that connects tenants to their neighbours, property managers and owners, helping to keep tenants informed of activities related to their rented property and allowing property agents to manage day-to-day activities linked to one account and a single login.
“Tenants are usually unhappy because there is no communication or no direct connection with the landlord and the neighbourhood. This was more of a personal problem [that I experienced] and we started working on the Happy Tenant idea in October 2017,” said Mr Moufarrej, who traces his roots to Beirut and has lived in Dubai for the past 15 years.
He and co-founder Umar Rana wanted “to digitise tenants’ experience, eventually leading to happiness” in the rental process.
In less than seven months, Happy Tenant has built a client base of nearly 4,000 [not all of them paying – only property management firms, depending on the number of tenants under their portfolio] users and the company is aiming to grow tenfold by year-end. It also managed to enter the European market by winning a client in Greece.
Happy Tenant, which is available on Apple’s App Store and Google Play, has 10 property management firms, including Dubai-based Better Homes and Driven Properties, under its belt. They have subscribed to the app and pay a monthly fee to give tenants free access to the app on their smartphones. Each tenant has an individual account with a unique username and password.
Tenants get regular notifications regarding repairs, pest control, future announcements related to power or water outages, payment reminders and goods available for purchase from outgoing tenants.
“Many times people are travelling, they are not in town and they miss notices pasted in buildings’ lifts ... leading to frustration. Now they will get notifications right on their phone and every user’s account will host important details such as rental contracts, Ejari [tenancy registration], payment details and parking,” Mr Moufarrej says.
Through Happy Tenant, users can also opt to pay rent using credit cards rather than giving cheques upfront to the property owner.
“Paying through credit cards can earn users cashback and other benefits, leading to more happiness.”
“Tenants can upload messages to know their neighbourhood better … such as ‘going for a dog walk’, ‘barbecue on terrace’ and ‘kids’ playtime’, inviting other occupants of the community to join them,” Mr Moufarrej says .
For maintenance requests, renters can upload images or videos on the app and state what time is suitable for repairs to be made. After finishing a job, maintenance teams can put a final report on the app that can be tracked by anyone that is part of the property.
Starting with an initial investment of Dh2.5 million from his own funds, Mr Moufarrej is now aiming to raise up to Dh5m from outside investors by the end of this year.
“We did not expect this venture to grow this fast. We started with only one app for tenants but ended up having a whole Happy Tenant ecosystem, where there are different solutions for landlords, maintenance people and inspection teams.”
The app helps landlords gain insight into their properties by accessing live data coming to the app in real time. They can keep tabs on occupancy, tenants’ repair requests, customers’ happiness reports and average response times to address any issues.
"Owners will also get regular updates about their property management firm's performance on the basis of tenants' feedback," says Mr Moufarrej, who holds degrees in international business management and arts.
Happy Tenant has a team of 15 people spread across Dubai, Lebanon, Pakistan and the US. The company is planning to open its second office in Saudi Arabia and hire more staff in the coming months.
“At this moment, we are discussing business opportunities with big property management firms in Singapore, Hong Kong, US, Portugal, Kuwait and Oman,” Mr Moufarrej said.
Happy Tenant, which is available in both Arabic and English, aims to increase its users to 40,000 by this year-end and to 500,000 in the next three years.
“Achieving this target is doable, if I consider the current pace of development. Negotiations are on … we are at final stages of signing some really big contracts.”
Q&A with founder Joe Moufarrej
What was the motivation behind Happy Tenant?
Dubai is a land of tenants where a huge chunk of the population is living in rented accommodations and paying hefty rents. So we can’t afford to ignore them, leaving them on their own … we have to take care of their concerns and make sure they are happy. When I spoke to my team, everyone was facing the same issues, so we decided to build a platform to address the common problems of any tenant in the UAE.
Who is your role model?
As an entrepreneur, I am a big fan of Virgin Group founder Richard Branson. I met him a couple of times and was so impressed with his easy attitude despite immense work pressure. Moreover, I relate my entrepreneurial journey with him. I also have a good mix of successes and failures.
One thing that you would change if you were to start Happy Tenant again?
I would like to invest more money and hire a bigger team during the initial days of Happy Tenant. The idea of the business was aligned with the market requirements and it has grown very fast. Therefore, if we had invested more in the beginning then things would be different right now. But I am quite satisfied.
How do you look at Dubai as a home for any entrepreneur?
Dubai is always inspiring. I got motivation to take risk from this city, it will always remain my main base.
Where do you imagine Happy Tenant in five years down the line?
Technology has no barriers. You can easily take it across borders if you have the right talent and resources. In five years, Happy Tenant will be a global company with its footprint in almost all continents.