How to move house in Dubai during the pandemic: my experience

We moved from The Greens to Dubai Hills Estate – and it was a remarkably simple process

High angle view of keyring with a small house on colored background

We were all set to move house. It was Saturday, April 4, and we had two days left to pack everything up and hand over the keys for our apartment in The Greens.

But then we got the message that movements in Dubai were to be restricted and we'd need a permit to leave our house, even to go grocery shopping, in order to flatten the curve of the coronavirus outbreak.

We immediately called the Dubai Real Estate Regulatory Agency to ask where this left us and were told it was no longer possible to move house at this time. The move was off.

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Click 'emergency' from the drop-down menu and explain in the description box that your tenancy agreement is coming to an end, and you're moving

So we unpacked some boxes, renegotiated a weekly rent and consigned ourselves to limbo.

A few days later, however, we learned that there had been an update since we'd spoken to the real estate authority: Dubai Police had given the go-ahead on permits to move house.

So the move was back on – and we had 24 hours to re-pack and up-sticks before our tenancy agreement officially came to an end.

How to move house in the UAE during the pandemic

There seems to be a lot of confusion around this matter at the moment, but it’s actually a lot simpler than you’d think.

Firstly, you need to get in touch with a removal company. Not all of them are operating at this time (we called about 10 companies and only two were able to help), but they are legally allowed to obtain permits in order to move your furniture and boxes. They will take care of this paperwork.

We ended up using a company called Super Movers.

Then you need to get your own permits to leave your house. Register for a movement permit on the Dubai Police website. Choose the "personal" option, then click "emergency" from the drop-down menu and explain in the description box that your tenancy agreement is coming to an end, and you're moving from [insert area here] to [insert other area here]. Do this for each member of the household.

After I did this, my permit was approved within about 15 to 20 minutes and I’d asked for the permit to stretch from 8am to 8pm.

We then checked with Dubai Police directly and were told that this meant we could move freely between the two destinations during that time.

My husband also obtained a second permit two days later to get the old apartment cleaned and so he could hand over the keys to our former landlord.

You will also need to get the standard move in permits for the new house, which is common for communities in the UAE such as those managed by Emaar. For this, simply follow the same process you'd have to go through at any other time.

How smooth was the process?

Obviously this was not an ideal moving situation and having to do everything we originally had a few days to do within 24 hours was tiring – but it actually went very smoothly indeed.

There were no issues with our permits, the removal company team was swift and professional, and, importantly, all of the men wore face masks and gloves (as did we).

They packed and dismantled everything, then unpacked and put everything back together again. They even painted the old apartment for us.

Asia Tigers Group employees arrange boxes inside a shipping container, during a customer's relocation overseas, in Hong Kong, China, on Friday, Feb. 14, 2020. The debate about leaving Hong Kong -- which began for many expats during the unrest last summer and fall -- has taken on a greater urgency with the spread of the coronavirus, which has claimed more than 1,800 people globally, and caused many companies in the financial hub to require employees to work from home. Photographer: Justin Chin/Bloomberg via Getty Images

It was a rush, but also a massive relief. Now, two days later, we’re already unpacked and settled. At the very least, it gave us something else to focus on other than baking and binge-watching box sets.

It took about 10 hours in total; from the moment the team arrived to the minute we finally brought our cats over to the new place.

Now it's time for a DIY project. Anyone know how to build a bird house?