How to rent an apartment in the UAE: A guide to suit every budget in Dubai and Abu Dhabi

Planning ahead can take the pain out of finding that perfect place to live

How to rent accommodation in the UAE

How to rent accommodation in the UAE
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Moving to a country in the midst of a property explosion and soaring rental prices can be a daunting prospect.

This step-by-step guide can help take some of the pain out of picking that dream home to begin a new life in the UAE.

By breaking down what’s required in easy-to-understand stages, choosing where to live and settling in to a new abode need not bring sleepless nights.

How to search for a rental property

Each emirate is slightly different in price and level of demand. While Abu Dhabi and Dubai are experiencing one of the most dynamic property markets in recent years, bargains can be had in the quieter Ras Al Khaimah or Fujairah.

Prices in popular areas have soared since the pandemic, with apartments increasing by an average of about 30 per cent since 2020, while some villas are commanding as much as 50 per cent more in rent.

While existing tenants are protected from soaring rates by robust laws, moving to the city for the first time can be expensive.

In a dynamic market, properties move fast so it is worth booking viewings or contacting agents about vacant accommodation only two weeks or so before planning to move.

Several property websites offer handy guides to city neighbourhoods to show amenities, location, distances to schools and hospitals, as well as average rental and purchase prices.

It is always worth visiting an area before moving, if possible, or asking anyone who may already live there for recommendations.

Some building concierges have access to the keys to empty flats. You can visit the reception, ask what is available and take a look around.

Facebook is a good platform for community groups to offer an insight into life in some neighbourhoods.

What are the costs?

Landlords or letting agencies will require a deposit of about 5-7 per cent of the annual rental amount, and expect to pay about 3 per cent in agency fees.

Moving costs depend greatly on how much is being transported and from where in the world.

Always use a reputable shipping company and seek three quotations well in advance of a move.

Insurance is critical so ensure you have adequate cover to protect your worldly goods in the event of damage caused by an accident in transit.

It can also take up to a month to transport household items to a new country, so be prepared to spend some time in temporary accommodation or a serviced apartment.

Rent can typically eat up at least 25 per cent of monthly income.

Some properties include fees for air conditioning within the rent, which can be a significant annual saving.

Monthly water and electricity fees depend on the size and cost of your property, with fees from about Dh400 ($108) to in excess of Dh1,000 for larger homes.

What is the average rent in Abu Dhabi?

The property market in the capital was thriving in the first six months of this year, with rent for budget apartments and villas increasing by about 8 per cent and luxury properties by 11 per cent, according to the latest Bayut property report.

  • The asking rent for three-bed villas in the popular affordable area of Mohammed Bin Zayed City (MBZ City) has averaged Dh96,000, whereas four and five-bed houses have been priced for Dh128,000 and Dh148,000, respectively.
  • The average yearly rent for four-bed houses in Al Raha Gardens stands at Dh168,000, whereas the asking rent for five-bed houses has averaged at Dh227,000 in 2023.
  • Studio apartments in Khalifa City have an average rent at Dh28,000, while the cost of one and two-bed flats stood at Dh42,000 and Dh61,000.
  • Rental flats in Al Reem Island have increased across the board, with rents for one-bed apartments averaging at Dh 59,000, two-bed flats at Dh87,000 and three-bed apartments for Dh128,000.
  • Figures from Property Finder - covering the first quarter of 2023 - show one-bedroom properties in Corniche Road averaged Dh84,000.
  • A one-bedroom apartment in Al Raha Beach will typically cost Dh62,500.

What is the average rent in Dubai?

The latest Haus&Haus property report in Dubai showed apartments still dominate rental and sales markets. A surge in branded residences in Business Bay, Downtown Dubai and Palm Jumeirah has attracted high-net-worth individuals from all over the world to boost the Dubai sector.

  • Rental villas in Arabian Ranches start from about Dh160,500 for a two-bedroom property, increasing to about Dh258,000 for a four-bed. Newer properties in nearby Arabian Ranches 2 can be rented from Dh200,000 for a three-bed villa up to Dh367,000 for a five-bed.
  • At Dubai Hills a new community with parks and close to a huge mall, three-bed villas rent for about Dh260,000 up to Dh339,000 for a five-bed property. A one-bed apartment in the community can be rented for Dh86,000 while a three-bed is about Dh213,000.
  • In the centrally located Jumeirah Park, a three-bed villa costs about Dh289,000 to rent for the year, while a five-bed can cost up to Dh422,000.
  • Jumeirah Village Triangle offers spacious villas and town houses from Dh105,000 for a one-bed to Dh172,000 for a two-bed property, while a two-bed villa at the nearby The Springs is about Dh142,000.
  • A studio in the buzzy district of The Greens can be picked up for only Dh53,000 while you should expect to pay Dh210,000 to rent a four-bed apartment.
  • According to Property Monitor, apartments on the huge man-made Palm Jumeirah island start at about Dh80,000 for a studio and Dh150,000 for a one-bed, with similar sized properties in Dubai Marina commanding a rental fee of Dh58,000 and Dh85,000, respectively.

I’ve found an apartment, what happens next?

Landlords will ask for a series of post-dated, upfront cheques to be paid and cashed throughout the year. This can act as a bargaining tool on price.

A single cheque can encourage a discount on total rent, whereas it is becoming less common for landlords to accept multiple cheques due to a flourishing property market.

Passport copies should be given to an agent before a contract can be drawn up.

Cheques should be passed over once the contact terms are agreed by both parties, with the first cheque usually dated for two days before moving in. An agent should thoroughly check the property is clean and well-maintained before handing over keys to a tenant.

You will also need to provide a copy of your passport and tenancy contract to have utility services connected before moving in.

Once your tenancy is legally registered, Abu Dhabi Distribution Company will set up your water and electricity accounts via Tawtheeq, the city's register for tenancy contracts.

In Dubai, you will need to provide an Ejari contract as proof of tenancy to be connected by the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority.

Are there hidden fees with renting?

Penalty fees can be incurred if a rental contract is cancelled early. Landlords must be given a two-month notice period if a tenant wants to move out.

Typically a penalty fee is the equivalent in value to two months' rent or occasionally a forfeit of the outstanding rental amount of the tenancy contract, depending on its terms.

If landlords wish to make changes to a contract ahead of a renewal, including rental price, they must give 90 days notice.

Any increase in rent in Dubai must not exceed the boundaries decided by the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (Rera) rent calculator, usually a maximum of 20 per cent.

A landlord can evict a tenant mid-term only if they intend to sell up or move in themselves. An eviction notice under these terms must be notarised and handed to the tenant, giving them 12 months notice to move out.

If the landlord fails to sell in that time, the tenant can remain in the property under the existing contractual terms.

If the landlord has re-rented the property at a higher rate following an eviction order to sell or move in, the tenant may be eligible for compensation equivalent of up to a year’s rent and associated moving costs, payable by the landlord.

It is a good idea to take plenty of photographs on moving in and keep hold of records and receipts for all costs and repairs during a tenancy.

Report anything that is broken immediately to avoid disputes when looking to recover a deposit on moving out.

Disagreements between tenant and landlord can usually be resolved by the Rental Disputes Settlement Centre at the Dubai Land Department office in Deira, and the RDSC in Al Rowdah in Abu Dhabi.

The cost to file a case is 3.5 per cent of the annual rent, plus Dh120 for processing, knowledge and innovation fees, with resolutions usually made within 30 days.

Updated: January 29, 2024, 7:25 AM