Moving to a new home: Here's what you need to know about rent and utility bills

A guide to renting property in the UAE for the first time

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The majority of new arrivals in the UAE will be renting their property rather than owning it.

That means it is important to be aware of what to look out for when choosing somewhere to live, whether you are newly arrived in the country or preparing to move home within the Emirates for the first time.

The National spoke to property experts about the process to make sure there are no nasty surprises when it's time for you to find a new home.

I want to move into a new home. What do I need to do first?

The answer to this can vary between emirates but, on the whole, it's largely the same across the country, experts said.

"You need to ensure you have an Emirates ID for the rental process, as an Ejari requires the tenant to have an Emirates ID," said Liam Dawett, sales manager with estate agency Betterhomes.

"Additionally, you need to set up or transfer your DEWA service, preferred Wi-Fi/cable service, and register with the district cooling provider.

"Don't forget to register with security and obtain your moving permit."

Ejari, which means My Rent in English, is the online registration system used by Dubai's Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA).

"If buying, make sure your broker conducts essential checks to verify that the property is ready for occupancy after the transfer and not already occupied by a tenant expecting to vacate after the transfer," said Mr Dawett.

Are the rules different in Abu Dhabi than in Dubai?

You need to make sure you are registered with UAE pass to obtain the attested contract from Abu Dhabi Municipality (Tawtheeq), said Mr Dawett.

You'll then need the required no objection certificates (NOCs) from the community management to facilitate the move-in process.

"[You should] contact related departments to connect the utilities like Abu Dhabi Distribution Company (ADD), as well as the relevant chiller or gas providers to register as a new tenant, ensuring utilities are under your name," he said.

What if I am moving between Dubai and Abu Dhabi?

"While most aspects of moving within the emirates will remain the same, it is important for the involved agent to guide you regarding any essential requirements specific to each emirate," said Mr Dawett.

"Also, ensure you close all utilities under your name in the previous property and submit the clearances required from the related departments before moving out."

How do I actually pay my rent?

The methods to pay rent in the UAE can vary to other nations. You could find major differences if you come from a Western country, as one expert explained.

"You will [most likely] need a bank account and cheque book in hand," said Jake Walton, leasing director with haus & haus real estate agency.

"Unless you can pay for the entire year in one payment with cash or can make an international bank transfer, then you will need a cheque book."

While the facility is there to pay by direct debit bank transfers, most, if not all, landlords will want to be paid by cheque because of the security it offers.

Even in cases where bank transfers are the agreed method of payment landlords are likely to also want cheques as extra security, said Mr Walton.

However, the UAE made changes to laws around bounced cheques in recent years. This means a bounced cheque due to insufficient funds will not result in imprisonment or criminal charges.

How exactly does the rental process here differ than elsewhere?

"I’d say there is sometimes a lack of understanding of the process and the fact that it is very different in the UAE," said Mr Walton.

"For example, using cheques in the UK is now a seemingly ancient and almost obsolete practice, but here it is a vital piece of the process."

Another difference from many other countries is the fact you are less likely to be able to pay your rent on a monthly basis in the Emirates.

"This is incredibly rare in the long term rental market in Dubai, with most contracts being agreed with the annual rent payable between one to four cheque payments," he said.

"This can leave new expats, without sufficient savings or the correct planning, stuck in short term accommodation for longer than they may like or have anticipated.

"Always do your research on how the market works here and, if you can, put plans in place well in advance of your move."

Updated: February 02, 2024, 11:57 AM