Dubizzle launches website for rent and property legal advice

Launched by classifieds firm Dubizzle, which has extensive property listings, the minisite allows the public to submit questions to a property lawyer. It will also include an archive of previously answered questions as well as current legal documents pertaining to rent.

Ann Boothello, property product marketing manager at Dubizzle, says the new site, knowyourrights.dubizzle.com, would ‘disrupt consumer exploitation’ by better informing the public. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National
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DUBAI // Tenants facing eviction or unfair rent increases will be able to get a clearer picture of their rights, thanks to a new online property advice service.

Dubizzle, the Dubai-based classifieds website, is launching knowyourrights.dubizzle.com on Tuesday. The site will allow the public to have their questions answered by a lawyer specialising in real estate.

The site will act as a centralised resource for people who are unclear of how the law affects them in rental or sale disputes.

“Individuals do have rights in this market,” said Barry Judge, UAE general manager for Dubizzle. “Perhaps, sometimes there’s not enough transparency over what those rights are. This service ensures that individuals have full visibility and that there is equity in the marketplace.

“It’s the consolidation of all that information into a single platform that will make it easier for people if they come to a dispute.”

Dubizzle gets 14 million visitors a month in the UAE, with 2.7 million of those related to property.

Only one question will be answered per week, and that question will be determined based on votes from other visitors to the site. Before launch, Dubizzle asked the public what the most frequently asked questions regarding the property market were, to build an initial resource for the launch.

Its launch comes after property firm Jones Lang Lasalle (JLL) released a survey of transparency in 102 markets. It placed Dubai and Abu Dhabi in the middle of the table, 49th and 53rd, respectively.

JLL said Dubai was “treading water” on improving its transparency rating in the property market.

Craig Plumb, head of research for the regional office of JLL, said it was more of an issue for buyers, due to the lack of an easily available land registry.

“At the level of the individual tenant it’s not too bad, in terms of residential,” he said. “There is a level of transparency there already, it’s just that it perhaps hasn’t been advertised as clearly as it could be.

“A service like this, which will give people better access to the information, is clearly a good thing for the market.”

The service has been given the blessing of the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (Rera) in Dubai and will also cover Abu Dhabi.

Ann Boothello, property product marketing manager at Dubizzle, said the new site would “disrupt consumer exploitation”.

She said: “Many of us are tenants who are subject to unfair practices by landlords, who don’t think we know better. People get into a sticky situation and then try to figure out how to get out of it. We’re trying to reverse this so that people know their rights, and they can protect themselves.”

She said the site would also be open to questions from landlords looking to find legal and fair ways to raise rents based on market fluctuations.

Legal counsel will be given by Ahmed Odeh from property company MIO. He said the firm received dozens of requests for advice from tenants unclear of their rights.

“This service will likely reduce the burden on the call centre for Rera, and by ensuring that cases are resolved before going to the rental committee, lower the burden on the courts too,” he said.

“The information is out there, but people don’t know where to look for it. With this tool, it will all be in one place.”

Rera launched a rent dispute settlement centre in November with the aim of processing cases in 30 days or less.

Mr Odeh said it wasn’t always the case that disputes were resolved so quickly, but the centre was certainly an improvement on the previous rent committee.

“It’s definitely quicker than it used to be,” he said. “The judges are more qualified and the cases get heard sooner.”