Moving to Dubai: a rental guide to suit every budget

Whether you are looking for a serviced apartment, flat or villa in Dubai, here's what you need to know

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Moving to a new country can be a daunting prospect, but it can also allow you to explore a different way of living and unleash the wanderlust from within.

Finding the right home is an important step.

The right accommodation can be the difference between making you feel settled or homesick.

As one of the top cities for expatriates, Dubai has an abundance of accommodation, from short-term fixes to long-term solutions.

If high-rise living and modern architecture is your taste, Dubai Marina and Downtown Dubai offer a good mix of apartments.

For those who prefer something with a bit more character, areas such as Satwa, Deira and Bur Dubai have a host of villas and flats to choose from – and often at far lower prices than the rest of the city.

Here, The National has put together a guide on house-hunting in Dubai.

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Serviced hotel apartments

When relocating to Dubai, you may want to rent a short-term serviced apartment to set up base and get a feel for the city.

It offers the comforts of home, in a hotel setting, without the extravagant price.

Newcomers can spend more time scoping out what area best suits their lifestyle before committing to somewhere long-term.

To rent, newcomers only need a passport. This is helpful for those who are still waiting for their residence visa to be processed, which can take several weeks.

In Dubai, serviced apartments come with amenities such as a swimming pool, gym and 24-hour security.

They usually have a small kitchenette and all bills are included, including Wi-Fi. Guests can pay a monthly rate, or if their cash flow allows, a few months up front, which often invites a discount.

While the monthly price tag is a little more than what you would expect to pay for a long-term lease, it is a good option for those starting out. Below is a small list of options available.

Name: First Central Hotel Suites Where: Barsha Heights Accommodation: Classic studio (up to two adults) Price: Dh6,289 (including taxes) for 30 nights

Name: Savoy Crest Hotel Apartments Where: Bur Dubai Accommodation: Studio suite (up to two adults) Price: Dh7,450 (including taxes) for 30 nights

Name: City Premiere Hotel Apartments Where: Business Bay Accommodation: Premiere one-bedroom apartment (up to two adults) Price: Dh15,596 (including taxes) for 30 nights

Name: Ramada Hotel and Suites by Wyndham Dubai Where: Jumeirah Beach Residence Accommodation: One-bedroom apartment with breakfast (up to two adults) Price: Dh24,684 (including taxes) for 30 nights Source: Prices from April 28 to May 28, 2022, via individual property's website

On a budget? Go for shared accommodation

DUBAI , UNITED ARAB EMIRATES , March 13 – 2019 :- Vishal Shahid , Sikh from Pakistan doing ironing to get ready for work at his sharing accommodation in Bur Dubai area in Dubai. He is working as a waiter at the players lounge at the Country Club hotel in Bur Dubai but wanted to become DJ, Rapper, Dancer and Writer.  ( Pawan Singh / The National ) For Photo Feature. Story by Pawan Singh
Vishal Shahid, from Pakistan, at his shared flat in Bur Dubai. Pawan Singh / The National 

Newcomers looking for affordable places can move into shared housing but this requires a lot of research – and vigilance.

In Dubai, sub-letting or sharing a rented flat without obtaining the landlord's permission is illegal.

If the main tenant sub-lets an apartment without prior approval, tenants and sub-tenants can be evicted.

As a sub-tenant you may be asked to pay each month’s rent in advance or several months’ rent up front. Payment will be made to either the main tenant or landlord.

Legal experts advise that even as a sub-tenant, you should ask for documentary evidence as to who the legal owner of the property is, such as a title deed. Tenancy contracts can be updated with a sub-tenancy clause, so ask to see this in writing.

The more informal the rental arrangement, the more suspicious you should be

Sub tenancies are always more vulnerable to misuse and therefore it is generally advised that you either get the landlord or main tenant to formalise the sub-tenancy in writing.

The more informal the arrangement, the more suspicious you should be. If they refuse to proceed with formalities, you need to ask yourself why.

In 2020, the UAE relaxed its stance on the illegalities towards flat sharing but people should familiarise themselves and comply with local laws.

Depending on where you choose to stay in the city, sharing accommodation can be a great way to save on rent. The total monthly cost usually includes all bills (double check this when agreeing to live somewhere) and rooms are almost always furnished.

Rent can start from as little as Dh400 per month for a room share, but can reach into the thousands if you choose to share a whole apartment with your own private room.

Long-term rent: villa or apartment?

For many who plan on staying in Dubai for the foreseeable future, renting an apartment or villa on a long-term basis is a good option.

With a good property agent in tow and plenty of research, long-term rentals can be secured and moved into fairly quickly with the right documentation.

To prepare a tenancy contract you will need:

  • valid passport copy
  • residence visa copy
  • Emirates ID copy
  • cheque book and valid bank account

To secure a property, residents will need to put down a security deposit cheque and agency fee, each of which are typically five per cent of the annual rent.

In the UAE, rental contracts are valid for 12 months and are hard to break if someone wants to vacate the property early.

Landlords charge a penalty fine for early termination, which is often two month’s rent, with a 60-day notice of departure.

Housing laws protect the landlord and tenant, so if your landlord wants to break the lease early, you will also be protected.

In most cases, before moving into your new pad you will hand over a year’s worth of pre-dated cheques to the agent. Depending on the agreement, you can pay your annual rent in one cheque or anything up to 12 cheques.

Registering your property as a new tenant

The next step is setting up your Ejari, which translates from Arabic to ‘my rent’.

The Ejari system is a contract registration platform administered by Dubai Land Department to authenticate rental contracts and agreements between tenants and landlords.

It can be set up at a typing centre for Dh220. To register your tenancy contract with Ejari you need:

  • original signed tenancy contract (by tenant and landlord)
  • confirmation of payment of security deposit and rent cheques
  • copy of title deed (obtained from landlord)
  • passport copy
  • residence visa copy
  • Emirates ID copy
  • passport copy of landlord
  • if the landlord resides overseas, the contract can be signed under Power of Attorney. In this case, you will require a copy of the valid POA and a passport copy of the POA
  • Nine-digit Dewa Premises Number
  • Dh220 Ejari registration fee at typing centre

Once your Ejari has been registered, you will get a notification to set up your water and electricity account, also known as Dewa.

Once received, you will need to download the Dewa Smart App and follow the prompts to apply for a new connection.

Provide your Ejari contract number, Emirates ID and passport copy, then make a payment of the refundable Dewa deposit amount (Dh2,000 for apartment, Dh4,000 for villa) and non-refundable connection fee (between Dh110 to Dh300).

In some areas you may have to set up your own air conditioning. In Dubai, Emicool and Empower are the main providers for this.

To connect your district cooling services you will need to apply online or in person at one of the customer centres and provide a copy of:

  • Signed tenancy contract
  • Passport
  • Emirates ID
  • Signed registration forms
  • Refundable security deposit (approximately Dh1,700 for apartment, Dh 3,000 for villa)

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