Dubai is an exciting place, and many of us aspire to spend at least a few years in a city that has been transformed in 30 years from dunes to a vibrant economy. Unfortunately, along with a booming economy comes high rent (the highest in the world right now) and most of you, like me, know what it can be like to be a tenant having to rent in Dubai – or Abu Dhabi, Sharjah or elsewhere in the Emirates. If you’re lucky, you’ll have a tenancy free of stress and a landlord who’ll get all repairs done without argument.
On the other hand, you can end up with an agreement that brings a lot of stress throughout the year. The upfront payment of full-year rent requires a big initial investment and locks you in the contract. This makes it critical that you know what you are signing and that you ask as many questions and get as much documentation as you need to feel comfortable.
Here are 10 things that could be happening behind the scenes but that we’re pretty sure your landlord won’t be rushing to tell you…
1. The landlord is selling up
I personally had a bad experience with this in my last property. Once we had the tenancy agreement in place, we started getting calls from agents to bring clients looking to purchase the property. But I had just moved in! It doesn’t matter, according to the contract. They can visit the property with 24 hours’ notice and therefore can bring clients if they wish.
[Related: Know your rental rights as a tenant]
2. The underground pipes are leaking
Your water bill has doubled… and that’s the first real sign (too late) you get that there are leaks in the pipes your landlord never told you about. You are now locked into a one-year contract, having made an upfront payment of rent. Here comes the stress not just of finding out where the leak is, but now having the responsibility to monitor and manage the repairs and let all those maintenance men in. Who will pay for it is another, later discussion to be had with your landlord…
[Related: Property leaks and damage? Whose problem is it anyway?]
3. Roadworks have just been approved
Think you’ll be in a nice, quiet place? Think again. Your landlord has been forewarned of roadworks starting nearby very soon, but omitted that little detail when sending you the signed contract and taking your check. Probably a good idea to check with the neighbors, if possible, about any upcoming plans they’ve heard of. You can probably check with the community development manager too.
4. They’re moving in
The landlord only wants to rent it out for one year, but you were planning to stay a few. The agreement gets signed, the rent gets paid and you get a 12-month eviction notice for the landlord to use the property for personal use. In the course of the year, expect multiple visits for inspection by different building supplies, architects etc to start renovation once you move out.
5. The landlord plans to keep your security deposit
Your deposit has been turned into extra ‘rent’ as soon as it was cashed by the landlord. What you think should be considered normal wear and tear, they can actually force you to pay out of that deposit as ‘normal’ is a very grey area when it comes to the definition of wear and tear. Some landlords expect you to re-paint the property, and some do not. To dispute any withholding of deposit is hard and the outcome unpredictable. Ask for their expectations when you move in and make sure you have a snag list of the condition of the property when you move in – which you can later use when discussing security deposit refund.
6. Your maintenance contract is included (but not really)
What a bargain to have the maintenance as part of the rent! Make sure you check what that covers as it may just cover a routine check twice a year and not any extra breakdowns or repairs that you may require. All this would come at extra cost.
[Related: Maintain your property so your insurance pays]
7. Community pool? Not for you
You’ve seen some fantastic amenities during your visit to the property with the agent – but on that hot summer afternoon you want to use it, your card is refusing you access to the swimming pool! Your landlord forgot to mention that he hasn’t been paying the community charges and, until it gets resolved, the developer won’t give you, the tenant, access to any of the amenities in your community.
8. No ray of sunshine – ever
You’re busy at work and the only time you can visit properties is after hours. A property at night, with all the lights on, is very different from the same property during the day (and how you’ll see it at weekends). Your landlord won’t rush to tell you he got the apartment at a super deal because there isn’t a single ray of sunshine lighting it up at any time of day, due to its layout. That surprise will only come after you have moved in and realize you need to have the lights on most of the time… Do make sure to visit at different times of day and on different days of the week too, to get a feel for light, noise and what’s going on.
9. Your bills have doubled
Because you need to have the lights on most of the time! See no.8 above…
10. The landlord wants more rent
Many of us have had eviction notices because a landlord wants to use the property for their personal use – but in reality they just want you out, to be able to increase the rent. By law, the landlord needs to prove that he does not have an alternative suitable property to move into.
If it is possible, always try and speak with the previous tenant to understand why they are moving out. Ask them questions about the property, any complications or repairs that need to be done often. Ask about the landlord and how reactive he is when it comes to repairs and maintenance of the property. Meet the neighbors to find out more about living in the community – even the security guards can help you understand which landlords have not paid their community fees.