After all the rental scams last year, I have become somewhat skeptical about rental agreements. My recent experience trying to rent an apartment in Dubai’s Jumeirah Beach Residences (JBR) made me realize there are a number of checks that I – and you as a tenant – need to carry out, to ensure the agreement is genuine.

The forking out of a full year of rent upfront in just one or two rent checks, such a phenomenon in the UAE, does not help the cause. After all, I’m giving away a year’s worth of rent to a stranger – I need to make sure this money is going into the right hands.

I turned down the apartment in the end, as some of my investigations left me uneasy.

One big lesson: Don’t feel you cannot ask for proof or legal documentation.

Here are some of the checks that I did that I found really useful…

[Compare UAE personal loans, if you need to get one for your rent]

1. The title deed

I asked for the title deed and made a trip to the Land Department to check whether the owner on the title deed is registered (via Ejari) at the Land Department – this would prove to me that the title deed is genuine. It takes five minutes and a trip to Deira, but it’s worth it.

2. The developer

At the entrance of communities or by the lifts, you’ll often see a ‘name and shame’ list of apartment owners whose service fees are still due. I made a phone call to the developer to ask about the services charges on this JBR apartment. This check can verify not only whether the service charges are paid up but also to verify any changes (like a sale) that may have happened but which had not yet been registered with the Land Department. Not paying your community fees will often stop tenants being able to access the facilities of the building or community.

3. Rera-approved broker/ agent?

It is important to make sure the agent is legitimate. You can find the list of approved brokers on the Rera website. If the broker isn’t listed, I’d certainly be asking why not!

[Related: Cost of renting vs buying |Renting in Dubai: Cost by area | 10 things your landlord won’t tell you]

4. Rent, charges and fees

I just assumed that the commission would be five percent – so I was shocked when the agent asked for seven percent! Already, my trust in him had been blown out of the water.  The deposit was also more than five percent – again, above the norm.

5. Contract

Before even thinking about a deposit, I asked to see the contract. To my surprise, the contract had clauses I hadn’t seen before, like penalty fees of AED 1,000 if the check was ever returned, for any reason at all. I often get my bank calling me to say the signature is mismatched and asking whether I can re-issue another one or whether I would like to have it cleared, so the chance of that AED 1,000 penalty is fairly high. I was also asked to give 60 days’ notice if I did not want to renew, when the norm is generally 30 days.

6. The landlord’s details are confidential?!

This was probably the one check that made me give up on the apartment. The landlord lived in the UK and had given Power of Attorney (POA) to the owner of the real estate agency I was dealing with. The agent asked me to issue the rental checks in the real estate broker’s name, which I was not comfortable with that – but I got over that when I saw the POA.

Just to be safe, I asked for the landlord to send me an email confirming that the checks should be made out to the agent. To my surprise, my agent told me it company policy that no tenant was put in touch with their landlord, and that everything would go through them. I may be a bit more skeptical than most people, but not allowing me to talk to my own landlord is really not what I call transparency!

Don’t be afraid to be the “painful customer” who asks too many questions – better to know all the facts, do your digging and not regret giving away a whole year of rent to the wrong person…