Real Estate in Al Ain

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Very soon, lots of newcomers who arrived in Al Ain at the end of the summer will have completed residency procedures and will now be able to rent their own villa or apartment.

For many of us, the way things are done in the UAE are a million miles away from what we are accustomed to at home, and this is especially true of the real estate sector.

The tenant pays the realtor, typically 5% of the annual rental price, but this is a one off-cost and if you stay in your villa for multiple years you won’t need to pay it again.  Average villa rental prices are AED 120-150k per year, which means you have to find AED 6k-7.5k right at the start of your lease.

Rental is paid annually, in either one or two cheques – the second postdated for 6 months. Some landlords will take up to four cheques but that is rare in the Garden City – and whatever the payment terms are, you have to submit all the cheques at the signing of the lease.

Leases should be attested.  Once your lease is signed you need to take it to the main Municipality Building along with all your residency paperwork plus a copy of the landlord’s passport and they will stamp it – this progress is called Tawtheeq.  Any lease that is not stamped is strictly not legal.  Once you have this stamp you can get your electricity supply sorted out (Al Ain Distribution Service), sponsor family members etc etc. The reason for this is to stop landlords letting property which is on land “gifted” by the state for their family’s use only.

Most landlords don’t worry which agent lets their property.  This means that multiple agents are trying to get tenants for exactly the same property – sometimes at different rental prices!  In my short time as a rental agent for an Abu Dhabi company who were trying to get a foothold in Al Ain, I was expected to drive around and physically search for empty properties, then locate the landlord to see if he was willing to rent it out; once done, then I had to go and find a tenant for it!

Not all agents are legally registered.  It is very easy to set up as an illegal lettings agent here, but it’s best to use a legal one.  Those who are “above board” will have your best interests at heart, as they will care about the reputation of their business, so you can count on them to smooth out the whole process for you.  If something goes wrong then you can complain about a legal letting agent to the Municipality, although it should be said that it is seldom necessary, however if you are dealing with someone who is not a registered agent then you have no comeback whatsoever.  Ask your friends if they can recommend one.

Leases are for 12 months at a time.  The standard lease will be for 12 months and normally it is renewed for the same amount of time each year although I have heard of people negotiating a shorter renewal term if their work contract will end part way through the year.  If you want to leave before the contract ends it is up to you to negotiate this with your landlord, although you can expect to pay at least 2 months’ rent as a penalty.

Rentals are no longer capped.  In Abu Dhabi Emirate rents were capped at 5% per annum for a number of years, however in late 2013 this cap was removed and prices jumped considerably.  After the initial spike it seems that rental prices have settled down to reflect supply and demand.

Maintenance is the responsibility of the landlord.  Despite what it says on the lease document. Not all landlords are prompt at repairing problems so if you have a good one – try to stay where you are!

Some employers provide accommodation.  The upside is that you don’t have to pay agent’s fees, nor have to find a year’s rent up front but the downside is that you have to go where you are put.

Not all employers advance the rental payment to their staff.  A few years ago it was not uncommon for employers to pay the rental on a property found by the employee but those days are all but gone.  Nowadays most get their rental allowance as a monthly payment with their salary; those who have not access to enough cash will have to borrow money from the bank to fund their rental.  It is a good idea to minimise your borrowings as if your employment stops for any reason then the bank loan becomes payable in full the moment your final salary payment hits the bank, which has caused problems for many expats, particularly back in the crash of 2008/9.

Now for some good news; there are some truly amazing villas here available for rent.  Generally room sizes are very much bigger than my home country of Scotland and at the mid-top end of the market here all rooms come with ensuite bathrooms.   Nearly all come with maid’s rooms which are ensuite but often without a window, and they make great camping storage rooms if you don’t have domestic help!

Any further questions?  Please ask them in the comments section.  Good luck with your move and I hope you come to love Al Ain as much as I do!

  1. Nice, interesting piece, Marina! Since Jen and I are looking for a larger place, I’ve contacted the folks at Capital Relocation.

  2. Akelo says:

    Hi are you still in Al Ain? Was wondering about whether I can sign a lease if my residence visa is not ready?

    • Marina Bruce says:

      Good morning Akelo – sorry for the late reply. You may have to have your residence visa before your landlord/agent will allow you to sign the lease. Leases should be registered with the Municipality (Tawtheeq) and this cannot happen until you are a resident – if the property does not have Tawtheeq then the tenancy is illegal and you have no recourse to help from the authorities if things go wrong. Good luck, wishing you a great time in Al Ain.

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