Accommodation in Saudi Arabia

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Updated 2022-02-24 08:12

Saudi Arabia's real estate sector boom in the past several years can be primarily attributed to the millions of expats who call this country home. Even though many of them have left the Kingdom due to the Saudisation process or the lower economic performance of the country, still thousands of foreigners relocate to Saudi Arabia every year, often with their families who have been offered a job.

To house millions of expats, real estate in Saudi Arabia is one of the fastest-growing sectors in the region. With rental properties soaring in the last ten years, housing options in Saudi Arabia have increased exponentially.

The rental market and compounds are a thriving business. Keep in mind that most Saudis occupying rental units only exacerbates the demand for rental properties. Foreign ownership of land or real estate is possible after obtaining a license. Usually, the ownership of land by non-Saudis is connected with investment initiative. Recently, the government has adopted a law concerning the special privilege iqamas/ premium residence permits.

Their holders could enjoy many benefits, like owning real estate and renting out properties.

If you cannot afford the special iqama, which costs around 800,000 SAR for permanent residence or 100,000 SAR for renewable iqama, you will probably opt for renting accommodation. Depending on your personal situation, accommodation may be completely taken care of by your employer. It is common for the employer to secure housing for the employee. In some cases, the employer may issue a housing allowance, whereby the employee must secure their own housing. It is also common that the employer will pay a portion of the rental fees.

Saudi Arabia is famous for its conservative society; while things are changing drastically, some things remain the same. The country has stringent rules on housing arrangements and the way the real estate sector does business.

Housing options in Saudi Arabia

There are a few common housing options in Saudi Arabia, as outlined below:

Apartments/Flats

The most popular type of dwelling in Saudi Arabia are low-rise buildings. Apartment buildings between 4 to 8 floors are typically found across the country.

Villas

Villas (mansions) are large homes that are secured with gates around their perimeters. The villas for rent are often partially furnished and often include swimming pools. They tend to be steeper in price and usually allow for single-family occupancy only.

Gated communities

Also known as 'Western Compounds', these gated communities include everything you would find in an average Western neighbourhood. Only within the compound will you find that no societal restrictions are applied. Most of the expats tend to live in compounds. Some of them consist of thousands of houses, with resort-like facilities that include swimming pools, fitness centres, convenience stores, coffee shops, restaurants and more.

Compound living in Saudi Arabia

A lot of expats moving to Saudi Arabia prefer to settle in compounds. These are secure gated communities with lots of amenities on site: swimming pools, fitness centres, convenience stores, coffee shops and even preschools. Inside the walls of the compound, expats can lead a more relaxed lifestyle and avoid the restrictions of everyday life in Saudi Arabia.

Life in a compound can be especially easier for expat women moving to the country. First, they will be able to dress in pretty much the same way they do back home and freely interact with the opposite sex. Settling in a compound also offers lots of opportunities for socializing with other expats and can help battle the feelings of isolation often experienced by new expats. Plus, the proximity of all essential amenities makes compound living exceptionally convenient.

Leases in Saudi Arabia

Once you have decided on your accommodation, there are a few things that are required at the time of lease signing:

  • Residency card (Iqama)
  • Copy of passport
  • Marriage certificate/family card (if applicable)
  • Payment (full/partial)

Important:

If your rental contract is in Arabic and you don't have a good command of the language, it's very important that you have it translated into English (or another language you prefer). Never sign a contract if you don't completely understand any of its clauses.

The rental contract may also outline the rights and obligations of both the landlord and the tenant. Typically, the tenant will need to:

Make sure that the payments are made on time and that the checks don't bounce. Pay utilities and other related bills without delay.

Important:

Failure to pay rent is a criminal offense in Saudi Arabia; you can be charged and brought to court. It is very important to safeguard your lease in case of any legal dispute that may occur.

Keep the rented property well-maintained and avoid damage to any of the items that come with it (furniture, appliances, etc.).

Abide by all the terms and conditions outlined in the rental agreement

Avoid creating any disturbances for the neighbors: don't make noise late in the evening, abide by the local social norms, etc.

Not use the property for commercial or industrial purposes or sublet it to other parties (unless this has been approved by the landlord)

The landlord must:

Hand over the place to the tenant in a proper state. (Make sure to do a proper walkthrough of the property you are about to rent and note if there is anything that needs to be fixed).

Provide receipts to the tenant of all the checks received (As a tenant, keep all the receipts given to you by the landlord till the end of the rental contract).

Make sure public areas in the building are well-maintained.

Perform all needed repairs in a timely manner (as agreed upon in the rental contract)

Guarantee the tenant's privacy and not visit the rented property without prior agreement

Keep the price of the rent the same throughout the duration of the contract

Important:

When you sign your lease, it is absolutely essential that you register it in the Ejar system, set up by the Ministry of Housing. This online portal has been created to manage rental property in Saudi Arabia. Moreover, you will need to provide your Ejar number if you have a dispute with your landlord. To register in the Ejar system, you will need to upload a copy of the rental agreement and provide basic information about yourself and the landlord. Note that if you don't register in the Ejar system as a tenant, your Iqama (residence permit) may not be renewed.

How to find accommodation in Saudi Arabia

A quick online search to start things off is a great way to get an idea of what is being offered in Saudi Arabia, as well as giving you an idea of price ranges, and reviews by other tenants. Listed at the end are popular websites that offer rental vacancies across the region.

Another way to search for accommodation is by word of mouth. Speaking to seasoned expats on our Forum is a convenient way to discuss and ask questions and concerns you may have about accommodation in Saudi Arabia. Chatting with co-workers is also very helpful as they tend to have similar commutes, so asking about the areas where they found accommodation could be very beneficial.

Employers are great sources of information; they are accustomed to providing housing for expats and are often long-time Saudi residents, so they can help with the search.

Across Saudi Arabia, you will find that the most popular means of advertising rental units is to have signage posted on the actual residential buildings. Several drives alongside major roads, pleasant neighbourhoods and popular areas will definitely open up opportunities.

Dos and don't of renting in Saudi Arabia

Do:

Rent near your workplace, as traffic in Saudi Arabia is dreadful during peak hours.

Ask for recommendations before deciding; the best reviews come from people in the neighbourhood.

Consider purchasing used appliances and furniture; it will save you a ton.

Ask for any repairs, fresh paint, electric outlets, tiling etc., to be taken care of before moving in.

Don't:

Sacrifice security for a lower price. Outskirts tend to offer cheaper rent but are less safe.

Move into the unit until you are completely satisfied with the work done. If they haven't completed the work needed, it will take twice as long after you move in.

Pay anything until you have a written lease agreement signed in your possession.

Dos and don'ts of compounds in Saudi Arabia

Do:

Expect a Western-style living arrangement where women can dress and interact in public as they please.

Expect a community made up entirely of foreigners. In many compounds, Saudis are even forbidden.

Expect to pay a lot for your accommodation.

Don't:

Break any rules; the compound has the right to terminate your lease at any time.

Shy away from asking questions and voicing concerns; it's your right

Limit yourself to the most popular compounds; newer and lesser-known compounds offer more for less money.

Tips for renting in Saudi Arabia

To make sure your move and settling into a new place goes smoothly, make sure to do lots of research before making any arrangements. Here are some basic strategies to follow:

If accommodation is part of your employment package and your employer is in charge of apartment hunting for you, still, make sure that you read through your rental contract before signing it. Make sure to have an English (or another language) copy of the original contract — and get it notarized as well.

Perform a proper inspection of the property before signing the lease. Make a list of all the furnishings and appliances in the apartment and take note if anything is damaged or in need of repair.

The neighborhood you are about to rent in is just as important (if not more) as the property itself. Make sure to learn about the neighborhood you are about to rent in: check if all the amenities you need are easily accessible and that you feel comfortable in your new surroundings.

Save the receipt for your deposit until the end of your lease. You will need to present it to your landlord to get your security deposit back.

If you decide to rent outside the compound environment, do your best to follow local social norms. For instance, during the Holy Month of Ramadan, you will need to abstain from eating, drinking and smoking in public during the designated hours.

Once you've handled all the formalities, signed the lease, paid the deposit and rent, you will be ready to move into your new apartment. Most apartments advertised on real estate websites are ready to move in once the lease is signed. If you are renting in a compound, note that there may be a waiting list in place if the building you are moving into is particularly popular. In this case, you will need to time your move accordingly or book a hotel while you are waiting for your place to become available.

Useful links:

Ejar system

Bayut

PropertyFinder

Zaahib

Aqar

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.