Accommodation in the United Arab Emirates

villas in the UAE
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Updated 2024-04-02 11:30

If you are moving to the United Arab Emirates, you will need to find accommodation. Many expatriates are relocating to the UAE, and there are various housing options available. Before you sign the contract, you will need to check with your employer whether you have a housing allowance included.

The employer could either provide you with accommodation or assume the responsibility for your rent, which may be deducted from your salary. This will depend on what has been agreed in your contract.

Buy or rent accommodation in the UAE?

Whether you choose to buy or rent accommodation in the UAE will be guided by a lot of factors. However, even though most people do choose to rent while living here, buying property in the UAE is also quite common. Those who have the necessary funds and plan to stay connected to the country for the long term often make investments in real estate — despite the fact that no citizenships/naturalizations are awarded on this basis. Keep in mind that when buying property in the UAE, you will need to pay at least 10% of the total property value upfront, depending on the property.

If you are not ready to commit to a long stay in the UAE or do not have the means or interest in purchasing property, renting is always an option.

There are a few things you should know about renting in the UAE.

Firstly, rent in major emirates like Dubai and Abu Dhabi can be very expensive. According to some reports, expats spend as much as 35% to 40% of their income on rent and utilities.

Ideally, your rent should not exceed 20% to 30% of your household income — but finding a place within an acceptable price range may take some time, especially with the recent surge in rental costs.

Secondly, most emirates are located quite close to each other. Add to that great road quality and inexpensive fuel — and you can easily live in Dubai and work in Abu Dhabi. Better yet, you can work in Dubai and live in Sharjah, benefiting from cheaper rent and a lower cost of living.

Thirdly, while living together as an unmarried couple is no longer illegal in the UAE, some property management companies and landlords will not accept this (especially in more conservative emirates like Sharjah). It's recommended to check before making this commitment to ensure that there is nothing in your tenancy contract related to cohabitation.

Types of accommodation in the UAE

For short stays in the United Arab Emirates, there are many hotels to choose from, ranging from mid-range to upmarket. You may find yourself staying in a hotel for a short period before you move into your new house. There are also apartment hotels that you can rent if you want to stay on a budget or a variety of hotels depending on your preference.

Serviced apartments are also a popular option for short-term stays. These are typically studios or larger apartments that have all the amenities you need for a convenient stay (like cooking facilities, laundry service, etc.). There are also housekeeping and other services included that make staying in a serviced apartment a popular option for professionals with a busy schedule or those who are in the UAE on business.

You will mostly find very recent and brand-new housing throughout the seven Emirates. In most cases, these are large buildings in the city center or villas grouped in "compounds" in the periphery. Some buildings even have a swimming pool and sports facilities and offer security or concierge services. Depending on which emirate you are in, you will find beachfront apartments, city apartments in high-rise buildings, or even housing near a marina.

You will also find a good selection of stand-alone villas and townhouses in the UAE. Many of these come with up to six bedrooms and have larger gardens, backyards, pools, and more.

Note that the selection of available housing — and the popularity of each housing type — may differ from one emirate to another. Your location will also determine your rent — for instance, housing in Dubai will generally be more expensive than housing in Sharjah and Abu Dhabi. Even within the emirate, living closer to the city centre will be more expensive than choosing an accommodation a little further out.

How to find accommodation in the UAE

To find accommodation in the United Arab Emirates, visit real estate websites and check out classified ads in local newspapers. Some of the most widely used apartment-hunting websites include Property Finder, Bayut, Dubizzle, and others. Local newspapers like Gulf News, Khaleej Times, The National, and Gulf Today also have apartment listings.

Most property rentals in the UAE are handled by agencies. As most agents speak English and are used to working with expats, you should generally have no problem finding accommodation this way. Occasionally, you may also see listings by landlords themselves — but make sure to exercise due diligence and have someone look over your lease before signing it.

If there is a specific building that you would like to rent, you can enquire with the front office management of this building about available rental options.

If you are still outside the UAE but would like to have an apartment ready when you arrive, you may ask your friend or employer for help. Make sure you have someone check the apartment before you sign the lease, and make note of any damages you may find. In the case that there are existing damages to the apartment, the landlord should handle the maintenance costs before you move in.

Rent prices in the UAE

How much you will pay in rent in the UAE depends on your location and the type of accommodation you go for.

For a studio apartment, the average price is AED 50,000 AED a year. For two bedrooms, it may range from AED 80,000 and above.

Lease conditions in the UAE

The lease is usually established for a period of one year and is renewable. To rent an apartment, a house, or a villa, you may have to pay the full amount up front. Some landlords may accept payments in two or four cheques split throughout the year and, on rare occasions, may accept monthly payments.

To rent an apartment, you will typically need to provide the following documents: a copy of your ID and a copy of your residence permit/visa. Note that it may take a few days for the contract to be finalized — all the related proceedings are typically handled by your agent and your landlord.

To rent a place in the UAE, you will need to pay a security deposit. Make sure to keep a receipt from your deposit so that you can get it back when your lease is up. It's important to note that upon handing over the apartment at the end of your lease, the security deposit may be deducted if any excessive damage is found or even to repaint the apartment. Make sure you're clear about these terms before signing your contract.

Rent in the UAE is typically paid quarterly using post-dated cheques. However, these days, you can also use direct debit to simplify the process. Monthly rent payments are not very common — and even though you may negotiate to pay rent month to month, it will generally cost you more than if you made three or four payments per year.

If you use an agent to rent accommodation, you will need to pay agent fees. These typically amount to around 5 to 10% of the rental value.

As we've mentioned earlier, rental contracts are typically signed for a year. If you decide to cut the contract short, you will need to pay a fine in the amount of two months of rent, unless otherwise specified in your contract. If your landlord decides to cut your lease short, they will need to give you a three-month notice.

In most rentals, you will need to pay your own water and electricity bills. Air conditioning, on the other hand, is almost always included in the price of rent. This is usually advertised as being “chiller-free”.

Tenant and landlord rights and obligations in the UAE

The landlord

  • It is the landlord's obligation to offer you an English version of your lease. Do not sign a contract in a language that you don't understand and always ask for an officially translated document.
  • The landlord must give you a copy of your security deposit. You will need this receipt to get your money back at the end of your rental term.
  • Rent cannot be increased throughout your annual lease once the contract has been signed by both parties. Upon renewal of the lease contract, rent can only be increased as indicated by the RERA Rental Index. Any request to pay higher than this can be disputed by the tenant.
  • If you are moving into a furnished place, always ask for the list of all items in the apartment from your landlord. Make sure to carefully check this list before signing it.
  • The landlord must ensure that all maintenance is carried out before handing over the property to the tenant and must handle all maintenance costs for general wear and tear while the tenant is living in the property.

The tenant

  • As a tenant, you need to carefully look through your rental contract before signing it. Once you have signed the contract, no changes can be made. It is always a good idea to have a friend or a colleague look over the lease with you.
  • You can only make minor adjustments to the rented property (like changing fixtures). For any major alterations, you will need to get an “okay” from your landlord — preferably in writing.
  • It is illegal to sublet or share an apartment you are renting without written consent from your landlord.
  • The tenant must maintain the property in good condition. If any damages have been done to the property, you will need to cover the full cost of fixing them at the end of your rental term. This is usually deducted from the security deposit if the amount does not exceed what has been provided.

Extra tips for renting accommodation in the UAE

If you plan to live in a rented apartment with a pet, make sure to first check if the apartment complex you are moving into is pet-friendly. If you plan to adopt a pet in the UAE, you may need to request a No Objection letter from your landlord to proceed.

Make sure to fill in all the rental paperwork very carefully and keep copies of all the documents you sign: rental agreement, deposit receipt, etc.

If you are having guests over or are throwing a party, check with your neighbors first and do your best to keep the noise under control. Note that your neighbors have the right to call the police if things get too loud.

During the Holy Month of Ramadan (the dates for Ramadan change every year), do your best to avoid eating and drinking in public areas during fasting hours.

Utilities, internet, and phone lines in a rented apartment in the UAE

Unless you are living in a serviced apartment, you will need to arrange your telecommunications (landline, Wi-Fi, etc.) on your own and pay your own electricity, water, and other bills. For more information on telecommunications in the UAE, refer to the following articles: Phones in the United Arab Emirates and Internet in the United Arab Emirates.

As we've mentioned above, air-conditioning costs are typically paid by the landlord — but are included in the total price of your rent.

If the apartment you are renting doesn't have water, gas, and electricity connections, you will need to arrange these yourself. For an additional fee or as part of an agreement, you can ask your agent to help you with these. A lot of properties in the UAE are equipped with electric cooking facilities, so you may not need a gas connection.

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.