Accommodation in Dubai

flats in Dubai
Updated 2021-11-10 14:15

One of the first things you will need to settle when relocating to Dubai is accommodation. If you are relocating to Dubai, you will find many options in terms of accommodation. Dubai is well-known for its luxurious and ultra-modern architecture. It is also possible to find luxury villas here, but these can be quite expensive.

Dubai is an attractive destination for expats — who make up most of the emirate's population. People come here in search of work opportunities and a favorable tax climate: there are no income or corporate taxes in the UAE. This means that foreign workers get to keep all of their salary and entrepreneurs have a friendly financial setup for their new companies. With that, the cost of living in Dubai is not cheap — and accommodation is particularly expensive. In fact, a lot of households report spending up to 40% of their income on rent.

You may be assisted for accommodation by your employer prior to your relocation, either by obtaining a housing allowance, or your employer pays the rent for you, which can then be deducted from your monthly salary.

Buy or rent in Dubai?

The first thing you will need to decide when it comes to accommodation in Dubai is whether you want to buy or rent. Both of these options come with their own sets of pros and cons — and it all depends on what you are looking for and how much you are willing to spend.

Most expats relocating to Dubai are renters. Renting is definitely a good option for when you have just moved to the emirate as it offers lots of flexibility. You can switch between apartments, explore different areas and even leave Dubai if you wish with no strings attached. With that, renting can get expensive over a long period of time — and renting options in neighborhoods popular with expats may be limited.

Buying property in Dubai can be a more fitting option if you plan to stay here for three years or longer. It is also an interesting investment opportunity. Dubai's population is always on the rise — with lots of expats moving to the region in search of professional and business opportunities. This means that accommodation is always in high demand. In the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, property prices in Dubai have fallen. According to the consulting company ValuStrat, they have dropped by as much as 12.3%, which makes 2021 and the following years a favorable period for property investments. Additionally, investing in real estate in Dubai (upwards of AED 500,000) qualifies you for the Golden Visa Program.

Buying property in Dubai

There are three types of properties available to expats in Dubai: freehold properties, commonhold properties and usufruct properties.

Buying a freehold property grants you full ownership of that property. You can make any alterations to the property that you see fit, rent it out or sell it. Freehold properties are a highly sought-after investment option by expats and their supply may be limited. What's more, the availability of freehold properties is limited to certain areas. You won't be able to purchase a property on freehold in older parts of Dubai such as Bur Dubai or Karama.

Commonhold properties refer to condominiums, apartments and non-residential units.

When you purchase this type of property, you will have the right to sell it or rent it out. They differ from freehold properties in a way that commonhold properties generally require regular payments for property maintenance.

Usufruct properties are basically properties available or a long-term lease — up to 100 years. You will be able to rent out the property but you shouldn't make any changes to it — unless these have been approved by the owner.

Types of accommodation in Dubai

There are various types of accommodation available in Dubai. You can find both furnished and unfurnished accommodation, and prices differ on the type of accommodation as well as the location. Some areas are more upmarket than others, such as along the Jumeirah Beach, Palm Jumeirah, Dubai Marina, or New Dubai.

You can find apartments in various modern buildings, usually high-rise ones. These tend to have a balcony but no garden. If you'd like to have a home with a garden, you can check out the townhouses or free-standing villas.

You will have to consider factors that will determine your quality of life, such as the distance of your accommodation from your workplace as this will impact your commute time. And the proximity of schools and other facilities if you relocate with your family.

Some expats choose to live outside of Dubai and commute to work — for instance, by renting in Ras Al Khaimah.

Popular residential areas in Dubai

Some of the most popular residential areas in Dubai include Dubai Marina, Jumeirah Beach, Downtown Dubai, Deira Dubai and Palm Jumeirah Island.

Dubai Marina is a luxurious neighborhood with prices to match. It's known for its nightlife and easy access to some of the best restaurants in the emirate.

If you are looking for a sea view, consider Jumeirah Beach. This neighborhood has lots of seafront residential complexes and is very well developed. Here, you will find a large shopping mall, a movie theatre, lots of restaurants and coffee shops and more.

Downtown Dubai is perfect if you are looking for a modern cosmopolitan lifestyle. It is where the famous Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Mall are located. The area is home to a lot of office buildings but also has residential options.

Deira Dubai is one of the emirate's oldest and busiest neighbourhoods. It's a quaint and interesting neighborhood where you will be able to get around by water taxis called abras. Deira is perfect for experiencing the old Dubai.

Palm Jumeirah Island is home to the Atlantis Resort, lots of luxury hotels and restaurants. The rent here is much higher than in other Dubai neighborhoods — but there is very little traffic and lots of amenities within walking distance.

Renting in Dubai

When it comes to renting options in Dubai, you will have a choice of recent or brand new housing in the city centre or on the outskirts. Apartment buildings and villas are generally grouped into compounds and come with different amenities: a swimming pool, sports facilities as well as security or concierge services. If you are willing to spend a bit more, you can search for standalone villas that usually come complete with a garden, backyard, private pool and more.

To rent an apartment in Dubai, you will need to submit the following documents to the owner:

  • a copy of your residence permit
  • your passport
  • a copy of your payslips

Make sure to check with your employer whether he will sponsor your accommodation. Sometimes your employer will pay the accommodation rental for you, and an amount will be deducted monthly from your salary. You are therefore advised to discuss this with your employer before you relocate.

Here are a few more things to take into account when renting in the UAE:

  • Tenancy contracts are typically signed for a year.
  • Rent can be paid quarterly — but some landlords may ask you to make three payments or even pay for a full year of rent in advance.
  • You will need to pay a security deposit. Your landlord must give you a receipt, which you need to keep to get your deposit back at the end of your rental contract.

Agent fees typically make up around 5% of the rental value. Expats are generally advised to go through an agent when renting in Dubai to avoid miscommunications and misunderstandings with the landlord.

If you decide to move out before your rental contract is up, you will need to pay a penalty.

Rights and obligations of tenants and landlords in the UAE

There are rules that both landlords and tenants generally need to follow in the UAE. The specifics of your agreement will be drawn out in your rental contract — however, it's always good to have a general idea of what to expect.

Here are some basic rules to follow for landlords and tenants in the UAE:

For landlords:

The landlord must have an English-translated copy of the rental contract ready. Never sign a rental contract if there is no official translation available.

The landlord must give you a receipt for your security deposit — whether you've paid via a bank transfer or in cash.

The price of your rent mustn't be increased throughout the duration of your one year lease. Once the contract is up, the landlord can increase the price and it will be up to you to decide whether you want to extend the lease.

If you are renting a furnished place, make sure the landlord gives you the list of all the items in the apartment. You must then check if the list of items is correct before signing it.

The landlord is responsible for maintaining common areas (hall, lobby, etc.) when renting out an apartment in an apartment building.

For tenants:

Make sure to carefully study your rental contract before signing it. Keep in mind that once the contract is signed, it is legally binding for both parties and no changes can be made.

You are generally allowed to make minor adjustments to the rented property (like changing fixtures). For any major alterations, you will need to get the approval of your landlord — preferably, in writing.

It is illegal to sublet or share an apartment you are renting without a written consent from your landlord.

As a tenant, you must maintain the property in a good condition. Note that you will need to pay for any damages done to the property at the end of your lease.


A rent check bouncing is a criminal offense in the UAE. If your payment doesn't come through, the landlord also has the right to evict you. Make sure to have your financials in order and always double-check with your landlord about whether they have received the payment.

How to find accommodation in Dubai

To find accommodation in Dubai, you could visit real estate websites or classified ads in local newspapers. Please make sure that the real estate agents you contact are registered with the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA) to avoid being scammed.

Note that most properties in Dubai are managed by agencies. You will easily find someone who speaks English to work with — and most agencies are used to working with expats and are well aware of their needs. You will also come across property offers directly from landlords. If you do decide to rent a property without the help of an agent, make sure to look carefully over everything you sign. It's strongly recommended that you have someone knowledgeable in lease agreements look over your contract.

If you have come across a particular residential building that you like in Dubai, you can stop by the front office of the building and enquire about available rent options directly.

Good to know:

Couchsurfing and sharing an apartment with other flatmates, though being quite widespread in the country, are not officially authorised. This is because you must be married to be able to live with a person of the opposite sex.

Useful links:

Rental Increase Calculator

Dubai Land Department


Gulf News

Dubizzle Dubai

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