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-   -   Ultimate guide to renting an apartment in Dubai (https://www.expatforum.com/expats/dubai-expat-forum-expats-living-dubai/89034-ultimate-guide-renting-apartment-dubai.html)

Bigjimbo 10th September 2011 01:14 PM

Ultimate guide to renting an apartment in Dubai
I thought that this might be useful for the forum, as it is a topic that comes up a lot, and is probably too big to be a section of the "read before posting" sticky.

When first coming to Dubai, one of the first things many people do is decide where to live. Depending on where they are coming from they have different expectations of the process. I will attempt to give a general guide that everyone can use!

Legal issues

In Dubai the rental contracts are for a fixed term of one year from the start date. As of today (10/9/2011) there is a legal requirement that obligates the landlord to offer the same terms the following year, however this is superceded by the actual terms on the contract, so read read them carefully.

It is legally impossible to rent a long term apartment without a valid residence visa. However the banks will allow you to open an account with a letter from your company stating that the visa is under process. This is somewhat a grey area, as DEWA will also accept this. If for any reason your visa does not happen you will forfeit any legal right to money spent on rent for the apartment.

Many landlords will only accept payment in one to four cheques. These cheques are payable at the start of the contract and in the event that you have agreed to pay in more then one, the others are post dated. This is very important as the cheques are more then just a method of payment in Dubai, they are a legally enforced bond, and there can be serious consequences if you don't cover the funds.

Generally there is a period of notice at the end of a contract, within which you tell the landlord whether or not you are staying. If you fail to give notice, then legally you are bound to renew on the same terms. This is really important as you don't want to be bound into two contracts if you have found a new place.

Only make cheques payable to the registered owner. The only way of checking the owner is to see the title deed, or the sales contract. Either of these are valid proof. You may also make payment to a power of Attorney (poa). In this instance it is wise to have the POA document checked. There are commonly in Arabic, and will sometimes be dated and should always have the court stamps and stickers attached. If its a copy and you have doubts,then ask to see the original.


Everyones favorite people! There is a massive variety of people who operate in Dubai as real estate agents, reflecting the general diversity of the population. These differing people work to different ethics and standards, and you will have to find someone you trust and are comfortable working with. A word of warning however, most agents do not have very high professional standards, and will generally not respond to emails, texts etc. There are others that do but they are a minortiy.

The main source of properties in Dubai is a website called Dubizzle.com. Most agents in Dubai will put there properties on there on a daily basis. An important difference in Dubai as opposed to the UK is that there is no sole agency system in Dubai. A landlord can as will give his property to many different agents. This leads to problems when trying to arrnage viewings, as it is not uncommon to view the same property with different agents. It is also fairly common for an agent to send a client directly to a property without going to meet them. This leads to further issues such as doors being locked, or walking in on people who have just moved in. In order to avoid these occurances there are a few steps you can take, such as booking viewings a day in advance, and reconfirming an hour before you go. Ask who you are going to be meeting, and where. Try to confirm which apartment/villa you are going to see and check you haven't seen it already. If you find an apartment you like, only put the offer through the agent who showed you it. By shopping for a better price through a different agent, the landlord will think that there are several interested parties and will be firmer on his price. Also try to only see properties that an agent has direct, as if there are more agents invloved they will try to charge more commisssion to make it worthwhile.

The agent is responsible for arranging all the paper work, and drawing contracts. Before handing over any money you should see all the ownership documents, and also make sure that the agent is registered with RERA, as it is illegal to deal with an unauthorised free lance agent. Try to do the paper work in their office and NEVER make rent cheques payable to an agent unless they have a valid POA. Check the POA with the court if the agent is claiming to be the POA.


Almost as popular as agents! Every property in Dubai needs to have DEWA connected. Dubai Electric and Water is exactly that. On top of the actual amount of each that you use you will also be liable for a housing fee. This is essentially a tax collected through DEWA. The amount is 5% of the total rent for the year, split into monthly payments. You can pay DEWA online, at petrol stations, or a variety of other places.

If you live in an apartment, depending on the area you may also have a chiller fee. This is where the AC is centralised and charged per apartment. All of the Palm and JBR is like this, as are some towers on the Marina and Downtown. You need to check how much this fee is as it can be scary, and make a cheap apartment look like less of a bargain.

Depending on where the property is determines who the service supplier is for TV, interent and Landline. It will be either Du or Etisalat, and there is no choice in the matter. They are both fairly expensive, and make sure you choose the package you want in the beginning as changing it is heartbreakingly difficult.

Gas supply changes from building to building, with most just being a simple canister arrangement, but check when you are viewing a property that you think you will like.


Difficult one this, and I will only give a very brief overview.

Arabian ranches

Very popular with families. Range from 2 bed townhouses to 6 bed Hattan villas. Prices from about 75k to 340k


Very popular with everyone. Bit noisy, massively varying quality in the different towers. Stick to developments by Emaar, Cayan, Trident and you will find a nice apartment. If you are a bigger family or have a bigger budget then the Original 6 is probably the best development.


Possibly the best place to live in Dubai! (I am biased!) Good mix of villas and apartments. All a little bigger then the norm in the Marina. Goes from modestly priced to very expensive. Contact me for specific information.


This covers all the big towers of Shiekh Zayed and all the Emaar area around Dubai Mall. Very popular place, like the Marina but possibly better siuated with more amenities. DIFC is very close and is an upcoming area of Dubai


Good mix of lower priced apartments, and again an area that is improving daily, with the development being finished and shops and ameninites setting up there.


Very nice lower priced family area with a nice mix of shops and facilities, and low and high rise apartments.

Al Barsha

Not a big fan myself, but close to the Mall Of Emirates and all the attendant facilities. Good liks to the Metro as well.

Diera/Bur Dubai

The older part of Dubai. A lot less western then the other areas mentioned, but no worse for it. Massive diversity of apartments and villas, and you would have to source a specialist too guide you through.

Jumeirah/Umm Sequim

Ranges from exclusive to dilapidated, and again an area that specialist agents have made their own. Source a good one and be guided


Cheap and cheerful housing, larger than many other areas mentioned, but several pitfalls. Large parts of this area are directly under the flightpath of DXB, and it can be very noisy. The villas are independantly owned and maintenance can be hit and miss.


I am not a fan of this development at all, but there are positives, such as easy access to the shops bars and restaurants, and of course the beach, but the apartments are dark, with tiny balconies, and funny layouts
General tips

The standard of finishing in Dubai is not always as you'd hope and expect for such a new place. Moving into a brand new building is always a gamble, as there are nightmare stories that I have encountered. Be prepared to have to wait considerable amount of time to have problems rectified.

When starting a new lease it is fair to expect it to be painted afresh, but make sure you request it. It is also understood that you will repaint when leaving. This amount can and is deducted from the security deposit at the end of the tenancy.

This is all I can think of at the moment, but I will add to it as I remember other stuff, and I hope it helps some people through the process!

Izzy77 10th September 2011 01:56 PM

Great guidance!

TallyHo 11th September 2011 05:43 AM

I'd also add that it's well worth the effort to check out as many Dubai communities as possible as each community does have its own character. The Greens and the Marina are only a few minutes from each other but they are a world apart in appearances and have quite different atmospheres and will appeal to different people.

Second, even within a Dubai community you will find a range of choices and quality.

A few notes in addition to the original post:

Marina: The most well known of the New Dubai communities, the Marina was built by multiple developers with the end result that towers vary greatly in quality. While the Marina has a number of lovely buildings it also has a number of cheap, basic apartments of indifferent quality. In general the towers closer to the south end of the Marina are cheaper than the ones to the north end. In recent years the Marina has truly come to life as many smaller shops and restaurants have opened up on the ground floors of the apartments and a lot of Marina residents never leave the Marina except to go to work.

The Marina can have a fun atmosphere with strong appeal to young western expats, but if you're a couple looking for a 1-2 bedroom apartment, be aware that you will only get one parking space and finding a second parking space on the public streets can be a nightmare.

Traffic in and out of the Marina can be cumbersome but it varies greatly depending on where your apartment is located.

JBR has roomy apartments but people have a love/hate relationship with the complex. The Podium levels have never properly taken off and some of the clusters do have a down at heels look with boarded up shops and crumbling sidewalks. The Walk is perennially popular but also noisy at the weekends and well into the night.

Apartments generally start at 45,000 for a cheaper 1-bedroom, 55,000 for a mid-range one bedroom and 75,000 for a higher end one-bedroom. Two-three bedrooms are correspondingly higher.

Jumeirah Lakes Towers: JLT is often written off as the ugly stepsister as it's directly opposite Sheikh Zayed from the Marina but the better JLT towers have very sizeable apartments with excellent finishes and much easier parking and higher prices than the cheaper Marina apartments. The cheaper JLT towers are cheaper for very good reasons. The tradeoff is far fewer amenities, difficulty of walking around on foot and a ridiculous road system. JLT is district cooling.

Apartments start at 35-40,000 for a cheaper one-bedroom. On the whole, JLT apartments are about 10,000 cheaper than a similar apartment in the Marina.

The Greens: Young people may find the Greens too quiet (although plenty still live there), but it has (by Dubai standards) fabulous landscaping and a nice community feel that may appeal to families, couples and older people, and within the Greens the low-rise apartments offer good value for space and convenience while the high rise apartments with their Emaar quality finishes and lush pools and views are among the more expensive in Dubai. The Greens is not district cooling and all AC usage is paid for by the landlord out of his maintenance fees, so your dewa bills will be much lower.

Greens apartments are about the same as the Marina, starting at 45,000 for the cheapest 1-bedroom in the low rises and about 60,000 for a small 1-bedroom in the towers, with prices going up with size and views.

The Palm Jumeirah: The Palm can be a wonderful place to live but not all apartments on the Palm are created equal or even have pool/beach access. The Palm can have a holiday feel to the place and is popular with holiday lets, which means you run the risk of having unwelcome (if temporary) neighbours. The Palm is district cooling.

The cheapest Palm apartments tend to go for about 65,000 for a one-bedroom in Golden Mile (no beach/pool acess or views). Proper one-bedrooms in the Shorelines usually start at 75,000.

Downtown Burj Khalifa: This, like the Greens, is a masterplanned community entirely built by one developer: Emaar, so Downtown has a cohesive "planned" finish that's very high quality. In addition to the Dubai Mall, hotels and Burj Khalifa, Downtown consists of several clusters of apartment complexes: the Burj Views and Lofts towers, 8 Boulevard Walk, The Residences (direct on the lake), Southridge, as well as "Old Town," a mock Arab low-rise complex. Finishes and amenities are quite high across the board and the Burj Views/Lofts offer excellent value given the location. The Residences are the most expensive apartments (outside the Burj itself) and have terrific views, but the nightly waterfountain displays can be too noisy for some people. Old Town is popular but its apartments tend to be dark. While Downtown offers easy and walkable access to the Dubai Mall and the bars/restaurants in the mall, the adjoining Souk al Bahar and hotels, these are more expensive and you won't find the cheap and cheerful corner shops and eateries you now find in the Marina.

Downtown, as with any Emaar development, is not district cooling.

Downtown start at about 60,000 for the cheaper 1-bedrooms in the Burj Views/Lofts. Pricewise it's the same as comparable buildings in the Marina.

Business Bay: This is one of the newest areas in Dubai and is located just south and east of Downtown. Despite external appearances it is not part of Downtown and as of now one cannot drive direct from Business Bay into Downtown but must go via Sheikh Zayed. A large, 12 tower complex was one of the first to open in Business Bay and is called the Executive Towers. Apartments are large, similar to JBR, but the immediate vicinity is still a construction zone although a few amenities are creeping into place. A bunch of new towers, both apartments and commercial, have opened across Business Bay over the past six months. I can't comment too much on these other than that Business Bay apartments are offering some excellent deals, with one bedrooms going as low as 40,000 AED. The tradeoff is that it's still a construction zone and will be for the next few years.

Pricewise: 35,000 is the starting point for a cheap 1-bedroom in one of the new BB towers, with about 45K for a 1-bedrom in a midrange building ad 55K in the Executive Towers.

TECOM: A cluster of apartment buildings on a ridiculous road system, this community adjoins the Greens but is a world apart in feel and character. Apartments in TECOM vary greatly in quality but are, on the whole, cheaper than the Greens or Marina. TECOM has a dusty feel to it with little to no landscaping, but a few bars exist in several of the hotels and few supermarkets have opened up, making it an ideal place to live if you don't mind some dust and want to save some of your housing allowance while only being a few minutes from the Marina.

Tecom 1-bedroom apartments start at 35K for the cheapest buildings to about 60K in the best buildings

Al Barsha: There are two Al Barshas: the high density Al Barsha immediately around the Mall of Emirates, and the far larger residential Al Barsha of single family villas. The Al Barsha by the mall is a duplication of Bur Dubai/Deira, although on a smaller scale. It does have a bit of a Hollywood movie set to it as it's a high density, urban environment plopped down into the middle of the desert and you can walk from a heavily built up area to large tracts of undeveloped sand in a block or two. Al Barsha apartments vary in quality and are generally cheaper. Some of the buildings look well maintained and habited by young professionals, others look like that they've beeon colonised by Asian workers sharing tiny apartments (4+ people to a room). Quite a few Indian/Arabic/Lebanese/Chinese restaurants have opened up in Al Barsha in the past two years. Al Barsha can be a fine place to live if you want a cheap, simple 1-bedroom apartment near the metro and with plenty of cheap dining and retail options withink walking distance, as well as the Mall of Emirates, but you must choose your apartment carefully.

Al Barsha starts at 30K for the cheapest 1-bedrooms to 45K for the nicer buildings.

In all of the above, expect 20-bedrooms to be about 75% more than the one bedrooms.

As you can infer, the price differentials between the major Dubai communities aren't necessarily that large. Paying a bit more in rent can land you in a much nicer building in a more popular area, while some of the cheaper options have higher utilities costs due to being in a district cooling scheme. The better buildings will often have much nicer pools as well as gym complexes that may justify the higher expenses. But if you only want the cheap and cheerful, you do have a number of options, and the great thing is that these options are often just as conveniently located to your work location as the more expensive and popular communities.

Bigjimbo 11th September 2011 05:48 AM

Forgot JLT! apologies...........

Belgian Brit 11th September 2011 04:35 PM

Great idea this, well done BigJimbo and also to TallyHo - will be a real help to the newbies.

mavzor 11th September 2011 11:02 PM

International city

Designed around world regions and styled with architecture to match.

Buildings are 3-5 story, with central clusters ground level reserved for commercials.

Apartments are Studio to 1 bdrm in the outlying, with some 2bdrms in the CBD.

20k dhs / annum for a studio, 25 for an average 1bdrm (800sqft), 29 for a large/nice 1bdrm 900-1050 sqft). Q3'11

Services Within 200 steps from an example apartment (mine :) ) is a carrefour express, medical clinic, locksmith, barber, ladies salon, 3 restaurants, internet cafe, locksmith...

Residents are mixed, but rarely western. Pakistan, India, Phillipines, China are your majority residents. Friendly and honest if illiterate.

Parking can be a struggle depending where you come from. If you're from NYC you'll be joyous, if you're from rural england, you're going to struggle. Get in before 9 pm and you'll reliably get a marked space. After that it starts becoming parking space innovation, and by 12pm onwards its double park territory.

Felixtoo2 12th September 2011 04:56 AM

I don`t feel recommending International City is a responsible thing to do.

gulfnews : International City: Squalor township

Bigjimbo 12th September 2011 05:05 AM


Originally Posted by Felixtoo2 (Post 604570)
I don`t feel recommending International City is a responsible thing to do.

gulfnews : International City: Squalor township

Along the same lines, I didn't write about Discovery Gardens.............

zin 12th September 2011 06:23 AM

Small mention. If you want to live close to the airport then there's Garhoud, Rashidiya and Festival City/Al Badia as alternatives to Mirdiff.

Bigjimbo any opinion on these areas?

Bigjimbo 12th September 2011 06:40 AM


Originally Posted by zin (Post 604621)
Small mention. If you want to live close to the airport then there's Garhoud, Rashidiya and Festival City/Al Badia as alternatives to Mirdiff.

Bigjimbo any opinion on these areas?

Al Badia is very nice, well built, and well serviced in terms of near amenities, such as the mall and reatuarants of Festival city. The same goes for Marsa Plaza.

I don't know enough about garhoud, rashidiya to comment, although I did live in al Quasias myself and wouldn't recommend it!

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