Checklist for Dubai renters to avoid sub-letting scams

By now, renters in Dubai know that the onus is on them to check if they are dealing with registered brokers and licensed companies.

However, many still fall prey to these “fraud” companies who entice tenants by offering huge discounts if they agree to pay in a single cheque. Renters, now, more than ever, need to be more careful.

Afridi & Angell, a Dubai-based law firm, advises tenants to check the original title deed; sign the lease agreement in the presence of the landlord and if that isn’t possible, double check the validity of the authorized person's power of attorney, legalised by the Dubai Notary Public.

Besides, renters should seek a document from the developer or the owners' association confirming all service charges have been paid by the landlord so they are not barred from using any facilities in the building.

A renter should take the following steps in order to reduce the risk of being defrauded:

1. The lease should be registered with the Dubai Land Department in the Ejari system. Any lease that is not registered is not considered valid under applicable law. The obligation to register is on the landlord, but if the landlord is refusing to comply, the tenant may approach the Land Department to request registration.

2. The landlord should be the registered owner of the property. Ownership of property is evidenced by a title deed issued by the Land Department. The tenant should request to see the original title deed in the landlord's name. If the person claiming to be the landlord can only provide a copy, this raises concerns that he may not actually own the property. This is because when a property is sold, the seller should return his title deed to the Land Department, so that the Land Department can issue a new title deed in the name of the buyer. The tenant could also request the landlord to accompany him to the Land Department for confirmation that the landlord is the owner.

3. Wherever possible, try and sign the lease in the presence of the registered owner of the property (i.e. the landlord) and not simply in the presence of the landlord’s agent or marketing company. View the original identification papers of the landlord and obtain copies of the same.

4. If this is not possible, make sure that the person signing the lease on behalf of the landlord has the necessary authority to bind the landlord. The person claiming to have authority to sign the lease on behalf of the landlord should have a valid power of attorney, legalised by the Dubai Notary Public. To be on the safer side, the power of attorney should be less than one year old. The tenant should see the original document and retain a copy.

5. The tenant should carefully inspect the property before signing the lease. If the property shows signs of defect or damage, these should be documented in the lease, with a clear statement that the tenant is not responsible for their repair.

6. The tenant should get an original document from the developer or the owners' association confirming that all service charges have been paid and no payment is pending.

7. If you are still unsure, have these documents reviewed by a lawyer in order to check their authenticity.

8. If the landlord is using an agent, request to see the agent's Rera registration card. The agent's details should also be listed on the register of agents on the Rera website. If in doubt, contact Rera to check if the agent is registered.

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