Rent scam: How you can avoid being cheated

Rent lease ought to be registered at Dubai Land Department. (Ashok Verma)

A 'freelance' property agent has duped SK, a newly arrived expatriate, who leased a property in Dubai from the scamster using a leading classified website.

Unaware of the fact that real estate agents in Dubai have to be registered with the Real Estate Regulatory Agency, the regulatory arm of Dubai Land Department and are provided with Rera cards, SK, who requested only his initials be used, said he issued the full-year rent in a single cheque along with the deposit amount for an apartment located in a project in Dubailand.

“I checked the title deed with the agent showing me the apartment. I was in a hurry to move into an apartment since my office accommodation period was getting over. Hence, I issued the cheque in the name of the landlord, but found later that the title deed had been forged,” he told Emirates 24|7.

“The following day my cheques for the rent and deposit were presented and got cleared. I stayed in the apartment for two months, until the real owner came there. I found out that the person, whose name was on the title deed, had leased the property from the owner on four cheques and had subleased me the property in one cheque.”

SK claims that a number of cases have been filed against the scamsters (the agent and the person whose name was on the title deed) with the Dubai Rental Disputes Settlement Centre.

He has lodged a police complaint and a case with Dispute Centre. The verdict is still awaited.

Rera has said previously that victims of the sub-letting scams have to contact the Dubai Police and the rental dispute settlement centre.

The following checklist from Afridi & Angel, a Dubai-based law firm, will help renters to remain vigilant and avoid being scammed.

Check property ownership

Is the landlord the owner and is the property mortgaged? The landlord should exhibit the original title deed to the tenant. If the tenant has concerns, the landlord and the tenant can attend the Land Department to have the department confirm the landlord is the owner and the property is not mortgaged. If the property is mortgaged, the bank's consent is necessary before the property is leased.

No unpaid service charges

Has the landlord paid all outstanding service charges? The landlord should exhibit a current statement from the developer/the owners association confirming payment. This is important so the tenant has more comfort that the developer/owners association will not try to restrict the tenant's enjoyment of the ancillary services (e.g. the gym and the swimming pool).

Move as early as possible

Is the property in an acceptable condition? Ideally, the period between the tenant inspecting the property and the lease being signed should be as short as possible. This reduces the risk that the property will have been damaged in the interim period.

Check penalty clauses

What is the term of the lease, and does the tenant have the right to terminate the lease prior to the expiry of the term? Often the lease will state that the tenant may terminate the lease at any time, but subject to payment of two months' rent to the landlord.

Ejari mandatory

After signing the lease, the lease ought to be registered at the Dubai Land Department through the

Joint inspection before vacating

Prior to the tenant vacating the property at the end of the lease, the landlord and the tenant should both inspect the property to agree on how much deposit should be returned. If the landlord is unable to attend the inspection, the tenant could take photographic evidence of the property and submit that to the landlord. Based on the photos, the landlord may be willing to return the deposit to the tenant.

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