DUBAI // Soaring rents in Dubai are forcing tenants into major lifestyle changes.
Some say they may have to leave the city for cheaper homes, while others say they could be forced to move back to their parents' homes.
Many have called the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (Rera) to stall increases of between 30 and 50 per cent since last year.
"We're thinking of moving out of Dubai," said Belinda, 37, a South African who lives in a three-bedroom villa in Jumeirah Village Circle.
"If the cost of living is going to be so high and your salaries don't increase, why stay here?"
Her landlord tried to double the Dh75,000 rent midway through the contract after the family renewed in January with no change.
They have been asked sign a new contract for Dh150,000 a year or the landlord will not do any maintenance work on the property.
"I think with the rental market in Dubai at the moment they're being very greedy," Belinda said. "Our AC is not working properly and I have to do the maintenance myself."
Hiba, 28, moved out of her family home in Abu Dhabi to her own flat in Downtown Dubai. But after the landlord warned of his plan to raise the rent from Dh75,000 to Dh105,000 on renewal in August, she has begun searching for places in Garhoud or Tecom.
"It's not an ideal scenario to move back with family and commute every single day," said Hiba, who works in advertising.
"I'm trying to avoid that option by keeping on looking for something cheaper because we work really late and it would be tiring to drive all the way back.
"It's insanely crazy with prices much higher from just last year."
A report released by property management company Asteco says apartment rents have risen by 28 per cent since the same period last year and villa rentals by 17 per cent.
Sales prices also shot up by 38 per cent for flats and 24 per cent for villas, the report said.
Agents say the trend began early last year when a growing number of expatriates bought property because of instability at home in Syria, Egypt, Libya and Yemen.
Rents surged again late last year after an economic revival and increased demand. But tenants say their salaries have not risen.
"It doesn't make sense to live in Dubai any more. What will you earn and what will you save?" said KI, who this month agreed to a rent rise of Dh25,000 to Dh110,000 for a flat in The Greens.
"I know if I go out and look, any new place will cost up to Dh150,000, plus I will have to pay for transport and agent's commission.
"It's more of a hassle to move so I may as well pay more and stay put."
Many are aware of their rights or have called Rera to check the rules.
Palm Jumeirah resident Ann did not receive any feedback when she emailed the landlord asking about rental changes three months before her contract was due for renewal.
Three weeks before renewal she was told to pay Dh145,000, up from the Dh120,000 last year.
"I called Rera and asked what are my rights and Rera was quite helpful," said Ann, a marketing professional who has lived in Dubai since 2008. "I was told the landlord was not allowed to do this and there must be a 90-day notice before increase of any rent. So we basically ended up with no rental increase.
"We had thought we would pay an increase to renew and had asked much ahead, but this sort of increase three weeks before renewal, they just can't do that."
* With additional reporting by Vivian Nereim