DUBAI // To avoid falling for a similar scam, experts recommend renters insist on seeing the title deed as well as evidence that the lease agreement has been registered with the Dubai Land Department.
Obtaining proof that an estate agent is registered with the Real Estate Regulatory Agency (Rera), is also vital, said Alexis Waller, a partner at the law firm Clyde & Co.
"When a tenant is taking on a lease, they should always ask for a copy of evidence of the landlord's ownership of the premises. If the landlord owns the premises, he should have a title deed issued by the Dubai Land Department to show this.
"If the landlord himself does not own the premises and instead leases from a head landlord who owns the premises, a copy of the lease should be disclosed, along with the head landlord's title deed. The lease should be carefully checked to see if subleasing is permitted as this is often restricted in leases."
As per Dubai law, agents must be registered with Rera. The tenants should ask for registration details of the agent, and check them on the Rera website. The operating licence of the estate agency can also be cross-checked to ensure it is licenced to work in property, Ms Waller said.
In March 2010, Rera announced that all rental contracts should be registered at the Ejari - "my rent" - online portal, www.ejari.ae, in order to protect both parties in event of a dispute, and to ensure the same property was not rented out twice.
In the Shamyana case, if the lease agreement was registered under the Ejari scheme, the illegal subletting may have been detected earlier since Shamyana would not have been able to present the ownership proof required.
Ms Waller advised residents to confirm the timeframe when the lease would be registered under Ejari after being signed.
"Market practice is for landlords to undertake this but for the tenant to pay the fee of Dh190," she said. "Registration is required under the law but the law does not stipulate who is responsible for doing it. Tenants can register if the landlord fails to do so, but cannot register on-line, which many agents and landlords are set up for. Tenants need to attend the allocated typing centres to register their tenancy contracts."
All registered agents are listed on www.dubailand.gov.ae.