Abu Dhabi Municipality is moving steadily forward with Tawtheeq, its system to register all tenancy contracts. This welcome reform promises significant safeguards for tenants - but only for those who know it exists and expect their landlords to take part.
Tawtheeq ("documentation") requires landlords to register their rental properties - commercial and industrial as well as residential - and to use standardised contracts for each lease agreement.
Rolled out last November, the system has so far registered over 200,000 leasable properties in the Municipality, leaving as many as 100,000 still to go to meet the goal of 100 per cent.
Municipal officials say the system should expose fraudulent dealings and ambiguity in the tenancy system. The knowledge of official oversight of rental contracts will be reassuring for tenants, especially newcomers, who can face challenges in negotiating with property agents.
When a year's rent must be paid in advance, as is common in the UAE, tenants have good reason to want to know the terms and provisions of a lease exactly, and in detail. Ambiguity can serve landlords better than tenants, even when both sides are acting in good faith. And precision matters even more when either side is tempted to cheat.
For tenants, the beauty of the system is that the paperwork burden falls only on landlords, who must register and meet requirements. A tenant has to do nothing but expect the landlord to produce a Tawtheeq-standard lease form. A Tawtheeq-compliant document will soon be required before a tenant can obtain water and electricity supply for a premises; there is, however, some flexibility about this for units whose owners have not yet registered with Tawtheeq.
Standard forms and clarity about terms and obligations simplify life for everyone - including, we dare say, the rental disputes committee, distinct from Tawtheeq, that is affiliated with the judicial department.
For the Municipality, meanwhile, Tawtheeq will be useful to fight illicit subletting, a practice deemed potentially dangerous and unhealthy. Such arrangements cannot be Tawtheeq-approved or registered.
Tawtheeq gives every appearance of being rolled out successfully. Abu Dhabi Municipality has created a valuable service for all who rent; now it is just up to tenants to take advantage of it.