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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 December 2018

Homefront: Dubai resident struggling to verify title deeds fears landlord rental scam

While the potential tenant has received scanned copies of various documents, he wants to be extra cautious

Off-plan residential sales in Dubai last year were at their highest level since the 2008 financial crisis, with their share of total transactions rising to 60 per cent in 2017 from 10 per cent in 2010. Sarah Dea / The National
Off-plan residential sales in Dubai last year were at their highest level since the 2008 financial crisis, with their share of total transactions rising to 60 per cent in 2017 from 10 per cent in 2010. Sarah Dea / The National

I am looking to move into a new apartment and have found a great deal, however, I have some doubts about the transaction and the way it is being carried out. This property is located in Downtown Dubai and I have received scanned copies of:

1. Rera (Real Estate Regulatory Agency) licence of the company

2. Rera licence of the owner of the company

3. Passport of both landlords

4. Title deed of the property

According to the agent, the owner currently lives in Oman and will only travel to Dubai to sign the contract. I would not have access to the original documents until then. Based on several blogs and articles, I have tried to get the title deed verified by several entities but they will not agree to do it. The registration trustees said they only do it for clients and the Dubai Land Department (DLD) said they only provide such a service to the owner or the Power of Attorney (PoA). Using the provided title deed, I entered the data on the DLD e-service portal, which did not return any result. I believe I haven’t completed the details as required as I could not verify the apartment I am currently residing at either. How can I proceed on this issue? SS, Dubai

The only way to verify a title deed is exactly how you have already tried, ie via the e-services portal. If this is still not bringing you the desired results, I suggest you personally visit the DLD to explain your concerns about verifying documents to ensure you will be writing cheques to the correct people. Despite the DLD offering this service only to owners or PoAs, you will most probably be able to get clarification.

The only other suggestion would be to make the verification of the title deed a condition of you signing the rental contract, therefore putting the burden of proof back on to the owner. If he is not willing to do this, I suggest you look for another property. Rental scams are becoming rarer but they do still happen, so it is important to be vigilant and carry out due diligence. If a deal looks too good to be true, it often is.

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I moved out of my apartment in November last year, and received an e-mail confirmation of the amount of money we were due to get back from the landlord. Since then, they have used every excuse under the sun to not return the deposit to us. Is there anything we can do to legally to get them to pay us back? VH, Dubai

I do not know exactly what sort of communication you have had with the landlord, but what I can see is that you have been legitimately waiting for the return of your deposit since last year. The only way of attempting to legally close this chapter would be to initially threaten to file a case at the Rental Dispute Settlement Committee. Then if that doesn’t work, you need to actually file the case. The cost to do so is 3.5 per cent of the annual rental amount. From an economical point of view, you will have to weigh up the cost of opening the case against the value of the deposit. In reality, the party that wins is also normally awarded costs too but this is not always guaranteed.

Mario Volpi is the chief sales officer for Kensington Exclusive Properties and has worked in the property industry for over 30 years in London and Dubai. The opinions expressed do not constitute legal advice and are provided for information only. Please send any questions to mario.volpi@kensington.ae