For most new residents to the UAE, the biggest headache will be finding somewhere to live.
Unless your company is generous enough to provide you with accommodation, be prepared for a long trawl through the small ads and a lot of legwork.
Although there are bargains to be had, accommodation in the UAE compared to other parts of the world can seem expensive and restrictive with properties in central Abu Dhabi among the most costly.
Indeed, because of disparity in rents between the capital and Dubai, many people who work in Abu Dhabi decide to commute from the neighbouring emirate.
Those who do this argue they are saving more in rent and getting more for their money. However, they face a daily commute of more than an hour each way and the added fuel costs.
What to look for
Like anywhere else in the world the key thing to remember is your budget and how much of your income you are prepared to give away each year in rent. Prices vary but you will still want to enjoy a quality of life.
If you are on your own in the UAE you will have more freedom of choice in where you live. Strictly speaking, it is illegal for an apartment to be leased to an unmarried couple.
Some landlords will advertise flats that are actually converted villas and a few of these may have been converted illegally. Be wary of illegally-converted villas; the municipality has evicted tenants after inspecting housing.
Abu Dhabi Municipality has also clamped down on the illegal portioning of villas.
In Dubai, bachelors have founds themselves evicted from villas in areas designated for families. The landlords of these villas face a Dh1,000 fine if they continue to rent to bachelors.
If you are looking at an apartment that you suspect might have been illegally converted ask to see its water meter. If the villa was converted with the appropriate permissions, each apartment will have its own utilities.
Be aware when looking at unfinished apartments. Many construction projects fall behind schedule and you could find yourself paying rent for something that is uninhabitable for some time, despite the promises of landlords.
Where to look
Other avenues of inquiry are noticeboards in supermarkets popular with expatriates, such as Spinneys.
If these do not prove fruitful there are plenty of letting agents you can approach to do the research for you. However, the properties on their books could be no better, or worse, than places you have found yourself.
Another thing to bear in mind when using an agent is the ‘finder’s fee’ that is involved, which is typically five per cent of the annual rent.
Paying the rent
Rents are normally paid annually, which can place a huge burden on the lessee. Often employers assist by covering the yearly rent then docking your salary on a monthly basis, but if you used an agent, be prepared to cover their fee yourself.
The standard rental term in the UAE is 12 months but, because of the market in Dubai at the moment, some landlords are prepared to take a series of cheques for a set period.
The advantage of this is that it makes payments more manageable and there are no third parties involved but the annual cost tends to be higher.
Also, under UAE law, a bounced cheque is a criminal offence and can land you in jail.
As the average rental term is 12 months, be prepared to effectively be ‘locked in’ to that property for a year. A lease is a contract that can only be terminated early if the landlord agrees.
If you find yourself with an unscrupulous landlord this could be a problem.
The Abu Dhabi Water and Electricity Authority (ADWEA) is responsible for utility connections in the emirate, and customers looking to open an account or get a new connection need to visit a branch of its subsidiary, the Abu Dhabi Distribution Company (www.addc.ae).
New customers to the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (DEWA) can apply online to request power and water to be connected. Alternatively, you can apply in person.
In both cases new customers will need:
A copy of their passport and residence visa
A copy of their tenancy agreement
A Dh1,000 refundable deposit