x Abu Dhabi, UAE Thursday 20 July 2017

Register properties for a fairer market

Tawtheeq, Abu Dhabi's new registry system for tenancy contracts, is wonderfully promising. But some practical issues remain to be considered

Renters' complaints regarding outrageous agent commissions and illegal subdivisions have not gone unnoticed.

For the past few months, Abu Dhabi Municipality has been working on a programme to tackle some of the problems that the property sector has been facing. Tawtheeq, a database that owners can use to register their properties, aims to standardise rental contracts, keep track of tenancy contracts and deter illegal activities.

This week the Municipality announced that it will be partnering with the Department of Economic Development, the Department of Transport and Abu Dhabi Distribution Company to further push landlords and property management companies to use Tawtheeq. By the end of this year, new tenants must have the standardised rental contracts. If they don't, tenants won't have access to crucial services such as utilities, parking and, for commercial spaces, trade licences.

Theoretically, Tawtheeq could change the property market for good. There should not be unregistered freelance agents charging exorbitant amounts for showing a few apartments. And tenants could avoid health and safety hazards resulting from illegal subdivisions. If the plan is implemented, the property market should be more transparent, accurate and convenient, improving public and customer confidence.

But is it farfetched to aim for the end of this year? If the landlords don't register, the tenants won't get the necessary services. But what will happen to non-compliant landlords under the current scheme? Nothing.

The Municipality has no clear plans to fine those who do not register or use the new contracts. And the landlords have few incentives to register, considering that it costs Dh1,000 per property, and then fees to register, renew or modify a contract of between Dh50 and Dh100.

And so, once again, the burden falls on the tenants - not the landlords. It is the responsibility of the renters to check if the properties they are interested in are registered through Tawtheeq. If they are not, they have to urge their soon-to-be landlords to do so or find other places to live.

If the burden is not shared between the landlords and tenants, there will surely be more complaints to come from the tenants - this time, about no electricity or water.