x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Abu Dhabi winning the battle against property fraud, say officials

According to the municipality, more than 200,000 units in Abu Dhabi are registered with its Tawtheeq programme created to regulate the market and protect the rights of tenants and landlords.

Around two thirds of Abu Dhabi's leasable properties are now registered with the municipality's Tawtheeq programme.
Around two thirds of Abu Dhabi's leasable properties are now registered with the municipality's Tawtheeq programme.

ABU DHABI // The municipality believes awareness is key to the success of its Tawtheeq programme, whereby landlords register their properties.

The purpose of Tawtheeq is to regulate the market, reduce fraud and protect both tenants and landlords, and officials believe once landlords are aware of the benefits they will be more likely to participate.

Ali Khaled Al Hashmi, Tawtheeq project manager, said a majority of problems between landlords and tenants are due to fraud.

"First is the transparency, the majority of disputes between tenants and landlords because of unclear agreements, changes in the terms and conditions that happens after signing the contract, uncertainty about the legality of the tenancy agreements," he said.

It is not unusual to find fraud anywhere in the country. Tenants pay brokers to find legal properties and on occasion the brokers abscond with the funds.

Tawtheeq requires the registration of all leasable properties in Abu Dhabi emirate, including residential, commercial and industrial units.

The municipality is aware there are illegally partitioned villas and commercial ventures being run out of residential spaces. But the intent is not to penalise but to help all those involved in a real estate transaction.

"So with Tawtheeq, we protect the rights for tenants and legitimise the rights of landlords," he said.

Since the implementation of the programme in November 2011, there has been a significant reduction in the number of fraudulent activities involving leasable property.

In less than a year, the municipality registered 45 per cent of leasable properties.

"Our target is to complete 100 per cent," Mr Al Hashmi said. "It's a long-time benefit project. In our three-year strategic plans we hope to achieve our objectives."

According to the municipality, more than 200,000 units are registered with Tawtheeq. There are approximately 280,000 to 300,000 leasable units in Abu Dhabi.

Mr Al Hashmi said it was the agency's intent to register all properties.

He cautioned that not everyone who claims to represent a landlord does so legally, and the agency has reduced fraud by requiring registered contracts.

"We have advertised heavily and will continue to advertise heavily. In a change management it's important to engage the people. We are trying to engage them by telling them its importance," Mr Al Hashmi said.

The municipality received plenty of breach of contract complaints before Tawtheeq was introduced, but they are not "the party of resolving or receiving disputes", he said. There is a rental dispute committee that is affiliated with the judicial department that handles disputes.

But transparency at the time of an agreement would help to reduce the number of rental disputes overall.

The municipality does not issue a tenancy contract, but instead deals with landlords or their legal representatives.

"Many landlords who know they did not get appropriate permits from the municipality, they lease their properties to people who are willing to live without getting a registered tenancy contract." Mr Al Hashmi said. "This is why it's very crucial to educate tenants."

Some villas, he said, may not have the proper permits.

"For instance, my permit is to build a villa but I have divided it into multiple units without taking the legal permits from the respective entities of the municipality."

All tenants have right to ask for a registered contract from the municipality.

"If a landlord says, I can not give a registered legal tenancy contract, it's definitely an indication for the tenants that something is wrong with this property," he said.

anwar@thenational.ae