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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Tens of tenants scammed out of rent after too-good-to-be-true apartment ad on Facebook

Twenty-six people responded to a Facebook ad for two-bedroom apartments for Dh20,000 but investor has disappeared with no one getting keys

Ten out of 26 people who paid a year’s rent for residential units they seen advertised on social media but then did not receive the keys for have lodged reports with Ajman Police.

Sheikh Sultan bin Abdullah Al Nuaimi, Commander-in-Chief of the force, confirmed that officers are investigating after a real estate agency placed ads for two-bedroom apartments on Facebook in July, offering units for just Dh20,000 a year, even though their actual rental value was Dh60,000.

An Emirati investor signed a lease with the building’s Saudi owner to rent the whole building for Dh4 million per year, handing over four cheques totalling that amount to the owner.

He then approached the real estate agency after he decided to rent out the cut-price units on the condition that they pay for the year’s rent upfront. Twenty-six people responded to the agency’s Facebook post and paid Dh20,000 each but before any of them could get their hands on their keys, the Saudi owner found that the first of the Emirati’s cheques bounced and is now preventing anyone from entering his building, near Ajman Corniche.

Ten of the prospective tenants affected filed cases at Al Nuaimia police station, in the same area where the agency is based.

“The testimonies of eight victims have been taken while two others are yet to give their affidavit to police soon,” said the police chief.

The manager of the real estate agency, Haitham Abdul Rahman, said they did everything by the book.

“The investor came to our agency and presented all the official documents proving that he had rented the building. He told us to advertise the units the way we did, we worked according to procedures and posted advertisements about the units as per the investor’s wish,” he said.

Twenty-six people came forward and paid the Dh20,000 in addition to Dh2,500 in agency fees each, he added.

“The investor was handed all the rental fees we received from tenants, who were given receipts and handed their contracts to get them notarised by the municipality but then, when the owner tried to cash one of the cheques issued to him by the investor and the cheque bounced, he refused to hand any of the units to the tenants,” said Mr Abdul Rahman.

The investor has since disappeared, he said.

Yafei Eid Al Faraj, general manager of the Land and Properties Department in Ajman, said that the agency should not have posted the ad on Facebook as they did not follow procedure and approach the department for a permit first. He added that the agency has also been violating rules by continuing to operate despite its trade licence expiring last year.

A number of the victims approached Ajman Municipality, which notarised their tenancy contracts so they could file cases with the rental dispute committee and with police.

Police have yet to question the building owner, the investor and people affected as the investigation is still in its infancy.