Beware of UAE's Real Estate Scams

UAE, Dubai in particular, has been a great attraction for tourism, investment and relocation alike. Its lavish lifestyle, luxurious accommodations and awe-inspiring infrastructure being the major reason large numbers of people, from all over the world, are fascinated with the idea of residing in UAE. This is why the property market has always been the most flourishing out of all. No matter how much people talk about and demand for the availability of affordable housing, it seems that UAE’s luxurious properties never run short of buyers.

As reported by Khaleej Times on its website on April 26,2017, transactions worth Dh 3.4 billion have been made in the prime residential market of Dubai during the first quarter of this year i.e. 2017. The report further stated that 70% of the total transactions accounted for apartments sales. Furthermore, transactions worth about Dh1 billion were registered with regard to sales of high-end, luxurious villas only, during the same period.

These statistics are indicating towards the fact that Dubai’s real estate market has regained its status after going through a comparatively lower period in 2015 and 2016.

Khaleej Times also reported that the demand for off-plan (property, usually an apartment, sold before its complete construction), luxury real estate in UAE has now increased to such a high level that it has outstripped supply.

The Dark Side of UAE’s Real Estate

Beneath the glorious feats of the country lies a dark and gloomy side that the Emiratis and the rulers of UAE do not talk about simply because they do not want the world to see what’s lying behind the glitz and glamour. But, we all have heard numerous stories about human rights abuse, exploitation of laborers and other migrant workers and the numerous kinds of scams tourists and immigrants become victims of.

Real Estate scams are also highly common in UAE and immigrants and migrant workers are the main targets as they are easy to fool because of their lack of knowledge about the country’s laws. Both renters and buyers are targeted by fraudsters in numerous kinds of property scams.

Online Frauds

Let’s imagine a scenario; you are in Dubai and you are looking for a decent accommodation to rent. While searching online, you find a really good property that not only has a good listing, but is also under your budget. Above all, the place looks quite good in pictures. What more do you want?

You immediately send a message to the landlord, who quickly replies. Unfortunately, the landlord tells you that he/she is out of town and hence, could not show you the property in real. You are also told that since a lot of people are interested in renting the property, whoever first pays the deposit money will get it. For you, the property is ideal in every manner and you don’t want to miss it out so, you immediately pay the money online and then wait for further response from the landlord. However, it is very likely that you never hear anything from the landlord after making the payment. You keep waiting, but to no avail because the person did not have any property at the first place. To your dismay, you have been scammed and have lost a handsome amount of money. Welcome to UAE!  

Beware Of Fake Deals and Forged Papers

Although it is advised to always meet the agent or the landlord in person and to visit the property before renting it, real estate fraudsters in UAE seem to be a step ahead of the buyers, renters and the Real Estate Regulatory Agency. They have devised a new strategy to deceive and rob the people looking for an accommodation on rent.

For another type of real estate scam, the landlords and the property agents have joined hands and target numerous people at the same time.

Let’s imagine another scenario. You get in touch with a real estate agent and you asked for a place to rent. Having heard of all the online scams, you insist upon meeting him/her in person and the agent agrees without any reluctance.

The agent takes you to the site, shows you the house/ apartment and even makes you meet the landlord. You like the place and you can’t find anything wrong so you finalize the deal, pay the advance deposit (in some cases advance rent as well) and the agent’s commission. You even receive a contract and the receipt of the payment and you are relieved and happy that everything went smoothly.   

After few days, as you are ready to move to your new house, you call the agent and find the number powered off/ unreachable. You then dial the landlord’s number and get surprised to find it unavailable as well. Giving them the benefit of doubt you go to the apartment/ house you have just rented only to find someone else living there. You are taken aback to know the person already living at the property has also recently rented the place and he/she too has the contract and the receipt.

This is another type of real estate fraud that is prevalent in UAE. Many bogus agents and landlords trick hundreds of people by renting out the same property to multiple families at the same time and then they simply turn off their cell phones and disappear.

This means that in UAE, when you are visiting a property for rent, meeting the landlord, finalizing the deal and making the payment, it is very likely that many other people are following the same process for the same place.

About 211 such property fraud cases were investigated by the police, in Abu Dhabi alone, from the beginning of 2013 to the first quarter of 2014, as reported by The National, UAE.

One way to avoid being cheated this way, it is advised to register the lease contract with the municipality of the Emirate.