PROPERTY: Find out all there is to know about Tawtheeq and how it affects you

Ben Crompton, managing partner at Crompton Estate Agents, explains what a Tawtheeq agreement is and how to avoid signing up to illegal accommodation


In 2013, Abu Dhabi introduced the Tawtheeq system to regulate the tenancy market in the emirate.

The Tawtheeq Agreement itself is the form generated by the municipality when a tenancy contract is entered into, containing the details of the owner, tenant and property. This agreement is used by various Abu Dhabi government departments to determine if people have enough room in their accommodation to sponsor their spouses, children and maids. It is also used when enrolling children in schools to ensure they are living in registered accommodation and when connecting your water and electricity.

The Tawtheeq system supposedly has every leasable unit in Abu Dhabi registered into it. Units not registered should not be leased. This has the dual purpose of forcing unregistered units to be listed into the system and to stop unapproved units being leased out.

But what we’ve seen is the emergence of a sub-class of illegal, Tawtheeq-less property being leased to people who do not need the municipality contract to sponsor their family, and who cannot afford, or don’t want to pay for, legal accommodation.

These units are usually in illegally subdivided villas that have been converted, often without the relevant municipal and safety approvals, into apartments. These villas are often rented by “investors” from the landlord on long leases, split up and let individually.

Understanding the risks

People inhabiting Tawtheeq-less split villas face several risks. The municipality could shut the villa down and evict the tenants.

There may be a dispute between the tenant and the landlord, and the tenant will find it much harder to enforce terms against the owner if he doesn’t have a municipality registered Tawtheeq Agreement.

If the tenant is leasing from an “investor” then his contract is with that person and not the landlord, so the tenant has no legal relationship with the owner of the property and fewer legal rights.

Finally, illegal splitting of villas poses a significant fire risk. If a villa has been illegally subdivided, it will likely not have a high standard of electrical wiring or be properly fire rated with outside fire exits and fire extinguishers. Don’t take the risk.

Protect yourself

Be careful when renting a split villa if the agent/owner tells you it has Tawtheeq. Some tenants are duped into leasing a unit when they are told it has Tawtheeq only to pay their cheques and find out the agreement is for the whole villa and not for their specific unit. Make sure you clarify that you want Tawtheeq for your specific unit and ask to see the Tawtheeq registration certificate, which is issued by the municipality when the unit is registered (although very few landlords have these). Keep in mind that sometimes landlords of villas don’t pay their transfer fees to the municipality when they buy them, and then there will be no Tawtheeq.

Know the law on sharing. Sharing legal accommodation (accommodation with Tawtheeq) is perfectly legal but only if you have the landlord’s consent. However, you must ensure that you are no more than three people to a room, a maximum of six people in a villa (unless family), all of the same sex (unless family) and not more than one family unit per property. There is no limit to the number of people who can live in an apartment as long as you observe the limit of three per room but halls, living rooms and kitchens are not to be occupied.

Make sure you rent from the owner. A large number of evictions in recent times have been as a result of “investors” defaulting on their rents to the owner of the villas. The investor leaves the country and the owner arrives at his villas to find them illegally subdivided and being rented as apartments. Those tenants have a contract with the investor, who has now disappeared. The landlord has no obligation to them and reports them to the municipality who clear them out; they lose their rents, security deposits and accommodation. Make sure the owner signs your lease agreement and you can tell who the owner is by asking for the municipality site plan of the villa, which will have his name.

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