Expert advice: How to avoid renting an illegal property

As part of our Sunday Series, every week, we bring you a new expert advice column to make the most of your life in Abu Dhabi. This week, Alan Kaye, director of business development at District Real Estate, tells us about illegal properties in the capital and how you can steer clear of them. 

Two recent questions from ADW readers have prompted me to write an article on illegal properties.

John had lived in his apartment in Khalifa City for just over four months. He rented it directly from the landlord and as it included all outgoings including internet access it seemed to be very good value.

Except in December,  just as he was about to go to work, the watchman told him that he would have to leave that evening and the electricity would be switched off at midday.

When he left the watchman gave him back his security deposit (they had not cashed the cheque) but he has still not received back the rent that he paid upfront and the landlord seems to have disappeared.

Another reader, Zarina, lives in a newish tower block in the city. She rented through an agent but all payments including water, electricity and internet access were made direct to the landlord.

She moved in last November, has a standard lease contract for one year and has paid everything upfront.

She has just been served with a notice that the bank has foreclosed on the building due to unpaid loans and while being allowed to stay for the meantime, she will have to renegotiate her rent and will be issued with a new lease.

The landlord and the agent have, needless to say, both disappeared.

Sadly there are still far too many cases like this in Abu Dhabi. As the saying goes, ‘If it looks too good to be true, it most probably is’.

There are of course lessons to be learned. The first one is to use the services of a reputable real estate company when looking for a property. 

Check that the company is registered with the municipality and if you are unsure, ask to see a copy of the certificate and trade licence prior to handing over any money.

All legal properties connect the tenant to their water and electricity supply in the name of the tenant, not the landlord. 

Tenants should also be issued with a Tawtheeq contract, which is a document issued by the municipality, that specifies all the details of the property including the name of the landlord and the tenant.

A reputable real estate agent will be able to assist in ensuring that Tawtheeq is issued to the tenant.

Unfortunately, renting in Abu Dhabi is still very much ‘caveat emptor’ ( buyer beware) in some cases. 

Always seek expert advice and take all necessary precautions to avoid potentials problems and loss of money down the road.

Alan regularly answers your property questions in Abu Dhabi World. You can ask for his advice by sending an email to For more information, visit: