Dubai: Various rental scams have emerged recently as rogue real estate brokers take advantage of sliding rents to rope in victims.
In one incident in June, victims were left reeling when shadowy agents vanished after taking advance bookings and deposits from several home-seekers for the same villa in The Springs.
Another rental scam in March this year involved units in the posh Dubai Marina area, offered at fantastically low rents.
The scammer offered apartments well below the market value. The "owner" said he had gone back to London for work, but had left the contract and keys with a local broker. The agent contacted potential victims and asked for a Dh5,000 deposit via Moneygram or Western Union and promised to deliver the keys and contract by courier in 48 hours.
After residential rents tumbled 40 per cent and office rents slid by 50 per cent — as reported by CB Richard Ellis (CBRE) — in the first half of 2009, further drops in commercial and residential rents may be expected with the prevailing uncertainty.
As residents take advantage of the drop in rents, bonafide brokers urge people to check everything before writing out their cheques.
Rental scams: How to avoid them
1 Ask for the broker's ID card issued by the Real Estate Regulatory Authority (Rera). This indicates that the broker is genuine and has undergone a licensing process with the authority. A list of Rera-accredited brokers with their phone and fax numbers is available on http://rpdubai.ae/. In general, the longer the experience of the broker or his company, the higher the credibility.
2 Talk to several agents when looking for a rental unit. Brokers charge five per cent of the rent as standard "service fee", payable upon signing a rental contract. After discussing your needs with several agents, decide which one gives a good level of service, has access to suitable properties, is prepared to go the "extra mile" and locates a rental property for you.
3 Deal only with reputable companies. They are usually more professional in doing their job.
4 Ask for a copy of proof of ownership of the property being rented out. A genuine agent operates from a proper office, and can present the owner's documents (including a copy of the landlord's passport and proof of ownership).
5 Ask for a copy of the trade licence of the broker. If you sense any abuse or fraud, gather documents and immediately submit them to Rera (call centre: +971-4-222 1112 ; fax: +971-4-221 5533 or log on to http://rpdubai.ae/)
6 Always pay with a cheque and insist on receipts. When paying an advance (which can be adjusted against the deposit or agent's commission) it must be in the name of the real estate company, never in the name of the individual broker. If an agent asks for a cheque to be written in the landlord/owner's name, he must provide proper documents/authorisation — that he is authorised by the landlord to collect the money.
7 Don't issue cheques in the name of an individual. Issue cheques in the name of the company. This will prevent even licensed brokers from running away with your money. The more cheques the better (some landlords now agree to 12 cheques).
8 Read the tenancy contract carefully before signing — and make sure there are no objectionable provisions. Provisions on who pays for what — such as repairs, maintenance — shall be stipulated in the contract, which binds both parties to it.
9 Before taking possession, ask for an ‘entry condition report' to protect you against claims for damage or condition which was present before you occupied it. This must be signed by both parties. Take photographs of any damage which you're concerned about to ensure that you are not blamed for it later and get the landlord or landlord's agent to sign these immediately. Upon leaving the property, an ‘exit condition report' is completed by the tenant and landlord (or landlord's agent) and both reports must match.