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A couple of weeks ago, Gerard was filled with both trepidation and excitement at the thought of moving into a two-bedroom townhouse he could not afford to rent years ago.

"It's not only bigger than the old flat, it has a private garden. Now I can grow my own herbs and vegetables," he announced shortly before the big move.

However, the initial enthusiasm was somewhat dampened when he realised there were actually a few things he had not anticipated. Barely three days after he settled in, the European expat discovered he had not only inherited some broken appliances in the house, he had unwittingly burned a hole in his pocket.

Sometimes tenants tend to forget that changing homes is not only a stressful, but also a costly activity. Moving is not just about hiring packers or renting a truck to transfer treasured belongings and heavy furniture. It also means paying fees, from the basics such as utility and security deposits, to the unexpected. For many residents in the UAE, the costs can range from Dh500 to more than Dh16,000.

And in the case of Gerard, here's how he racked up the tab.

Growing tab

After signing the tenancy contract, he paid the Dh12,500 security deposit and real estate agency fee. With the landlord's assurance that the house would be ready and clean before the big move, Gerard then made a dash for the Dubai Electricity and Water Authority (Dewa) to activate the utility connections. Dewa billed him Dh1,016.78 to do so.

On top of the basic fee, however, he paid an additional Dh144. It turned out, the apartment's previous tenant failed to pay his final utility bills. "Luckily, it was just a little over Dh100. It would have been worse if the balance was Dh5,000," he recalled.

With the water and electricity supply activated, he then had a team of more than half a dozen people packing up all his goods, from heavy furnishings to shirts. He wasn't moving very far, but since he was determined not to lift anything other than his treasured electronic gadgets, the full-service move cost him Dh2,000, excluding the Dh100 tip.

Before he could move in, however, Gerard had to secure new access cards to get in and out of the property. That cost him Dh200. Moving on from the access cards, he headed to a key shop to have some keys copied.

"The shop would not reproduce a copy of the main door key, saying it's not allowed by law." Left without a choice, he called up a locksmith to change the locks. He paid another Dh200.

Gerard also discovered the house was not ready and it still required some serious scrubbing and floor cleaning. The unexpected cleanup cost him Dh215.

After a stressful day of running around and liaising with the movers, Gerard was finally able to relax in his new house, but not before finding out that more than a couple of lights were busted. The next day, he learned that the fridge and electric stove needed some urgent repairs as well.

"If any of them needs to be replaced, I'll have to contact the landlord. I'm not going to pay for any of this anymore," he said.

Since he still had to turn over his old apartment to the landlord — and hopefully get his security deposit back — Gerard also booked a professional cleaning company to get the empty unit ready. The three-hour cleanup cost him another Dh200.

Looking at what he had gone through in the last few days, Gerard thought just how many hidden expenses he had not anticipated. So far, the move has cost him more than Dh16,000, and he's still counting. "It's been two years since I last moved so I had forgotten what it's like."

Joanna Agnew, another UAE resident who recently moved into a two-bedroom flat, had prepared to shell out more than a moving truck, but the added expenses still put a dent in the wallet.

"We had anticipated [the costs] but they were slightly higher than expected and have had to be quite abstemious for the last months as I'm now broke," the British expat said.

Agnew left her old flat that she was renting for Dh120,000 a year because it was too small and she was not quite happy with the facilities. Since the move, Agnew has spent a little over Dh14,000 in associated expenses.


She needed to transfer her internet connection to her new flat, so Agnew booked a technician to do so. The disconnection and installation services cost her about Dh500. Fortunately, since she was moving into a brand-new apartment, there were no other unsettled utility bills to take care of, so Dewa cost her only about Dh1,000.

Agnew did not opt for a full-service move and a three-man team who took care of all the big-ticket items cost her only about Dh500. "We ended up tipping a lot more than expected, " she recalled.

However, since her new flat is so much bigger, she ended up purchasing another table for Dh600 and a sofa for Dh1,000. And although she didn't have the old apartment cleaned, she still hired a maid to get the new one ready for Dh140.

Although Ma Jasmin Solon from the Philippines did not spend as much since she only had a few things to move into a small rented bedroom, and she did not pay any utility or security deposits, there were still a few hidden fees she had overlooked in the budget. So far, she has spent more than 10 per cent of her monthly salary on hidden costs. "That doesn't include the rent yet, so there wasn't much left of my previous pay," she says.

One of the things that ruined the budget was the movers she hired.

"It was a small-time company. We agreed on a certain amount and when they were already in the process of packing, they complained my bed was heavier than they had expected.

"When they reached my new place, they refused to assemble the bed, so I was forced to increase the fee to Dh500," she says.

"I felt I got ripped off because they only moved a few items. Although they provided some boxes, I had to buy a huge cargo box and some clean plastic bags to ensure some of my valuables were properly packed."

"Then, I called a technician to connect my washing machine to the water and electricity supply. That cost me Dh180. And since the new apartment doesn't have enough cabinets, I bought a storage rack. And that's not all. Later, I called a handyman to drill the wall so I could fix my mirror. The additional expenses seemed endless."

Household expenses

For Latha Ganes from India, moving into a new apartment could mean an increase in certain household expenses. Ganes and his family will be moving into a new apartment next month.

"Since we're moving a little away from my kids' school and my husband's office, the transport fees will be a little higher." So far, Ganes has already incurred more than Dh5,000 in basic fees, from building deposit to utility connection fees.

"There are indeed a lot of costs involved in moving and we did not anticipate this because honestly speaking, I've totally forgotten about it. What is good, though is that the new rent is almost 50 per cent cheaper than the previous one, so I don't mind paying the hidden fees. We'd still be able to save in the long run."