Image Credit: Supplied

DUBAI Hundreds of tenants face eviction after falling for what could be one of the biggest rental scams in the country in recent years, XPRESS has learnt.

A dodgy property agent has done a runner after illegally amassing millions of dirhams in a leasing rip-off that left both tenants and landlords in shock. 
Victims have ranted about their ordeal on social media, and a number of landlords have lodged complaints with the Dubai Municipality’s Rent Committee against H.M.K., 43. Victims have also lodged a police case against the suspect.

The elaborate con job was pulled off with careful planning, said victims, who claimed the suspect is a Saudi national, based on the passport copy he gave them (which could be fake).

It turned out that the suspect had been subletting hundreds of units claiming he was the landlord. 
In reality, however, the properties were only leased by him from various owners.

“He spoke flawless English,” said property owner Jimmy Mariano whose one-bedroom unit at the Burj Loft near the Burj Khalifa has been leased for over two years by the suspect, who paid on a monthly basis.

Last month, the suspect asked to retrieve his personal cheques given earlier to Mariano and replace them with company cheques covering the rent from August 2012 to January 2013. Mariano agreed after the suspect claimed someone stole his (H.M.K’s) personal cheques.

“I believed him as he seemed a decent man and he’s been a trouble-free tenant for over two years,” said Mariano. However, the cheque dated August 31 bounced on September 3.

When Mariano went to the Rent Committee on Tuesday, he bumped into other landlords and tenants who had the same story.

Mariano said: “The authorities told me I cannot open my unit until I’ve followed the legal protocol, which would take at least a month to complete.”

He said the conman presented his passport copy bearing his Saudi nationality to landlords and tenants. 
The suspect’s company, Shamyana Entertainment Services, has built a reputation for being a reliable agent, though its licence is only for event management. The company’s Tecom office is now shut.

“I was threatened by the broker on behalf of the owner that unless I paid up the entire Dh60,000 all over again, they would throw me out,” said John, an Australian consultant who gave his rent in a single cheque to Shamyana two weeks ago to renew his lease on a one-bedroom flat in The Greens.

He started renting from Shamyana in August 2011. “The contract I signed was between him (suspect) as the landlord and myself as the tenant. He apologised and said that due to some technical issues he had to lease it through his entertainment company.”

“I consulted with a friend who was actually renting from Shamyana as well, and said that he’d never had a problem with them. I believed him and went ahead and signed the rental lease, paid Dh5,000 as deposit and gave him a one-year cheque for Dh60,000.”

“Then early last month, when my contract expired, I renewed it and gave him another cheque for Dh60,000 ... Clearly this man has been subletting and conducting all sorts of illegal operations.

“All I can do now is speak to the owner and try to reach an amicable agreement with them. Or else I have to move out and pay all over again for another year’s rent elsewhere.”

Another victim, Joanne Worman, a paralegal from South Africa, said: “Early this year, I found a one-bedroom apartment in Old Town that seemed perfect for me. I rented it through Noor Al Fajr Real Estate in February 2012. I paid them the entire rent of Dh70,000 in one cheque, plus another cheque of Dh3,500 as their agency fees and Dh3,500 deposit in cash to be given to the landlord.

“When I went to sign the lease, the name of the landlord on my contract was Shamyana, owned by this man. The supporting documents I received were Shamyana’s trade licence and the passport copy of the suspect. When I asked for the RERA details and title deed, I was told that Shamyana did not have it, but that they are a reputable company and, foolishly, I trusted them. It’s appalling that Shamyana has been sub-letting illegally for such a long time and has now totally disappeared with all our money.”