Toby Young has been rather unlucky when it comes to renting properties. The Briton moved to Dubai six years ago, and has had to deal with a problem almost every year since.
One year his landlord failed to pay the service charge, leaving Mr Young unable to access certain services in his building.
Another landlord wanted to increase the rent with no notice, and another gave him 60 days’ notice of a rental increase instead of the required 90 days.
His last two issues have been with his current landlord.
Each time he fought his landlords and won. So last year he decided to leave his job as an oil broker to put his knowledge of property rights to good use.
“Having picked up that experience from going to Rera [Real Estate Regulatory Agency] a number of times and having different landlords who wanted to do different things, I came upon the idea that you could build something that will help people, that will be able to offer advice,” says Mr Young.
“From there I initially sketched out the idea and, over time, it has developed and evolved into what we have today.”
That is propertyrights.ae, a website designed to advise tenants and landlords in Dubai on their legal rights for a Dh100 fee.
Customers fill in a form, giving details such as their email address and information about their tenancy contract. Mr Young designed the process behind the system, which is fully automated.
“As soon as their details are in, it sits there on our database. I do nothing with those details unless they tell me something is incorrect – in which case I will go in and change it,” he says.
If tenants sign up when they take out their residency contract, they receive an email six months later setting out the maximum rent increase and maximum rent chargeable, as per Rera calculations.
With four months left on the contract they will receive another email explaining that they have 30 days left to be told of any rental increases or changes to the contract.
Once that period expires, they have 90 days left on their contract and it is no longer legal for a landlord to change any part of the contract, including the rental cost.
“A lot of people don’t know that and they don’t understand exactly how the rule works because there are all sorts of rules that have changed over the years that people get confused with. If someone goes looking for that information it takes time to find,” says Mr Young.
“If you want to find out all the relevant information with the laws there is a 30-page document that you can read. Our way of sending it out has that narrowed down to a page or a page and a half. The emails are timed to reach people, so they are aware of what can happen before they need to be.”
Propertyrights.ae has a “few hundred” subscribers presently, a figure that is slowly growing, according to Mr Young.
He hopes the number will increase substantially with the help of partnerships with real estate agents, who will sign up to use the system and send the information out to tenants and landlords.
But will they be interested? Some property agents agree there is a need for a site setting out everything that tenants and landlords need to know.
Leigh Borg, the sales director of Belleview Real Estate in Dubai, says many of his friends call him for advice because they are not fully aware of their rights.
“I think anything to give a tenant peace of mind and help them fully understand their rights is a good thing. They should obviously have been informed by the agency when they take on the unit, but sometimes they don’t always receive the information,” he says.
However, the information is available online if they want to find it. “There is a lot more information freely available now. As a tenant and a landlord, you should know your rights fully and what the laws are,” says Mr Borg.
Landlords can also take advantage of propertyrights.ae. Those who sign up as customers receive regular emails with relevant information about their rights tailored to their needs at key points throughout the tenancy. They are also kept informed of all relevant legal changes for Dh100 per tenancy contract.
Most, but not all, people are interested in using the service for what it was intended for.
“We have had queries from people who are trying to work around the law even if the tenant has kept within it, and we have to explain that the law is there to protect everyone,” says Mr Young.
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