Property ownership laws in Dubai
This page last edited April 2007 and is in dire need of an update. It does not yet include information about many recent changes. Our apologies. Mind the Gap.
This page is about laws governing property ownership in Dubai. For laws governing tenancy agreements and contracts in Dubai, see the Dubai tenancy laws or the Dubai rent cap pages.
Property ownership in Dubai
- The Property Law, or more correctly, Real Estate Law No.7 of 2006 was published mid 2006. Previously, foreign ownership of property was only specified in contractual arrangements between buyer and developer.
- UAE federal law does not allow foreign ownership of property. It does not explicitly disallow foreign property ownership either so individual emirates may allow ownership within designated areas.
- Dubai Land Department is the sole competent official authority for registration of property and land owners or leaseholders in Dubai as of 06 March 2006.
- Foreigners are able to lease or purchase property in Freehold areas in Dubai defined by the Dubai Government (detailed in Order No. 3 of 2006 published on 03 July 2006).
- Freehold ownership means buyer owns property outright and ownership title should be registered at the Dubai Land Department (not Dubai Lands Department).
- For apartment buildings, each building will be granted a single title deed. So it seems that commonhold property owners do not have clear title to their property and may have to rely on a contractual arrangement with the building owner/developer. Refer article 23 of the Real Estate Law.
- Leasehold (long-term lease, usufruct) is given as 5 to 99 years.
- Residency permits are subject to the approval of the Dubai Naturalisation and Residency Department (DNRD - correct name is Department of Naturalisation and Residency, Dubai). Approval is not guaranteed - some applications have been rejected. See Dubai visas information for application conditions.
- Abu Dhabi emirate only allows 99 year lease, not freehold, for expatriates (as of end 2006).
Divorce and Property in Dubai
- Law of country of husband's nationality will usually apply (complications if dual nationality or non-UAE but wife is UAE national).
- Age, health, earning capacity, existing capital, number and age and parentage of children affect distribution of assests.
Freehold Law in Dubai
- Freehold title only available in certain designated areas to non-UAE citizens.
- Some properties are in areas designated as freehold but sold as leasehold.
Leasehold Law for Dubai Properties
- Leasehold usually 99 year leases (some have a 50 year lease).
Inheritance Law in Dubai
- Should make a will for property in Dubai.
- Die intestate is not a good thing - question over law of which country will apply. In simple case, law of country of nationality but not certain especially if multiple claims on property.
- No death or inheritance taxes in the UAE but may be some from your country of domicile (not necessarily the same as residence) eg UK domiciled citizens have taxes imposed on worldwide assets.
Sharia Law and Property in Dubai
- Applies to UAE citizens or citizens of countries where Sharia Law is applied eg Pakistan.
- Does not apply to Muslims with citizenship of a non-Sharia Law country eg US or UK.
Lost property in Dubai
A new law was issued in 2015 regarding lost or abandoned property in Dubai. Announced by WAM 13 April 2015 as: Law No. (5) of 2015 on lost and abandoned property in the emirate of Dubai.
- This law refers to property as in personal possessions or money owned by Dubai residents and visitors, not real estate.
- The finder of any lost property is required to hand it in to the police within 48 hrs. Keeping it for yourself is a criminal act and liable to punishment. The report did not say if the finder could return the property to the owner instead of the police.
- Police are required to issue documentation with details of the items found.
- A reward of 10% up to a maximum of AED 50,000 can be awarded to the finder of any lost property.
- The report did not specify how, when, or by who, the reward was to be issued. Our best guess is to ask the police when you hand it in and don't expect anything.
- If ownership is not claimed within 1 year of handing it in to the police, the item (s) may be claimed by the finder. However you still have to "maintain it in good condition, and return it to the original owner upon his request". The law does not say what happens if you sell or give away the item, or for how long you have to maintain it in good condition.
- Ref WAM: https://www.wam.ae/en/news/emirates/1395279213343.html, Mohammed bin Rashid issues law on lost and abandoned property in Dubai, 13/04/2015 03:42:03 PM.
Confusion about who to give lost property to:
- The National reported that "Maj Gen Khamis Al Muzeina, commander-in-chief of Dubai Police, supported the new law and said it would encourage people to return lost items to their owners." Keeping in mind that Dubai logic is not always what you think it is, anyone returning lost property to the owner instead of the police might be committing a crime under the new law, unless the lost property is owned by the police.
- Similarly, the news release on dubai.gov.ae, Mohammed bin Rashid issues law on lost-and-found and abandoned property, 13/04/2015 said: The law is also aimed at encouraging individuals to return lost-and-found property and items to their lawful owners.
- And the Gulf News had a lawyer say don't touch but if you do, give it to the police: Tina Thapar of Al Midfa Advocates & Legal Consultants said: “One thing is for sure with this law - no one must touch anything that does not belong to them and if they do find things that do not belong to them, they must be handed over to the authorities within 48 hours. ..."
Several reports misunderstood the meaning of "property" and thought the new law referred to mislaid real estate (land, houses, apartments). Which did make it interesting to think about the logistics of transportation and storage of buildings and plots of land at police stations in Dubai. For example:
- Those finding abandoned plots of land in Dubai are required to report the property to the police within 48 hours. (Gulf Business report 14 Apr 2015).
- No more haunted mansions? Dubai Issues new law for turning in lost/abandoned property (AlBawaba and other publications, 15 Apr 2015).
Last update Friday 15-Jan-2016