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.