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Housing & Accommodation

Getting Everything Up and Running

Sorting out your rent and utilities payments abroad can be daunting. In the UAE, the fact that you may be expected to pay your annual rent up front may come as a surprise to many expats. But fear not! InterNations is here to help explain the complexities around rent and utility bills in the UAE.

Paying Rent — All or Nothing

Before the financial crisis, landlords in the UAE almost exclusively demanded the payment of the annual rent up front. However, as a result of the crisis, banks were reluctant to lend such large amounts and this system of payment has become more and more unfeasible. UAE landlords have adapted to the new economic environment, and paying your rent in installments using post-dated checks has now become more common.

Put your negotiation skills to work as the number of installments will depend on the landlord. However, do not expect to be able to pay your rent monthly, as you might be used to, as being allowed to pay in three installments is already generous by UAE standards. Bouncing checks in the UAE is illegal, so be sure to have the correct balance on your account for the respective dates of the checks you’ve given your landlord.

Another thing you should check with your landlord is whether they accept transfers from foreign banks. It could be that cash is preferred in these cases. If so, be sure to keep an official record and have the stipulations regarding payment outlined in your rental contract.

Should you have a disagreement with your landlord about rent, there are regulatory bodies up in several emirates to handle these cases. Especially for foreign citizens, it is highly recommended to go through these official channels when you deal with your landlord. The Dubai Rental Disputes Center, for example, provides services ranging from quick resolution to courts of appeal.

Let There Be Light — Utilities in the UAE

The overarching body which handles water and electricity in the UAE is the Federal Electricity and Water Authority. They have an overview of the utility tariffs — you’ll notice that prices differ for expatriates, expatriates with property in the freehold areas, and citizens of the UAE. Compared to other major cities like Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Sharjah, Fujairah, and Al Ain, utilities in Dubai are the most expensive ones.

Obviously, different emirates offer different prices and services when it comes to utilities. You should, however, expect to pay a security deposit to your respective utility company as a precondition for setting up a utility connection. Here is an overview of which authority handles water and electricity in which of the seven emirates:

The DEWA has an extensive online platform where you can find all kinds of information on what to do if, for example, you move to a new address or want to pay your bills. In Abu Dhabi, you can use the government’s online platform to settle your bills if you are a customer with either the Abu Dhabi Distribution Company or the Al Ain Distribution Company. These two are part of the ADWEA.

Aside from paying via the provider’s website, you can also check if they have entered into a partnership with your bank. Your bank needs to be based in the UAE and have been approved by the respective water and electricity authority. For example, for SEWA customers there are specific approved banks through which you can pay your utility bills.


We do our best to keep this article up to date. However, we cannot guarantee that the information provided is always current or complete. 

InterNations Expat Magazine