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Renting accommodation in the UAE with a dog

If you are planning on moving to the emirate with your pet, I would highly recommend you search for an apartment beforehand. Most landlords do not accept dogs, and the ones that do almost never provide furnished apartments. This means that you will have to fully furnish your rental yourself, on top of the stress of moving.

Two years ago, Valeriya, her husband, and their dog, Eugene, moved to the emirate of Dubai. We asked Valeriya to share her experience of how she found a dog-friendly apartment in Dubai. For those of you who will go through a similar process of relocating with your pet, here are Valeriya’s insights and things to consider.

Do people in Dubai have dogs as pets?

The UAE is a Muslim country, where, until just a short time ago, animals were not kept at home as pets. The religion of Islam, in fact, forbids Muslims to live under the same roof as animals. In the past, extremely rich Emiratis who wanted to have a dog would actually have to rent a separate apartment for their dog and hire someone to look after it. Then, they would pick up the dog and take it for walks or bring their children to play with it for a while before going back to their own home.

The mindset about keeping animals at home as pets began to significantly shift over the past 10 years as more and more foreigners began relocating to the UAE. Even so, the majority of landlords still refuse to rent their apartments to tenants who have pets. There are even entire complexes and neighbourhoods that are not pet-friendly.

Who do I need to get permission from to rent an apartment with my dog?

In Dubai, apartments are put up for rent either by private owners or by companies that own individual buildings, residential complexes or entire neighbourhoods, though the latter typically involves the developer. The owners can set general rules that must be followed while living in their property, including whether pets are allowed or not.

When we were getting ready to move, we started looking for apartments in the Discovery Gardens area, which was owned by a development company. At that time, pets were allowed in the complex, but 3 or 4 months later we found out that the developer introduced new rules throughout the entire neighbourhood and anyone who was renting with a pet had to leave. Unfortunately, this kind of thing happens in Dubai, so you need to bear that in mind.

If a building or neighbourhood is not subject to one single owner, i.e. each apartment is separately owned and there is a management company that maintains the building, then there are no general rules that all residents must follow. Therefore, any agreement involving pets would need to be discussed directly with the property owner.

Important! You must have explicit written permission in your contract to have a pet in your apartment, a verbal agreement will not suffice.

Which sites did you use to look for an apartment?

We used dubizzle.com. It’s a user-friendly site, there are a lot of options to choose from and you can quickly filter out any apartments that don’t allow pets.

You can easily find different apartments that allow pets by choosing the ‘pets allowed’ filter.

Typically, less than half of all available apartments in Dubai allow pets; at the time of writing this article, the ratio was about 5 to 1.

Even if the listing indicates that pets are allowed, it is better to double check with the owner, especially regarding dogs. Oftentimes, the owner will say ‘pets allowed’ when, really, they just mean a cat.

Another thing is that the locals here are quite afraid that animals will destroy their furniture. Therefore, 4 out of 5 times, pets won’t be allowed in furnished apartments. If an apartment is dog-friendly, it will almost certainly come totally unfurnished. This, of course, can be daunting as you will most likely have to furnish the entire apartment yourself.

Approximate ratio of pet-friendly apartments in Dubai at the moment of writing

Important! The availability and types of apartments that allow pets is rather limited. Therefore, if you are planning on relocating to Dubai, it is highly advisable to begin looking for accommodation as soon as possible before you move.

How long does it take to find a pet-friendly apartment?

We moved to Dubai because my husband accepted a job here. He moved first, and every weekend for the next two months he went to see different apartments until we finally settled on one.

The two main things we were looking for when choosing an apartment were:

  • that it was dog-friendly;
  • that it was near a park where we could walk and play with Eugene.

It would be a huge plus if there was an actual dog park nearby, and even better if there were pet shops and veterinarian clinics, but this would prove to be a difficult combination to find.

Finally, after two months of searching, we decided to rent an apartment in the JVC neighbourhood.

The summers in Dubai get extremely hot, heating the asphalt to scorching temperatures. In order to protect your dog’s paws from getting burned, there should be a park or at least some patches of grass near your apartment that your dog can safely walk on. JVC is a great neighbourhood to accommodate your furry friend.

We signed a rental contract with the development company that owns the neighbourhood. Before actually signing any documents, we checked and double-checked that the right to have a dog in the apartment was expressly written in the contract, under no vague terms or language.

We were quite lucky that my husband was able to move to Dubai early and find an apartment that we could immediately move into with Eugene once we arrived.

Important! You cannot sign a rental contract in the UAE remotely; you must have a local bank account and personal checks. However, you can make an agreement with the landlord to send a deposit and secure the property for you. Then, when you arrive in Dubai, you can finalise the paperwork and move in right away.

Is it more expensive to rent a dog-friendly apartment?

There are no additional deposits or fees for pet-friendly apartments in Dubai. If the apartment allows pets, then regardless of what kind of pet it is, the price will be the same.

Rental costs will depend on other factors, such as the neighbourhood, proximity to the metro, the total size of the apartment and whether it is furnished or unfurnished. The length of your stay will also play a role in determining the cost; typically, short-term rentals are more expensive than long-term rentals.

Does Dubai have any special rules for living in a residential building with a dog?

Dubai has one main rule when living in a residential building – no loud noises after 11pm. The fine for breaking this rule is AED 500 (USD 136). However, just like in other parts of the world, it all depends on your neighbours. Our Eugene is a quiet dog in general, but once in a while he barks in the middle of the night. As far as I know, no one has filed a complaint against us for this.

If your dog barks non-stop or you happen to live next to someone who isn’t very pet-friendly, then they may report you to the management company and you could get fined. Honestly though, I have never heard of someone being evicted just because their dog barks at inappropriate times.

In terms of the common areas of the residential buildings, such as the hallways, lobby, corridors and lifts, there aren’t really any specific rules. Separate entrances or lifts for dogs don’t exist in Dubai. The main thing is that all dogs, even if they are small and super friendly, must always be on a leash. A muzzle is good to keep on hand, but isn’t required.

When I first moved to Dubai, I was shocked by how many people were afraid of dogs: Emiratis and foreigners from countries like Pakistan, India and the Philippines are incredibly cautious around them.

Our Eugene is a mutt about the size of a husky. When we are on the lift with him and get stopped on another floor, I can see the look of fear on our neighbours’ faces. I usually try to say that he is a friendly dog or something else reassuring. Sometimes, they will get on the lift with us but go stand in the corner, and sometimes they will just wait for the next one.

Most beaches in Dubai do not allow dogs to get in the water, but you can walk around without a problem.

I often see people cross the street when they see us walking with Eugene; that’s how afraid of dogs they are. Therefore, even though there aren’t any specific rules, I try to minimise people’s discomfort and fear and be polite when I’m in public.

What happens if the owner of an apartment complex suddenly imposes a ban on having pets?

If your dog isn’t harming others, and doesn’t growl, bark and lunge at other people, and if you signed a contract before the new rule was implemented and your lease agreement hasn’t expired, then, most likely, nothing will happen. Anyway, that’s how it was with us.

About half a year ago, a notice was hung up on the wall stating that keeping pets in the apartments was no longer allowed. No one tried to evict us. We never even received a single message about it, probably because Eugene is a very calm animal who doesn’t bother anyone. Our neighbour, on the other hand, was forced to move out.

There was a girl who lived on the same floor as us who had a really aggressive dog. This dog was always barking and snapping at people and making noise at all hours of the night. It was so badly behaved that we even started walking Eugene at times that we knew we could avoid running into them on their walks.

You should be aware that tenants in Dubai are quite well-protected and can’t just be evicted overnight. The tenant must receive an eviction notice a full year before anyone can pursue legal measures to force them out. An official notice must be sent first, explaining why the tenant has to leave. Whether the building has banned pets, the landlord has decided to move into the apartment themself or the developer is planning on renovating the building, whatever the reason, you have a full year to find new accommodation and move out.

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