Renting in Qatar: Do's and Don'ts
Page 1 | Page 2
When it comes to renting property in Doha, the best decisions are informed ones. Here's a list of do's and don'ts to help you find your dream home without suffering any of the common nightmares.
Settle for the first - or even fifth - place you see. Almost every agent or landlord you speak to will say that their properties are going very fast, and that you have to book right away. To keep the pressure off, remember that there is a housing glut in Doha which means that you have a wealth of choices. One exception: near-full buildings with only one or two available villas/flats may go quickly, so if you really like one, book it forthwith.
Your homework. "At least start searching 15 days to a month earlier and look all over," Nadeem advises. Check newspaper classified ads and websites (popular ones include Qatar Living and Justlanded. Once you've narrowed down the area or areas in which you're willing to live (considering factors such as proximity to work, schools, shopping, etc), drive through them and keep your eyes peeled for for rent or to let signs. Many times you can just stop at buildings with these signs and ask the guard to show you the property.
Be inflexible. Setting unrealistically high expectations may result in disappointment. "Frankly it's a bit hard, even for me, to get a good house in Doha," Nadeem said. "At times the more money (you spend) you get better quality, but I haven't seen a really good finished house in Doha."
Make a list of what's most important to you and be willing to compromise on the rest (a small kitchen may be a deal-breaker for some but unimportant to others).
Go through a middleman. Local newspapers report that there are many people in a situation like Ahmad's, in which an unscrupulous agent takes advantage of tenants by collecting rent from them and not giving it to the landlord, who then has the right to order eviction.
Deal directly with the owner or someone who works under him. If this is not possible, go through a reputable agency, preferably one that won't charge you a commission, since agents are already paid by the landlord.
"Owners don't have time - if you have trillions and billions in your pocket you won't deal with small people like me," Ahmad said. Next time he house-hunts, he added, "I will ask the agent to show me his (Qatar) ID card."
Believe everything you hear (and don't hear). Most property agents will not volunteer a list of problems with the place they're showing you. Expect exaggeration and to be quoted a higher price than they're willing to settle on.
Ask for details. How old is the building? Keep in mind that landlords have the right to evict tenants for demolition and construction purposes only if the building is more than 15 years old.
Also, are the cost of maintenance and utilities are included in the rent? Is maintenance on- or off-site? According to the rent law, tenants can carry out emergency repairs without permission from the owner, and the court will allow them to proceed with urgent repairs in the name of safety even if the landlord objects to it.
Additionally, if there are already people living in the building or compound, try to ask them for their opinions on the place. "Elevator conversations" can really shed light on a property.
And finally, bargain! This is easiest to do if you've already comparison shopped the area you're seeking to live in. If the going price for most villas in Abu Hamour, for example, is QR10,000 a month and you encounter something for QR15,000, you probably have a good chance of talking down that rent.
Pay cash. "There are a lot of properties in Qatar where people are ready to take cash," Nadeem said. "It's very risky to deal with these properties." You may think you are saving money, but consider unforeseen circumstances like losing your job. "Getting that money back will be nearly impossible," Nadeem said. "Don't fall into the trap, it's too much of a risk."
Expect to hand over a security deposit and, if your lease is for one year, 12 post-dated checks. Inquire about the terms of the contract. A landlord cannot charge you the remaining rent if you lose your job and have to leave the country. "Cancellation of the residency visa can be served as a ground for premature lease termination," Panicker said.
Break the law. Landlords can seek a tenant's eviction if he does not pay the rent, sublets the property, or uses the premises for purposes other than what is stipulated in the contract.
"It is a criminal offence under the Qatari law to issue checks without having insufficient funds to honor the same," Panicker said. "The landlord has the right to confine anyone and all the accomplices to the crime into custody until such time the proceedings and the repayment in the amount owed to him is repaid in full."
Know your rights. The rent law was recently revised to allow landlords to take back properties for "self-use" - by his wife, sons or parents. But he must give you six months advance notice.
Despair. In the event that you do run into problems with your landlord, you have some recourse.
File a claim with the Committee for Solving Rental Disputes, which was created under the Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning (located in Rawdat Al Khail on Airport and E-Ring roads) to help you. The committee shall decide on disputes within three months of receiving a complaint but may seek an extension of up to six months after receiving the request.
The fee to file a complaint is QR100. All documents that are not in Arabic should have a certified translation.
On submission of the complaint, the chairman of the committee will set a hearing date, giving the two parties at least seven days notice. The committee may cancel the complaint in case the plaintiff or his representative fails to attend the sessions. The parties may choose an agent to represent them before the panel.
(More details on Hukoomi.)
Keep in mind that landlords are now required to register all property contracts, and unregistered cases won't be heard.
Shabina S. Khatri is an American journalist freelancing in Doha, Qatar. She has previously written articles for Global Voices Online, Al Jazeera English, the Detroit Free Press and the Wall Street Journal. E-mail her at shabina.khatri[at]gmail[dot]com.