Lawyers in UAE

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is a Federal Constitutional Monarchy made up of seven individual Emirates. The Emirates of the UAE are Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Dubai, Fujairah, Ras Al-Khaimah, Sharjah and Umm al-Quwain. Abu Dhabi is the capital whilst Dubai is the largest city. The official language of the UAE is Arabic although English is also widely spoken.

The UAE, and in particular Abu Dhabi and Dubai have been popular areas for British ex pats to live and work in for a number of years, often for financial institutions or in the oil and security sectors.

At Judicare, we provide specialist advice on UAE law including bespoke property law advice to prospective buyers and investors on the process for buying a property in Dubai, Abu Dhabi, or elsewhere in the UAE. Our team includes lawyers with extensive experience working on legal matters abroad, including associate, Ashraf El Motei, who specialises in real estate matters and disputes and speaks both Arabic and English fluently.

For advice about buying property in Dubai and the UAE and other legal matters including property disputes and succession planning, please get in touch with our international property lawyers.

The legal system in the UAE

The legal system in the UAE is very different from that which most foreign investors are used to and the laws are very different.  The legal system in the UAE is partly based on Shariah law which applies in all family law cases and also on inheritance. It also has jurisdiction over certain criminal matters such as adultery and alcohol consumption.

People planning to live and work in the UAE should familiarise themselves with, and respect, their local laws to avoid unnecessary disputes. The authorities will prosecute someone for breaking UAE law even if it’s something that’s legal in the UK, such as drinking alcohol without a permit.

The laws in the UAE also vary greatly between Emirates and this could impact the way you hold property. For example, in Abu Dhabi, in some areas, foreign nationals hold property as “freehold-leasehold”; they hold the freehold title over the property above the land, but only the leasehold title to the land itself.

We can provide advice in relation to all kinds of legal matters in the UAE, including buying property and conveyancing, property disputes, inheritance and succession planning, visa applications and issues, and the laws and customs of the UAE.

Buying a property in Dubai and the UAE

Buying existing property in the UAE is not too dissimilar to buying a property in the UK. You generally use an agent to find and view potential properties; then, once you’ve found one you like, you make a formal offer and, if accepted, you pay a deposit of between 5-25%. You will also pay a transfer fee of around 1-7% and estate agent fees of around 2-3%.

Buying property in the UAE off-plan

Buying off-plan has become a common way to purchase property in the UAE because the purchase price tends to be lower and buyers are attracted with the prospect of flexible payment plans.

However, buyers and investors must be careful as there are many instances of investments being lost due to the property not being completed on time, or at all, or otherwise not being built to specification.

Dubai, in particular, has become widely known as a destination where the sale of “off plan” properties has seen a real boom and virtual bust over the last few years as more and more ambitious and lavish projects became shelved due to lack of funding. Each new development competing to break new boundaries of Real Estate firsts. Reclaimed man-made Islands in the Gulf such as the Palm Dubai and the World, and the World’s tallest building the Burj Khalifa have been, however, notable success stories.

Generally speaking, the bigger discount you’re offered on an off-plan purchase, the higher your risk will be. However, only a lawyer specialising in property law in the UAE can give you accurate advice which is tailored to your individual situation.

Selling property in Dubai and the UAE

As with buying property, the process of selling property in the UAE bears similarities with the UK process. The basic procedure of selling on the secondary market (the term for the pre-owned property market as opposed to the “primary market” where buyers buy off-plan directly from the developer) is as follows:

  • The seller and buyer agree the terms of sale, including the purchase price
  • A Memorandum of Understanding is signed and the buyer pays the deposit
  • The buyer arranges a mortgage if necessary and the lender coordinates with the seller’s mortgage lender
  • The seller obtains a No Objection Certificate from the developer
  • The buyer and seller sign a Sale and Purchase Agreement
  • The payments are made and the buyer is formally transferred the property

UAE property visas

If you are buying property in Dubai and the UAE, you may be eligible for a residence permit or visa if you satisfy certain criteria. There are two options available for property owners:

  • Property holder visa – multi-entry visa which is renewable every 6 months for properties bought in any emirate
  • Dubai Property Investor Visa – renewable every 2 years for properties bought in Dubai

You cannot get a visa for an off-plan purchase until construction is complete and you cannot work in the UAE on one of these visas.

There are a number of advantages and drawbacks to getting either of these visas, so which one is right for you will depend on your individual circumstances.

If you intend to live and work in the UAE, you may also be eligible for longer-term residency permits. We can provide further advice about your options for obtaining a visa or permit for the UAE.

Inheritance in the UAE

Inheritance and succession law in the UAE is very different to the UK as it is partially based on Shariah law. If you do not leave a Will which is valid in the UAE, your property and assets situated in the country could be distributed contrary to your wishes (for example, Shariah law includes principles of forced heirship).

Under UAE law, if you are a non-Muslim expatriate you can make a Will which applies UK law to your estate rather than Shariah law.

Additionally, there are no inheritance taxes in the UAE. However, UK Inheritance Tax applies to world-wide assets if you are domiciled in the UK. You may be considered a UK domicile even if you don’t live there so get in touch with our specialist international lawyers to discuss your estate planning and tax implications after death.

Why choose Judicare’s lawyers in the UAE?

Judicare has a long history of dealing with clients looking to conduct business or invest in the UAE.  In particular when it comes to recovering investments made in some of the off plan property projects. We have been able to achieve land mark rulings which have led to the recovery of monies for clients in circumstances and cases where this has otherwise proved impossible. One notable example involved the recovery of money for a group of investors who had purchased off plan properties in Ras Al-khaimah that had not been finished.

The legal system is complex.  Essentially made up of the different Emirates, with different Court Systems varying from Emirate to Emirate

British clients can often face confusion as to how to navigate the laws and culture in the UAE. Judicare has been dealing with the UAE for over a decade and therefore we understand the huge differences between the legal and cultural systems in the UK and the UAE.

Get in touch with our international lawyers in Dubai and the UAE

For advice about buying property in Dubai and the UAE and other legal matters including property disputes and succession planning, please get in touch with our international property lawyers.


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