Renting property in Saudi Arabia
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Almost all expats in Saudi Arabia rent their property. It is very difficult for foreigners to buy property in Saudi Arabia. Most people move to Saudi Arabia on lucrative employment contracts that include free or heavily subsidised housing, furniture and utilities.
Manoeuvering one's way through the rental markets in Saudi Arabian cities is not easy. Even though agents and landlords will communicate well in English, most of the documents remain in Arabic. For this reason, it is always best for expats to enlist the help of their employer, an agent or a property lawyer when looking to rent property in the Kingdom.
Types of housing in Saudi Arabia
Expats in Saudi Arabia tend to live in large compounds with resort-type facilities such as shops, cafés, gyms and spas on site. The main advantage of living in an expat compound is the fact that the Mutaween (religious police) do not enter these areas and so expats can enjoy a more relaxed lifestyle similar to the one they’d have back home.
There are various sized houses, villas and apartments within the compounds so there is something to suit the needs and requirements of most expats. The size of compounds varies greatly in both size and facilities available. Smaller developments may consist of 10 to 12 houses with a swimming pool and then larger complexes which are almost like a small town with hundreds of houses and a greater variety of amenities.
Accommodation in Saudi Arabia is generally furnished. However, the definition of this differs – it can simply include some basic items of furniture or have a full provision of items including bedding, cutlery and crockery.
Finding property in Saudi Arabia
In most cases, the stress of finding accommodation is not an issue for expats in Saudi Arabia as their employer will handle it.
In rare cases where an expat is looking for a place on their own steam they can begin their search online. Online portals will give expats an idea of what is available and the different facilities provided by each complex.
The best option, however, is to enlist the services of a real estate agent. These professionals have an intimate knowledge of the property market of the given city and can advise people on which complexes are most suitable.
Some compounds are very popular and operate waiting lists. The advantage of using an estate agent is that they may have connections that enable their clients to find out about available spots in such places.
Rental contracts in Saudi Arabia
In Saudi Arabia, tenants are usually required to pay a year’s rent in advance, although in many cases this can be negotiated and some compounds will allow expats to pay in six-monthly or monthly instalments. In most cases, the rent is covered by the employer, so this is not a concern for expats.
If an individual is signing the rental agreement themselves, it is best to hire an English-speaking property lawyer to assist them through the process. Documents may be in Arabic and therefore it is best to get a notarised English translation of any rental contract so the expat can fully understand all the terms of the agreement.
Any foreigner who wishes to rent property in Saudi Arabia requires an Iqama (residence permit). Expats may also be required to provide a letter from their employer confirming their salary and length of contract. In some cases, the employer may need to act as a guarantor.
In addition to the rental payment upfront, tenants are normally required to provide a refundable deposit that is equal to a month’s rent. In the event of any damage to the property, furniture or appliances, the landlord will be entitled to withhold the security deposit.
Generally, most rental prices in Saudi Arabia will be inclusive of all basic utilities such as water, gas, electricity, telephone line rental and Internet.
Rent for compound properties will normally include all service charges such as cleaning and maintenance of communal areas of the complex.