This article is part of a series. Please scroll to the bottom of the page to see all the articles in the series.
As with most things in life, the key is forward planning.
In undergoing research for this guide and conducting interviews with former British expats previously resident in the UAE, the one piece of advice which almost everyone gave was: “start planning early.”
“Everything takes a lot longer than you expect it to!”
This may be more difficult if you have been made redundant or need to exit the country quickly.
Some of the people I spoke to had been impacted by Coronavirus so had to move quickly. However, if you have the luxury of having time on your side, be sure to use it wisely. Most of the steps outlined below are likely to take longer than anticipated, such is the UAE way.
There is a lot to consider when it comes to closing accounts, be it banks, bills, loans or anything else. It’s important to get things done in the right order and at the right time. Get this wrong and life before leaving becomes significantly less enjoyable…
Part 1 of this series will address:
- Ending a tenancy agreement
- Phone Contracts
- Selling Personal Assets
- Sending money home
- Closing bank accounts and paying off debt
- Getting pets home
- Taking kids out of school
Ending a tenancy agreement
The key here is knowing your contract and leaving yourself enough time.
4 things to know:
- Most UAE contracts have a 90-day notice period so be sure to give your landlord enough notice in writing of your intentions to leave.
- If you break the lease early or don’t give sufficient notice, you will be liable to at least a few months of additional rent, depending on your specific agreement.
- Timing can be an issue at the end of the tenancy.
- You may not be able to stay in your property up until the last day of the tenancy as the apartment will need to be cleaned, in some cases repainted, and you will need receipts for all of your final bills including internet, DEWA and chiller to show your landlord.
You may want to book accommodation for your final 1 - 2 weeks to allow yourself enough time to ensure everything is sorted on time. A good excuse for a staycation! Most people I interviewed for this guide had their final 1 - 3 weeks staying either in a hotel or with friends whilst they closed all of their accounts and contracts down.
It’s relatively unclear on who is responsible for what between the landlord and the tenant. The Real Estate Regulatory Agency (RERA) states that the property must be returned “in the same condition in which the tenant received it at the time of entering into the contract except for ordinary wear and tear” (Article 21 of Law No. 26 of 2007). Personally, if it’s needed, I would arrange for the property to be painted to save for any arguments with the landlord and ensure you leave on good terms.
When it comes to your deposit, this is another reason why it’s good to sort things out early and potentially book accommodation for your last few days. Your landlord will need to have checked everything off before they can return your deposit to your bank account. Remember that your bank will still need to be open to facilitate this so it’s important you get the timing right. The other alternative is to ask your landlord for cash instead of a bank transfer, although there is no guarantee that they will agree to this.
In Dubai there is often confusion around Ejari and who is responsible for what.
Ejari is an authenticity certificate used to register all rental agreements in the emirate. Tawtheeq is the Abu Dhabi equivalent. To be clear, it is the responsibility of the landlord to cancel the Ejari at the end of the contract. In some cases, this doesn’t happen and it can then fall on the new tenant but either way, it is not your responsibility if you are leaving.
One less thing to worry about.
DEWA are the water and electricity provider in Dubai. If you have an online account, you can cancel DEWA online or by phoning them. Alternatively, you can make a trip to their office at the ironically named ‘Happiness Centre’. You can’t fault the optimism!
In both scenarios there will be some cancellation fees including a ‘knowledge’ fee and an ‘innovation’ fee. DEWA provides a lesson in marketing for us all!
You will need to provide DEWA with your:
- Account number
- Move out date
- UAE mobile number
- Emirates ID
Ensure that you don’t cancel any of these before you cancel your DEWA.
Your deposit will also be paid back into your UAE bank account so it’s important that this is still open. Alternatively, you can request the payment to be in cash but you will need to return to the centre in order to collect it.
The account closure should be processed within 24 hours of the request. That said, it is a good idea to ring in advance and check when the final bill will be issued. This will be required by the landlord at the end of your tenancy.
Keep in mind that if you are leaving over a national holiday, there will be delays in the process. Make sure you check the timescales. In Abu Dhabi, the process is very similar for ADDC. You can do it online or go to Abu Dhabi Distribution. This should be done a few days prior to vacating the property and paying the amounts due on the final invoice. Once the final reading is taken, you will receive the bill for you to pay and a clearance certificate is issued. If you are renting, the clearance certificate must be provided to your landlord/agency before the end of the tenancy. If this process goes past your tenancy end date, you may be liable for additional charges.
When interviewing people for this study, the majority cited their phone contracts as one of the causes of significant angst during their final days in the UAE.
Numerous people expressed how difficult they found it to end contracts, particularly if they were trying to end it mid-way through the contract. This resulted in people leaving with bank accounts still open as they were still being charged phone bills and having to return to the UAE later on holiday to try and then close the phone contract off and then close the bank account.
It’s not a position you want to find yourself in.
The rules were changed in January 2020 so that if you are with Du or Etisalat, you now do not need to pay more than 1 month’s fees if you are exiting a contract early.
There are 4 steps to follow:
- For both providers, you can make an initial request to cancel the contract over the phone.
- After that, you will need to go into a customer centre to complete the process with your Emirates ID.
- It’s worth downloading the relevant app as there are often long queues for this process.
- If you have the app, they will text you when it’s your turn so you don’t have to wait around for hours.
Selling Personal assets
Whilst many people may ship their larger or more valuable items home, it is likely that you will still have things around the house which you want to get rid of. The first option, depending on your inclination, is of course to give them away.
Take my Junk in Dubai provide a free service whereby they will come and collect any unwanted items from your property. According to their website, it is then either recycled, sold or given to the lower income community so that you can be sure it will not end up in the landfill.
Whilst not an exact equivalent, FreeCycle is the closest option in Abu Dhabi and can be accessed via Facebook.
If you live in an apartment building or a community with multiple staff, don’t forget the staff who have helped you over the years. Cleaners, security staff and general maintenance staff are so often delighted by the opportunity to have some free stuff whether it be unused food, kitchen appliances or furniture so it’s always worth checking if they would like anything before you call in Take my Junk or FreeCycle.
Some buildings also have clothes recycling banks. Google search this to see where your closest one is but be aware that they’re not always that easy to locate.
You certainly won’t miss the UAE roads and maps!
Alternatively, if there is value in the assets that you would like to partially recover you can attempt to sell them. If Harrods is the place where you can buy anything, Dubizzle is its online, budget, second hand, UAE based equivalent. If you are listing items to sell on Dubizzle, prepare for multiple messages and a good deal of negotiating. That said, as long as you can be flexible on price, it is an excellent resource to offload your unwanted items.
Facebook also tends to have a number of marketplaces and local groups which can be very useful in selling your household items to neighbours.
TIP: The worst time to sell personal items in the UAE is from May – June as there is often a huge outflow of both teachers and families with children who are also looking to sell their belongings. This puts the power in the buyer’s hands and means that you will likely end up having to make deals in order to get rid of things.
Selling your Car
Assuming you can find a buyer, selling your car should be relatively painless.
Some options for how to go about this are:
- Social media. A good place to start for advertising in your local area.
- Online ads. You can post an online ad on a website such as Dubizzle or getthat.com. At the time of writing, getthat.com. lets sellers post ads free of charge.
- Car markets. You could try your hand at negotiating with one of the used car markets such as Al Aweer or if the car is new enough and you bought it from an authorised dealer, why not approach their pre-owned cars department.
- Sell your motors. If you don’t fancy any of the negotiating or if you’re in a rush to sell, this is a good option, but be aware that you may not get what you want for it.
- CarSwitch. This came recommended by a few people I interviewed. They will do a mechanical check on the car and give you a fair price for it.
- Expat Motors. Also came highly recommended with many citing a turnaround of less than an hour.
Ensuring that you’ve paid everything off is vital. This includes the car loan if you have one, as well as all Salik and traffic fines if you have amounts outstanding.
The actual process of transferring ownership is done via the RTA and is very straightforward.
You will need:
- The ownership certificate
- The electronic insurance of the vehicle
- The vehicle technical inspection certificate
- Your original Emirates ID and passport
- The buyer’s Emirates ID, passport and residence visa (for non-GCC expats)
Sending money home
There are a multitude of options for sending money home and I’d always suggest that you check 2 or 3 companies’ rates as they can differ quite widely.
If you are sending large sums home then this can make a big difference. In my experience, the exchange houses tend to provide slightly better rates than the large banks.
Currency Fair and TransferWise were the ones which were most recommended to me. However, if you are sending larger sums home (£100,000+) then you would likely benefit from a more bespoke offering as this will usually save you money. Feel free to get in touch for any recommendations.
Remember that as long as you ceased UK residence and are not ordinarily resident in the UK, you will not be liable to income tax for sending funds which you have earned from employment whilst offshore. However, if you’re not sure about this or think that you may still be resident in the UK, it is certainly worth seeking professional tax advice as this can be a complex situation.
Feel free to contact me and I will point you in the right direction.
If you no longer have a UK bank account, I suggest you take steps to open one as soon as possible. Part 3 of this series gives information on UK banks you could consider.
Alternatively, if you have an offshore account, you can transfer your funds into GBP within that account and then once you have a new UK account, simply transfer it across when you are ready.
Closing UAE bank accounts and paying off debt
Closing bank accounts can be relatively simple or annoyingly complex, dependent on your situation. If you have no debt or major assets, such as property, then you should fall into the simple camp. All you need to do is visit your branch and fill out a closure form. Either transfer your funds out of the account beforehand or the bank should be able to give you the cash sum of your balance. The process can often take up to a week for the account to be fully closed, assuming that everything is in order. Ensure you have your Emirates ID and passport with you.
In today’s COVID world you may also need to consider what you have paid for recently on your card which may need to be refunded, such as future holidays or flights. If an account was closed and a refund processed, getting the refund will be difficult so consider this carefully. Additionally, be mindful of your final payment (end of service gratuity) from your employer.
When this final payment is made, in the past, some banks have been known to freeze your accounts as they view it as you about to leave the country. Legally, they’re not actually allowed to do this unless you’ve defaulted on a certain amount of payments. Unsurprisingly, this hasn’t stopped them with some people in the past.
Communication is key.
Make sure you are in touch with your bank and they are aware of your plans. If you have debt such as credit cards or car loans, be sure to pay them off. Non-payment of a debt is a criminal offence and could lead to arrest and a prison sentence. You do not want to find on your next trip to Australia via Dubai that you are stopped at the airport. There are nicer places to spend your time than UAE detention centres.
If you have an outstanding UAE mortgage, this is covered in more detail in Part 2 of this series.
Shipping is one of the areas which should hopefully be relatively painless.
The cost can vary significantly. If your company is paying for your relocation then they will no doubt organise all of this for you anyway. If not, then it’s up to you.
You will need to provide an inventory of what you wish to ship. Some companies now let you send a video instead showing what you plan to send. They will then provide a quote. Remember that you can’t send things like food, alcohol or cosmetics. It’s likely that you’ll be leaving your friends very well stocked!
A good shipping company will then come with their own boxes and packing materials and pack everything for you. Make sure you get insurance in case anything breaks in transit! The National have a good article with some very helpful tips on this.
Sending pets home
If you have picked up some furry friends during your time offshore, it’s not uncommon to want to bring them back to the UK with you.
Fortunately, the process for this is not overly complex. Rather than list the steps in this guide, feel free to jump across to the government’s website* which will no doubt continue to be updated but does outline the step by step process.
Aside from this, it’s often worth doing some research and checking the reviews for how different airlines treat pets in transit as they can tend to differ. Of course, if you would rather have someone else organise everything for you, 2 companies which have consistently been recommended to me are Pawsome Pets and Snoopy Pets.
*At the time of writing, we are in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic so there may be additional checks and requirements in place. Be sure to check the government guidance and what your responsibilities are before making arrangements.
Taking kids out of schools
Often a point which is overlooked. If you have children and are choosing not to leave them behind, you will need to obtain a transfer certificate from the school and a student leaving certificate. It is also important that you have recent school reports as some new schools will require these on application.
If your child has received any extra support, documents detailing this support can be useful when looking for the next school. This will prove that your child has been in education whilst you were offshore. If you are leaving mid-way through the academic year, be sure to speak to the school in advance about whether any tuition fees in advance may be returned.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, the rules about entering the UK are changing extremely quickly.
Hopefully this has been a good starter and highlights the main considerations for leaving the UAE.
Of course, more information on specific areas is available on the internet.
In Part 2 you will learn what to do with your assets held abroad.
Circumstances vary for individuals and any personal opinions or firm opinions represented above should not be seen as advice or a recommendation to take any specific course of action.
We are not tax advisers. The value of an investment, and any income from it, can fall or rise. Investors may not get back the full amount they invest. Past performance is not a reliable indicator of future results.
Personal opinions may change and should not be seen as advice or a recommendation. This post is based on current legislation as at the time of writing, which is subject to change and will not be kept up to date. This document is for UK retail investors.