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Renting Property

Egypt - Renting Property

Estate Agents

It is not normal practice for Egyptian people to use estate agents to find a rented home. However, for many expats, this is an ideal solution.

Be aware that estate agents in Egypt are not regulated. In a country where bribery, tax evasion and a bit of sharp practice to get ahead are frequently accepted as the status quo, you do need to have your wits about you. However, there are many good and honest business people in the country, so do some research to find out who they are.

Looking at websites, you will come across property listings which are no longer available, including those listed years ago. This is because many sites don’t archive listings which are now closed. As sites also often don’t include listing dates, it can be difficult to assess how recently a property was added. This is something to be aware of as you look through a website; don’t get your hopes up about a property before the agent has confirmed it is still available.

Estate agents would love the chance to be paid by both you and the landlord – this is not the standard practice, but some will try it on. If the landlord has secured you a property on special request, meaning they have had to do work to secure the home, then it is acceptable for you to pay an agreed fee. However, properties already listed have been paid for by the landlord, so you don’t have to pay.

Other Methods

There are several other ways that both Egyptian people and expats can find suitable properties to rent in the country.

Firstly, talk to friends and colleagues in Egypt, as well as to cafe owners and people who work in your hotel. They will all have an opinion about the best routes and contacts to use, and may know of someone looking for a tenant. If you have a new job at an international school or language college, the staff will have a lot of experience and contacts to help you start your search before you have even arrived in the country.

You can also reach out to the expat community online, by using our Facebook Group, Expats in Egypt.

Alternatively, go to the American University in Cairo and ask where the student accommodation listings are advertised. Whilst many students live on campus, others rent privately. The university routinely finds accommodation for academic guests, so the staff may be happy to give you some good advice about your rental search.

One popular way for expats to find a suitable flat is to visit the apartment blocks in preferred areas. They each have a doorman, or bawab, who takes care of the premises in return for a salary paid for by the residents. The bawab will have the contact details of every apartment owner and know which flats are vacant. If it sounds like the vacant unit matches what you are looking for, the bawab can get in touch with the owner and obtain permission to let you view the apartment. You should tip a bawab generously if they help you in this way; after all, if you move in you will see them every day and they will protect your home.

Dan Griffiths set up a Facebook group “Maadi Landlords - Good & Bad” in 2015. This is a good place to seek help if you are looking to rent somewhere in the Maadi district of Cairo.

Always View A Property

Pictures on a website can be deceiving. They don’t inform you about the busy road outside, the noisy family next door or the cafe downstairs. What looks like a beautiful modern bathroom might be something different in reality.

Even more seriously, you need to know that the property actually exists and is available for rent. It is easy for criminals to copy pictures, get properties listed on sites which don’t do any checks, and then persuade you over the phone to transfer deposit, security bond and several month’s rent.

It is therefore important to check out the property yourself before you sign a rental contract or pay any money. If you need to stay in a hotel for the first couple of weeks of your life in Egypt so you can do this, try to accept that as a worthwhile investment.

The good news is that the standard of accommodation you will be viewing as an expat should be modern and spacious. Out in the countryside and in the poor city districts, impoverished Egyptian people often live in basic homes with little in the way of comforts. Expat homes usually offer open plan living, dining and kitchen arrangements, with fitted kitchens of a style familiar to most Westerners, and frequently with more than one fitted bathroom in the property.

Some landlords will give you the impression there is a lot of demand for property of the type you are seeking, especially in the run up to the new school year when new expat teachers arrive. Whilst Egypt does have an ever-increasing population, demand from the expat community has slumped over the past ten years, so don’t pay over the odds or make a panic decision to rent somewhere you are unsure about.

Property Taxes

A real estate tax is levied on each property in the country, and is paid for by the owner. This is assessed at 10 percent of the property’s rental value, less assumed maintenance expenses of 30 percent of rental value for residential properties and 32 percent of rental value for non-residential properties. If the rental value falls below a specified level, then the property is exempt for as long as that condition is met.

The rental value of the property is used regardless of whether the property is rented, vacant or is the owner’s sole residence.

Of course, the reality is that the rent will be set at a level which can cover the real estate tax on top of all other costs and outgoings, and leave the landlord with a profit. At no point should your landlord tell you to pay the real estate tax on top of your rent.

Always Sign A Contract

It can be tempting to just accept a rental lease without signing a contract if the landlord seems reluctant to offer one, but do not make any payment for security deposit or rent until this has been done. If the contract is in Arabic, get an independent person to translate it for you. Any later dispute in court will be expensive and you cannot claim that you did not agree to a clause because you didn’t understand the document you signed.

Ensure you know what the contents of the property will contain. Fully furnished will be ready to move in to, while unfurnished might mean there are no kitchen cupboards, sinks, lightbulbs or air conditioning.

Check the terms of extending a lease. You can agree to a lease longer than 12 months, or just renew at 12 months if the contract allows it. Be aware that under Egyptian law, landlords cannot increase the rent by more than 10 percent a year; you may be told incorrectly that it has to rise by 10 percent per year. Moreover, if your initial contract is for 24 months, the landlord cannot increase the rent throughout the term of that lease, by law, unless you agree to waive this right.

Many expats face leaving their accommodation early. Illness and deaths back at home, or the pressures of a job or culture which prove too much can all lead to someone heading home before the lease is up. Legally, you must continue paying the rent until the lease has finished, or until the terms of any early termination are met. It is therefore a good idea to ask for a clause allowing a three-month notice period. You might still be out of pocket, but this saves many more months of rent for a property you don’t need, and is commercially fair to the landlord, who must go to the trouble and expense of finding a new tenant.

Moving In

On the day you move in, check the inventory carefully and take plenty of photos, especially if anything is damaged or missing. In an age of good cameras on mobile phones and plenty of online storage, it is easy to do this.

It’s a good idea to highlight these damaged or missing items immediately with the landlord or real estate agent, regardless of whether they are important enough to be fixed or can simply be ignored. Keep the photos accessible until the end of your tenancy, just in case any unresolved damage or a missing item later gets charged to you.

It’s also a good idea to take photos on your way out of the building. Once again, photos will be helpful evidence if any dispute arises. Your security deposit is at least one month’s rent so it’s worth a few minutes of your busy moving day to make sure you protect it.

Normal wear and tear of the property and contents are acceptable, and you should not be asked to pay anything towards this. Similarly, the maintenance of the building is the responsibility of the landlord and you should not be charged for any minor or major repairs to the building structure.

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