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Renting Property

Kuwait - Renting Property

Many expats will arrive in Kuwait to live in a property provided by their employer. This can be a good way to acclimatise in a new country and reduce much of the stress of finding somewhere to rent. Because the civil identification is likely to take 30 days to arrive, newcomers usually need accommodation provided by the employer unless they can stay with a friend or afford a hotel.

Some expats decide to move out of the provided accommodation for reasons of location or taste, but many more have to find their own property because their employer does not provide it. When looking for a new home, it can be a somewhat stressful affair which is not helped by the scams practiced on foreigners.

Advertising a property in Kuwait can be expensive, and renting one out via a realtor will cost the landlord half their first month’s rent. In a state where there is a never ending supply of tenants, especially given the barriers to home ownership for the vast migrant population, many landlords rely on prospective tenants finding empty properties with no action on their part.

It is common for prospective tenants to visit blocks of apartments, in the area in which they wish to live, so they can ask the harissa (the building supervisor) if there are any vacancies. If you do this you need to speak Arabic. Taxi drivers are often happy to drive customers between blocks and come in to act as an interpreter when speaking to the harissa. There are also professionals called a “mandoob” who will accompany you and act as translator in exchange for a fee.

If you find a property you really like, but it is fully occupied and you have the time to wait for a vacancy, make sure the harissa calls you the moment a vacancy occurs. Make a gift of money (30 to 50 Kuwaiti dinars) when you hand over your phone number, and pop in with an edible gift from time to time to make sure you are still at the top of his list. This will be particularly important if you are looking for a building where pets are allowed, as they are in short supply.

If you are confident about going down this route, always agree the fee in advance, both with taxi drivers and the mandoob. You must also be aware of a common scam that expats can readily fall into. If you walk in off the street and the harissa says there is a vacancy but you must go through a certain realtor, you will be expected to pay the realtor the full commission even though they did not help you locate the property. The realtor and harissa will split the commission. And if you signed a lease with the realtor rather than the property owner, you will have no rights as a tenant. Any monies you pay over will not be legally protected other than to recover them under fraud procedures - and even then only if the other party remains in the country.

Most expats, especially newcomers, will prefer to search for a property via an estate agent who has a solid reputation amongst the expat community. It will prevent misunderstandings and ensure you get all the information you need.

AAA Housing and Frost Real Estate are two reputable companies which can offer good quality accommodation, furnished to good standards. You will pay a premium, but receive a nice base to call home. Additional benefits such as phone, satellite and housekeeping services can be made available.

There are many realtors, or estate agents, in Kuwait, but the services are variable. Some do not have good websites, and other will be unreliable for appointments. Check with work colleagues and friends to find companies with good reputations, but be wary if you think the person you asked may be accepting a payment for the recommendation. Realtors tend to be area specific, so contact those who are located in the area you wish to live in. Estate agents who can speak good English will be better able to explain the lease terms to you. Although phoning each agent will be more time consuming than emailing them, you will get a good sense of their English skills and are guaranteed to get a response.

The realtors who are experienced in finding rental properties for westerners include Century 21 and Saba Real Estate.

Classified advertisements also list properties available for rent, although when visiting properties you will find it helpful to be accompanied by an Arabic speaker.

The general standard of apartments will be disappointing to many westerners. Cleaning and repainting is not a priority when tenants move out so this is likely to be your first job when you move in. Tenants are given a free hand to decorate an apartment how they like, including flooring and walls, so the landlord will not bother painting everything magnolia.

Some apartments have squat toilets installed. Negotiate with the landlord if you would like this to be replaced with a western style toilet. Many apartments include a tiny room for a maid to sleep in, which can be used for that purpose or turned into a large cupboard.

Furnished apartments will generally offer everything you need to immediately live there. An unfurnished apartment will not contain furniture or kitchen appliances. Although this may not be requested by the landlord or realtor, make a list of the contents of the apartment on the day you move in, and carefully photograph everything immediately. Repeat this process on the day you move out. The evidence will be useful in the event of any dispute about the condition of the apartment or contents.

While the majority of flats will offer air conditioning as a relief against the high temperatures, heating for the cold winters is rarely provided. Double glazed windows will help in the battle against the elements, and will keep the morning pick up car horns a bit quieter.

Parking is not always part of the building’s facilities, even for new apartment blocks. With soaring temperatures for much of the year, being able to park the car under shade is invaluable.

Check the location of the apartment in the building. Swimming pools can become noisy venues and small children stay up much later than in the UK or US. Living near the main entrance may also be annoying on busy days and nights. Living on the ground floor will make you more susceptible to break ins and beggars, who will quickly identify the presence of a new westerner.

Take care to ask who the neighbours are. Apartments known as “F-flats” are used as party venues for groups of men and female “visitors”. Visit the apartment block on a weekend night to assess whether the neighbourhood is as quiet as you want it to be.

Assess the distance of the apartment building from the nearest mosque. Daily prayers will be called from the minaret, which westerners may struggle with at 5am if the mosque is very near by.

You will be asked to provide your civil ID when taking on a property lease. You may also be asked to provide your passport.

You should receive a copy of your tenancy lease in English.

A realtor will charge you commission of one half of a month’s rent, and will charge the same to the property owner. It has not been widespread practice to charge a security deposit, as each month’s rent should be paid in advance. Some landlords ask for as much as six month’s rent in advance. However, the security deposit has now made an appearance in Kuwait is more regularly asked for. Make sure you know who you have paid this money to; make it by online transfer, never pay it in cash; if the money is not returned to you at the end of the tenancy without a good reason then report the loss to the police.

Make sure your lease is between you and the property owner. If you sign a lease with the realtor and they then leave the country with a security deposit and several month’s’ prepaid rent, there is little you can do beyond reporting the crime. Make sure you have been given the property owner’s name and done all you can to check the validity of this information.

You normally sign a one year tenancy lease. However, if you give your landlord 30 days notice then you can terminate the tenancy early.

By law, the rent cannot be increased in the first five years of the tenancy starting. After that, the rent can rise by a maximum of 15%. Landlords regularly assume their tenants are unaware of the law and bring in high increases at their choosing. Tenants have the right to take court action which will prevent illegal rent rises. Be aware though that some landlords in Kuwait threaten and bully tenants that they want to get rid of so it can be a difficult situation to live through. Finding another property is time consuming but may be a better solution when faced with a price hike.

The landlord will sometimes pay the utility bills, or arrange the supply for you in exchange for a small payment. If you need to connect yourself, you may need the help of a mandoob when you visit the Ministry of Electricity and Water. Take your civil ID. They will ask for a deposit of 100 Kuwaiti dinars, and then the supply will start. You will not receive a bill, but should visit the offices on a regular basis to pay what is due.

If you want a landline phone, you need to sign up and pay one year in advance. Each year you must go back to pay the next year’s rental charge and you will not receive reminders to do this.

Post will not be delivered to your apartment. You can either have it sent to your work premises, or you can hire a post office box at the Ministry of Communications for a small annual fee.

If you find you need a replacement water boiler, the landlord is unlikely to arrange this for you. However, the harissa for the building will be able the arrange the purchase and installation of one, and the cost will not be too onerous.

The harissa does small jobs around the building, including taking out the rubbish that each householder leaves on the stairwell. They will also wipe down a car or even wash them with water. You should pay him each month for these services. A payment of 5 Kuwaiti dinar is normal, although you are free to make further gifts of food, clothing or a tip at your own discretion if he has gone over and above his duties. For example, if you have been bothered by people coming to your door to beg money from you, the harissa will escort them from the building.

Porters will often be seen around the apartment block. They carry items to the apartments, assist with small handyman jobs, and bring cooking gas into the building for tenants to use in their cookers and stoves. Alternatively, ask the local convenience store to deliver the gas.

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