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“Freehold-for-Foreigners” Areas Revealed

The Government of Dubai has published for the first time the locations where expatriates will be able to buy property in the emirate.

His Highness Shaikh Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Ruler of Dubai, has issued the three-page, five-article Order No. 3 of 2006 designating areas for expatriates who can enjoy freehold ownership in Dubai, published in the government's official gazette on July 3, 2006.

The much-awaited list includes 23 areas and 45 plots including Jebel Ali, the Palm Island projects, The World islands, Dubai Marina, Emirates Hills and Al Barsha, among others.

The new regulations follow the issuance in March of the Property Registration Law (No. 7), legalising freehold ownership of land and property to UAE and GCC nationals as well as non-GCC citizens to own freehold property in designated areas.

More than 15,000 expatriates have already moved into their freehold homes since Dubai opened its property sector to expatriates in 2002, of which 14,000 were developed by Emaar Properties. About 5,000 more people are expected to move in this year.

In the absence of the freehold law, buyers' rights were dictated by the purchase documents backed by a government guarantee extended to the three master developers namely Emaar Properties, Nakheel and Dubai Holding entities including Tecom, Dubai Properties and Sama Dubai.

The move will pave the way for legal registration of properties in the name of expatriate owners with full freehold rights including the title deed, said Mohammad Sultan Thani, Director of Development and Marketing at the Dubai Land Department.

"Before, we only registered buyers who were UAE and GCC nationals. Now, we can start officially registering properties in designated areas in the name of expatriates who bought them from developers," said Thani.

Thani was confident they could cope with the rush, but advised property owners to deal with their developers to arrange for speedy registration.

"Registrations are to be handled by companies on behalf of clients so it takes only two to three minutes for each property." He said the Department can register between 100 and 200 properties at a time if all the relevant paperwork has been completed.

Before the law was published, there had been a lot of speculative activity in the property market. However, title deeds in individual names were being issued unofficially, with some properties being bought and sold many times over.

"Those who want to sell their property after initial registration may need about 30 minutes, if all papers are ready and if they are to register the sale individually," Thani said.

The England football team's former skipper David Beckham and Indian Bollywood star Shah Rukh Khan, are among some of the world's prominent figures known to have bought property in Dubai's iconic Palm Jumeirah.

Industry experts said the new regulations did not offer any surprises, but they awaited further clarification.

"It's as we expected it to be. This list offered neither surprises nor disappointments," said Sydene Helwicq, property lawyer at Al Tamimi law firm.

"We are still in the process of identifying with relevant authorities which of the plots relate to which property," said Helwicq.

Mohammad Nimer, director of MAG Group, welcomed the announcement. "We never had any doubts that Dubai would fulfil its commitments. This will cement confidence in the property industry."

The list did not surprise Safdar Khan, Business Development Manager at Dubai Property Centre.
He said: "We expected all these areas to be in the list before the new regulations were issued."

Sourced from Gulf News

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